It's officially baby season. The pregnancy announcements, baby showers, and births are raining down. And I am faced again with the difficulties that baby shower invitations present.
As a general rule, I don't go to baby showers. At first I felt like this was selfish, like I should be able to celebrate someone else's good fortune and sit through 2-3 hours of babyfesting without it being a problem. But, like Mother's Day, I decided that baby showers had to leave my list of go-to social obligations. It doesn't mean that I don't celebrate moms-to-be--if I am given an invitation to a baby shower (which honestly, I really appreciate the invite even if I don't go), I will get a card, get a gift, get a selection of picture/board books, and either shower the person privately or send the presents along with someone else. That way I can celebrate in my own way without being the sad sap in the corner, weeping into her mimosa and wallowing in self-pity because for me, a baby shower seems so terribly far away. And nobody wants a weepy-weeper at a joyful event.
Baby showers are torturous for me as a woman battling infertility. The entire event is centered on pregnancy and babies. People bring their fresh babies to these events. Everything is about oohing and aaahhhing over all the tiny little things, sharing birth and delivery stories, tips on what to buy and what not to buy, holding up tiny onesies and handmade baby blankets, and the room is just filled with anticipation and joy for this new life (or lives) to come. This is an awesome place to be if you are a) pregnant, b) a parent, c) a friend/family member who is not actively trying to have a baby. It's a place of hope and fun. Unless you have been trying to get pregnant and just keep failing at it. Then it is a reminder of everything not only that you don't have, but that tends to come so much easier to the rest of the world. Then the onesies and the rocking seats and the towels with hoods and ears are sharp stabs directly into your heart and/or empty uterus. I don't have a great analogy for this one. I would say it would be like being perennially single and having to go to a bridal shower, where everyone is paired and you are not, but usually there isn't a medical reason why a person is single. It is something largely out of your control--it is really hard to find that right person and it does seem very easy for a lot of people and very hard for others. So maybe it's a better analogy than I thought. But still, I come back to the medical aspect. I can't have a baby shower and sit there, hugely pregnant and surrounded by doting family and friends with arms full of tiny presents, because of an insidious medical condition that so far has rendered that impossible despite massive medical interventions. It is incredibly frustrating. And so I typically don't go to these events. Also, because on top of all the baby-in-your-face, if you don't know everyone, the inevitable "Do you have kids?" or "When are you going to have one of these?" comments tend to come up and I just don't have socially acceptable responses for those anymore.
I have gone to one baby shower since this process began, and that was for a friend who conceived twins through IVF. I really wanted to be there, but at the same time I really didn't want to be there. I felt so left behind, but I wanted so badly to be there for my friend who was a survivor of this process, who made it through to the other side. So I went. The great thing about going to a baby shower for someone who's been in your shoes is that she totally understands. She gets it if it's too much and you have to leave early (I didn't). She gets it if you disappear into the bathroom for a while during presents because it's just too much to take and you have to wipe your silent tears away in private (I did). She asks you the day before if you're sure you're up for it. And she really appreciates that you came, because she knows how very hard it was to sit through, and how much you must want to celebrate that hard-won success in order to soldier through it all. Going to that baby shower was incredibly difficult, and I cried in my car on the way home, but I was so glad that I did it.
Recently we were invited to another baby shower. This is a toughie. It's a friend's daughter, and we are closer in age to the grandmother-to-be than the expectant mom. The people going are going to be so young, and I'm pretty sure there will be several fresh babies in attendance. Everything about this shower screams "DON'T GO! THIS WILL BE MAJOR SAD SAP TERRITORY!!!" But we love these friends, and it's a co-ed shower so Bryce will be there, and there will likely be liquor served. We struggled with how to respond. I decided we should just be totally honest. And so yesterday, when we RSVP'd, I just said that we will go, but we have no idea how long we will stay, and it will be very hard, but we'd like to be there at least for a little while. And the weirdest thing happened. Our friend looked a little sad, and she told us that she totally forgot that this would be hard for us and she felt bad. And it was...refreshing! Someone who actually knows so much about our babymaking troubles totally FORGOT that we were sad sap infertiles! And she totally understood, and felt a little bad, but our first response was... WOOHOO! Someone forgot and then just..got it. She wasn't pissy that we couldn't make the happy event all the way through. She wasn't irritated that our difficulties with those types of events affected her event (which, unfortunately, is often what happens--people are very understanding until the infertility affects their event, and then there are issues...which is just human, I guess). She just accepted it and that was it. Done.
So we will go to this baby shower, for as long as I can take it. We don't have anything coming up that will be bad-news-bearing before the shower. (The last baby shower we were verbally invited to was the weekend we received test news for our latest fresh IVF cycle...so that was an unequivocal no, no, NO.) We are gearing up for doing our frozen cycle sometime this summer, and so we are back into hopeful mode as opposed to total mourning and bewilderment that we just can't make this work. All of these things together make it possible, for now, to attempt going to a baby shower that's not for a survivor; that's going to be full of highly fertile people in their early 20s. With the caveat that I may end up downing cocktails in the back and/or outside, saving my tipsy sad-sap-ness far away from the squealing over tiny little outfits.