So I’ve been meaning to write on this subject, and I guess the time is now, because on Matthew’s 18 month birthday/death anniversary, I received a baby shower invitation in the mail, which was so fitting considering that my life has been like one giant (albeit dark) episode of Punk’d ever since he died, but it’s disappointing because I have yet to meet Ashton Kutcher (although his doppelganger works at our neighborhood St. Louis Bread Company, so we took a picture of him while he wasn’t looking), which is probably because he is busy with his new baby boy, born on November 30, Mark’s birthday. (See what I mean?)
So OBVIOUSLY, the guest of honor does not read my blog, because if she did we all know that she wouldn’t have invited me, or, at the very least, she would have invited me in a far more delicate fashion, as I don’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to my feelings regarding certain types of mail.
But, of course, no such luck.
So I considered sending the following text to the host: “Hi, Thanks for the baby shower invite. I don’t actually attend baby showers since my son died tragically and unexpectedly just days before mine.”
But instead I showed some incredible restraint and sent: “Hi. Unfortunately, I’m unable to attend the baby shower for X.”
And then I ripped up the invitation and threw it into the fire, and I’ll be sending a $100 Visa gift card in a couple of months, as I am not in the mood to shop at an actual baby store for babies other than Joel, or maybe other rainbow babies. Does this make me bitter and selfish? Perhaps. Do I care? Absolutely not.
I’ve been to enough support group meetings and met enough other bereaved mothers to know that, unfortunately, receiving a baby shower invitation soon after your own baby’s death isn’t uncommon. But it sure makes me wonder what in the actual eff is going on and highlights that most people just don’t understand baby loss, which is why bereaved parents constantly feel so isolated.
Because apparently a mother can anticipate her baby (and shower), have a traumatic birth, meet her beautiful-but-dead child, spend only a couple of hours with him, have to say goodbye (FOREVER), leave the hospital empty-handed, have him cremated and bury his ashes, cry every single day (and wish herself dead repeatedly) for an entire 18 months, go through a terrifying and also-traumatic subsequent pregnancy, and then be invited to someone else’s baby shower like it’s no big deal.
I just don’t get it. And, I don’t think, had the roles been reversed, that I would have done the same.
I’m not at all opposed to celebrating a baby before he/she is born. After all, I, perhaps better than most, know that life can be short, and can end abruptly, so it might be prudent to celebrate things while we still can. I think I could tolerate some kind of celebration preceding a baby’s birth, provided there were some acknowledgement of the uncertainty, and people were like, “We’re so excited, but nothing is guaranteed, and we’re hoping for the best, and please don’t bring gifts, because it would be crushing to have to return them to the store.”
But this isn’t how baby showers are, usually. Instead, they come with cakes and stupid games and swapping of birth stories and attendees squealing (orgasmically), “Oh my gawwwwd – that one’s my favorite!!!” at another fucking Aden + Anais receiving blanket, whilst I’m sitting there thinking, “Anais is pronounced like anus – I know it.” And EVERYONE is asking those they don’t know how many kids they have, and the guest of honor’s baby is being discussed as though his/her survival is a foregone conclusion.
So I don’t know that I’ll ever attend a baby shower ever again. In fact, I’m pretty sure I won’t. The only exception might be that, if presented with the opportunity, I’d attend one someday for Joel or his significant other (or for any other living children I have and/or their significant others). And even then I’d probably be white-knuckling my way through it.
I really don’t think, if people took like three seconds to ponder, that they’d want me at one of these events anyway… I mean, I can’t discuss pregnancy without also discussing death or the Maternity Trauma Center or decreased fetal movement or heart tracings or emergency C-sections or umbilical cord imaging. It’s truly impossible.
I think what would burn me the most at a baby shower is the whole foregone conclusion talk. It’s amazing how many people will speak like this in my presence – speak as if something tragic couldn’t happen to them, KNOWING what happened to me. It feels quite insulting. I just cannot handle it.
Of course I can appreciate that, after losing a child, some would rather be invited to a shower over being excluded. I recognize that, as a result, it might put people in a quandry when deciding whether or not to invite one of us. After all, people aren’t mind readers and thus often can’t predict where a griever might fall on the “I’m clamoring for a baby shower invite” spectrum.
I guess I just wish people would show a little more care regarding this subject. Like maybe text and be like, “I understand why baby showers might be completely off limits for you, but I’m having trouble deciding what to do, because I don’t want to exclude you.”
And I still would never attend, because, again, my son died just days before my baby shower, and there is honestly no recovering from this trauma for me, but at least I’d feel fractionally less hostile over the entire experience…