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I didn’t throw a baby shower before my son was born, two years ago. Why would I have? I’m British – baby showers didn’t really factor into my consciousness. The only baby showers I knew about were the anaemic-looking, joyless affairs you see on US rom-coms, where everyone wears pastels and looks miserable, and the enforced fun involves nappies smeared hilariously with Nutella, and a quick round of pin-the-speculum-on-the-OBGYN.
The idea of hoisting myself into a pair of heels and hosting an event – specifically to celebrate an unborn child that wasn’t actually the son of God or anything – would have filled me with horror. Particularly as literally all I wanted to do throughout my pregnancy was lie on the sofa with a bag of Mini Cheddars and watch The Good Wife.
But baby showers are becoming more popular in the UK. In 2013, the Mail reported that British women were spending £220m on baby showers, with one in eight guests asked to buy their gifts from a specific list. Unsurprisingly, the trend hasn’t got a massive amount of support in the UK press – in 2013, the Independent called them “vulgar” and “grasping”. And to go onto any parenting forum is to find thread after thread of anxious women asking if it’s unreasonable to turn down a baby shower invitation. Really, though, it is just another stick for mums to beat themselves and each other with. And in terms of sticks, it is the stick that keeps giving a because just as it is any woman's right to throw a baby shower, it is also any other woman's right to refuse to go, and then get all uppity and call the baby showerer a grasping mercenary.
This particular topic reached Peak Internet recently when one woman, disappointed that no one was attending her baby shower, sought solace on Mumsnet only to be lambasted by other users who felt baby showers were “ridiculous” and “grabby”.
Standing around eating cupcakes shaped like vaginas to celebrate the imaginary children of people we only sort of like is sometimes too much to ask of one
And I can see their point, really. Look, I love my son. He is the sun and moon to me; he is my favourite person. But I wouldn’t expect him to be yours. Particularly if you weren’t one of my closest friends or family members, you lived over an hour away, and I was throwing a party the baby wouldn’t even be at, technically, because he’d still be in my womb. We are all busy people with our own lives. Going out of our way to buy expensive gifts and stand around eating cupcakes shaped like vaginas to celebrate the imaginary children of people we only sort of like is sometimes too much to ask of one.
But now I’m a mother I can also understand why you’d throw one. Short of broadcasting the birth on Facebook Live, when else are you to celebrate it? Christenings aren’t de rigueur anymore; we barely baptise. And once the baby is born you’re too consumed with keeping it and yourself alive for the first few months to worry about clean pants, never mind hanging bunting or planning the exact shade of magenta or indigo for your gender reveal cake (a personal note on which: I’m all for the cake, but if I am a casual friend the whole gender reveal business holds little anticipation for me and, at the big moment, I am likely to pull a face like Michelle Obama did at Donald Trump’s inauguration).
Although baby showers are a US import in their current format, little celebrations for mothers-to-be have always been a thing. The original conceit was an intimate affair designed to furnish a new mother with all she needed for the months after the birth – featuring close friends and loved ones only, and precisely no vagina cupcakes.
Personally, I’d be much more likely to attend this sort of thing. If my best friend, who has sworn never to have children, had children, I would throw her a baby shower in a heartbeat. I’d invite no more than seven people, we’d eat pizza and watch zombie movies and teach her how to change a nappy, give her a checklist for leaving the house with a newborn, and print off 20 coupons allowing her to call me any time of the day or night to take the baby for a couple of hours so she could sleep.
Because although I don't see the point of baby showers, really, I'm willing to change my mind and also NOT DEMONISE SOMEONE WHO DISAGREES WITH ME. Especially if there are vagina cupcakes involved. Come on, who doesn't love an open mind and a vagina cupcake?