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The Invisible Baby Shower

Baby Bump: 34.5 weeks in front of a beloved painting by Jane Fox Hipple

Well, y’all, I just don’t know what to do in this situation. I’d love to have a baby shower. I didn’t even think I would. You know how our wedding went down: we tried to do everything ourselves, on a budget, and turn it into art, as well. Friends and family chipped in to help with beer and cookies, and kind souls in other roles in our life reached out, and we were very touched. We cooked a meal for many of our friends and family after the wedding ourselves, with supplies bought inexpensively in bulk from the restaurant where Blake was working at the time. Friends helped us in the kitchen, which was on loan to us from a Mexican restaurant/music venue around the corner. It was perfect. Except, perhaps, for the noise band that ended up playing at the wedding reception, but at least they handed out earplugs before they started!

On a car trip months before the wedding, we were worrying about how we would make it all happen. Car trips are where all the real thinking happens. Our income was very low (what Blake made between his 3 part time jobs + student loans I had to take out on top of my small stipend I got from graduate school and my part time job), and we wanted the event to ride the line between art/life. Plus I was in my thesis year in graduate school. We have a general discomfort with many traditional scenarios–at least insomuch as they are for us. We try to do things as much as we can on our own. We don’t like needing anything from anyone. I guess we’re sort of proud, and I know this can be off-putting. We just try in our lives to be as self-sufficient as possible. We don’t want to be a burden.

For Blessed Unions, we made list upon list of what we felt was necessary, what could be done without. In the end, we made a list of people we thought we could comfortably ask for help with one thing or another. As many friends as we have in our life, this list often seems short. I just don’t feel comfortable bothering most folks. The majority of “our people” are the other artists and printmakers in our lives, people we’ve met at school and conferences and workshops and jobs past. We hang onto them in our hearts, even though we don’t get to see our talk to them very often.

We’ve spent the last 5+ years moving nearly constantly, working hard towards our dreams of teaching full time, making art, and organizing collaborative, community events. It’s one of the terrible things about moving that you can’t take any of your friends with you, save the one you’re married to.

And this brings to me where we are now, in another new town, missing our friends and family and not knowing what to do about this whole baby shower thing. I’m too tired and pregnant and new at my job to somehow turn this into art event at a conference right now, although that would be cool. We considered some kind of “digital/virtual” baby shower, but it just doesn’t have the right feel to it, and I can’t figure out how to plan that, either. I know that traditionally, someone throws a shower for you. I had one very kind friend offer if I were to be back home in Georgia, which I can’t be, and I know she has a lot on her plate, anyway! Otherwise, we just don’t have a lot of those people in our lives, and the people we have are spread out all over the country.

When I was at home in Georgia, it was too early in the pregnancy for a shower to happen. I didn’t even tell my family about the baby until I got there, and I spent most of my time eating, being ill, and sleeping on the couch with the cat and the dog. We had to do our family visits early in the summer since we were moving both from Ohio and Mississippi to Missouri, and there were several delays with endings and beginnings of leases that had us skipping around from place to place while we waited for doors to close and windows to open.

To be honest, I didn’t even care at first about having a baby shower. It seemed like just another formality that enforced entrenched ideas about motherhood/parenthood, held close feelings that I wasn’t sure I was having yet, and just seemed like an elaborate plot to solicit love that we hoped would come, anyway. But I think that, lately, I’ve just been lonely. I’ve needed someone besides us to be here and care and be excited. Not that my colleagues at work haven’t been very kind! But we do miss the connections to people we’ve known a long time. And I’m a bit terrified about how all of this will work.

I’m trying really hard to do well at my new job and not take any more time off than necessary. The federal leave laws don’t apply to me since I’m new there, and in a university setting, it just gets very complicated to sub in for me, especially since I’m new. I don’t want to be a problem for anyone. And I’m honestly just grateful to have a job. In any case, I’m trying to stay on top of things and even ahead, but I know that I am getting tired, and I’m worrying about what will happen and when it all will happen. And to some extent I know that much of this worrying is just regular old pregnancy worrying about how things will change and if I’ll be any good at this, and if we’re really grown ups and not babies ourselves. I’m lucky to have Blake. He’s going to be a fantastic dad, and he knows it. And his confidence is helpful to me.

I think because I spent so much time reading and studying philosophical issues related to women’s rights, fertility, pregnancy and so on that my initial dialogue about pregnancy may have been off-putting for those immediately around me, and those calling to wish me, “happy mothers day,” before I was out of my first trimester. I was happy to be starting a family with Blake, but I didn’t yet feel a connection to this little baby. That came later, and I feel that that is perfectly fine. I insisted often early on that it was still quite likely the little print nugget (then known by the moniker “midget tapeworm”) could cease to exist. “It could still die,” I said to many people. And there were some shocked faces at that. There are not many certainties in first trimester, and I felt it was not only my right but should be perfectly acceptable for me to have those feelings at that point.

We’ve been incredibly lucky, though! This baby appears to be nothing but a picture of health, and my “pregnancy problems” have been very minimal. I’m able to work full time, take brisk walks (I reluctantly gave up the bike riding somewhere around 6.5 months,) and even do laundry. There are probably some dust bunnies under the couch, but I can’t bend over far enough to see them! So I’m no longer shutting down “baby” conversations with statements like, “well, we don’t know what could happen.” It seems like a baby is going to happen! And I can now carry on a conversation that includes all kinds of terminology about diaper types, brands of nursing pillow, and week-by-week summaries of how a fetus grows. Pretty good for a tom boy.

I believe the evolution of my feelings about the pregnancy was healthy, but I know that my initial dialogue probably put many people off our scent in terms of how they should approach/talk to us/interact with us on the whole issue. I didn’t know how to say that now to all of you, interested parties, whomever you may be. This is the only good way I know how, and Blake thought it might be good for me to write it all out somehow. Because I have spent some time being sad and worried about it. Sorry it took me a while to feel like a mom!

The other thing I’ve been doing besides working and worrying/planning is sewing things. I haven’t been able to “nest” and “set up a nursery,” because really our whole apartment will be a nursery, and we’re not going to invest in a bunch of baby things and spaces. Our finances are tight, and the baby won’t care, anyway. We want to be minimal, too, as usual. I’ve sewn cloth diapers, tons of inserts for diapers, cloth wipes, nursing pillow and covers, miniature diaper cover stretchy pants, and other things. I’ve looked up recipes for making your own cloth diaper laundry detergent and diaper wipe liquid from scratch. I’ve been to yard sales, and we’ve had several lovely donations of used baby things from our friends, for which we are forever grateful. Fabric donations from family, and family scouting yard sales for us combined with some very thoughtful gifts off of our poorly advertised, and non-shower-supported registry, have put us in a pretty decent place.

I just still spend time worrying about what else I should be doing; what else do we need? It’s a confusing landscape to me. It will sleep somewhere, and poop everywhere, and since I’m trying to start back to work at the beginning of next semester, liquid from my boobs will need to make it into bottles for my dear husband to tip into its little lips. Other than than that, I don’t know. But I still kind of wish, despite my embarrassment at being the center of anything and my weird feelings about anything Ms. Manners might reasonably have opinions about, that we could have a little party for this baby, and that all of you could be there.

An Addendum from Blake

So here’s the deal folks: Hannah is too shy and/or polite to ask but it’s time to ask for your help. We’ve been trying to do as much as possible for ourselves, but there are still a handful of things we need. So, family and friends that are able, pretty please with sugar on top go to the registry link above and help with what you can. If you know there are folks out there that want to get us something but aren’t web savvy please relay our requests and take them shopping if you gotta! This is the one time cash isn’t the best option for us. We’re tight-fisted enough that we’d just save the money and put it in the bank rather than spend it on what we need.

We’ve got more clothes from hand me downs than the kid will ever need for the next four years so there’s no need for cutesy outfits. Also, please resist the urge to buy obnoxious toys that require batteries. If it rattles, squeaks, whistles, or rings of its own volition go nuts. At some point we will need a good learning bouncy chair type thing and could use some guidance there but let’s avoid the multimedia extravaganza otherwise for now.  Sorry the bulk of our needs are practical over adorable. The kid will look something like the two of us so it’ll be all set on the adorable front!
I’m sorry there’s no un-tacky way to do a shower so everybody can see our appreciation. In truth we’re both so awkward at receiving gifts it’d probably just be us giving mumbled thanks looking furtively away from the camera! If you wanna, we’d probably do a little happy dance for you on Skype with your gifts once the baby comes though. Again if you can help we’d really appreciate it. Stay tuned for loads of Facebook clips and Instaham pics once the little varmint is born!


My dear friend has offered to help us with sending out cards for the “invisible baby shower.” This offer has really touched me! So some of you will be receiving some mail soon! And if you’re interested in whatever we come up with for a birth announcement, please feel free to email me your address: hannah.march.sandersATgmailDOTcom!


2 thoughts on “The Invisible Baby Shower”

  1. Pingback: Orange Barrel Industries » Week 35: It’s small! And hairy!

  2. Dear Hanna and Blake,
    I just saw this invisible shower and clicked on it! Have been having computer problems and have a new address please note !
    When I was pregnant for the first time, I felt like I had been invaded by a very large alien being from Mars at least, who had tenderized my muscles and robbed me of joy! But that became ” big bad John” as the nurses called him , weighing in at 9 lbs and 12ozs ! And
    blinking those mysterious newborn eyes at me , latching on and then burping with abandon! Well, I fell in love , and you will too!
    You are entering one of lifes greatest mysteries and i am here to say my dear girl, Welcome to the unfolding!!!!
    You are very much loved and will get to experience the filling up of the riverbed that is motherhood. Hold on to your hat! We are all pushing for you!!!! Much love!

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