photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Baby Shower- Bonding for the Non- Beer and Jerky Gender

My friend Cathy has known me for over 30 years, and likes me anyway. She's been there for me (and I hope I've been there for her) through thick and thin all these many years as I've pinballed my way from one marriage to another, one crisis to another, from joy to heartbreak and back again. All that time she and her husband Mark have been steady, calm, loving rocks protecting me from the worst of myself.

Cathy's daughter Christi is pregnant. Yesterday was the baby shower.

We've missed many milestones in the lives of their kids due to logistics and health and work- graduations, marriages, but THIS time I could make it and Ward and Alec said "Go- stay overnight- have fun- we'll be (gulp) fine".

The shower was held at Cathy's friend Deborah's house, a gigantic sprawling glamorous yet comfortable and oddly enough for its size not ostentatious 2 story home set in the middle of North Texas prairie.

Attending were Christi, Cathy, myself, Deborah, the sister/mother/grandmothers-in-law, and several other friends.

The table in the breakfast nook (which is bigger than my living room)was set with gorgeous flowers, a crystal punch bowl, Waldorf salad, cheese and crackers, a beautiful cake and the new (to me anyway) Hershey's Bliss white chocolate with melty middles candies (how did so many fall into my pocket? I can't imagine...)

After eating, we assembled in the blue and white living room for present opening, the scent of an expensive candle wafting here and there with subtle elegance.

We oohed and ahhed at all the tiny clothing, accessories, baby books and whatnot, passing them all around to admire- just the feel of the tiny items dredging up sweet visceral memories for all of us "old women".

There were no stupid...err...silly games, which I was ever so grateful for because they would've ruined what happened next.

Once the presents were opened and Christi thanked all of us, the mood in the room shifted, changed, slowed down and muted.

We were no longer in Deborah's living room, we were transported back through the generations to times when the older women gathered among themselves and passed on knowledge verbally to the younger women who were becoming the next step in the process of being human- from baby, to girl, to teen, to wife, to mother.

One by one yet without order or intent, the stories started flowing. Between all of us there had been well over 2 dozen births- hospital births, midwife births, multiple births, c-section births- each one special and terrifying in its own way.

And those stories hung in the air, wove together in the candle-scented atmosphere like so much smoke by firelight and wrapped around Christi with the assurance that even though this IS going to be hard and no one CAN tell you what to expect exactly because even the woman who'd had six babies admitted each birth was very very different, that the outcome will be the same-

"Where's my baby? Give me my baby- is my baby OK?"

And you are handed that tiny miracle who looks pruny, and pissed off, and amphibian-like, and perfect.

The rest of our lives as mothers is spent wondering and worrying "Is my baby OK?"

No matter how old they are, or how far away they live, or how migraine-inducing they were as toddlers or how hateful they were as teenagers, a mother never stops loving or fretting.

A wedding, for all it's planning and pomp and importance is just the beginning of a marriage, and despite what the florists and tuxedo rental and jewelry stores tell us the wedding ceremony is the EASY part- the really trivial part. The hard but oh so satisfying work starts after the honeymoon. Because you're not responsible for just you anymore- you have the security of a partner along with the extra burden that loving someone more than yourself places on you.

A birth is the beginning of three whole new persons- the one being born and the two being thrust into parenthood. And it happens with every new child- you may say "I know how to do this- I've already had a child" but you've never been the parent of TWO children, or THREE, or more. Each one is a whole different playing field, a whole new way to define and stretch yourself.

This gathering together for a baby shower is so much more than a gift giving punch drinking experience- it's a way of reassuring the mother-to-be that yes- this is scary and unknown, but that other women have done it- WE have done it- and you come out the other side with a family, and a history, and a future, and strength you never knew you possessed.

There is magic in being a woman, and power in being a mother, and it's all good.

Especially when there are Hershey's Bliss white chocolate filled with melty middles candies involved.

1 comment:

  1. I've never fathered children and probably never will. But this cooling weather is reminding me of my favorite thing to do when I was in college. I loved to come home and sit with my folks in their living room with the fire going and listen to their stories about when we were born. There were ten of us. At Christmas time, when my dad's sisters were visiting, there were stories about his childhood that went back to farming with horses. Really! Those days are gone, but I have the memories.