Rites of pas­sage

Un­ex­pected in­sight from my first baby shower

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This past week­end, I at­tended my very first baby shower. Katie in­formed me that not hav­ing at­tended a baby shower un­til my 40s could be con­sid­ered the equiv­a­lent of never hav­ing seen the ocean or been to a cir­cus. This was a time­honored fe­male rite of pas­sage and I had been miss­ing out.

I was shocked to see her rush­ing to make sure we left the house on time. When I ques­tioned her un­char­ac­ter­is­tic at­ten­tion to punc­tu­al­ity, she ex­plained that baby shower eti­quette ranks right up there with the same re­quire­ments for wed­dings and fu­ner­als.

She cor­rectly noted that I was drag­ging my feet and I con­fessed that de­spite how much I love the mom-to-be, the thought of sit­ting around a liv­ing room with a group of women coo­ing over baby clothes and tiny di­a­pers was just not my ideal af­ter­noon.

“Too bad,” she said. “Would you miss her wed­ding or funeral? Then you can’t miss her baby shower! And you have to change your shoes.”

It was lost on me how a few hours spent cri­tiquing baby gifts and drink­ing punch was that big of a deal. I had thought of the event as a silly tra­di­tion that ul­ti­mately would just end in my friend’s poor hus­band hav­ing to un­load an en­tire car of gifts when UPS would have been so much sim­pler.

Katie sim­ply shook her head at my ex­pla­na­tion and said, “You will love it. You’ll see.”

Once we ar­rived, it was ev­i­dent that my stereo­type was out­dated and shal­low. The old school baby show­ers that I had seen on tele­vi­sion have evolved. Yes, all the women were dressed beau­ti­fully and the house was dec­o­rated per­fectly. But the level of or­ga­ni­za­tion and thought that had gone into this day would have made NASA en­vi­ous.

The hosts had lit­er­ally thought of ev­ery­thing. There was a cake that some­one had spent hours dec­o­rat­ing. On one ta­ble there were cards num­bered 1 through 18, rep­re­sent­ing the birthdays of the lit­tle one. We each picked a year and wrote a mes­sage that wouldn’t be opened un­til that par­tic­u­lar birth­day.

On an­other ta­ble were en­velopes so that we could go ahead and write our ad­dress for the thank-you notes so as to save the fu­ture mom the has­sle. The host had asked all the guests ahead of time to send in a photo along with a fa­vorite story from child­hood or words of ad­vice and she com­piled them all into an iBook for the mom to keep as a sou­venir. Bril­liant!

By the time came to open gifts, I was so in­tox­i­cated with food, punch and hi­lar­i­ous sto­ries of new moms and near baby dis­as­ters that I was coo­ing along with ev­ery­one else.

The baby clothes really are freak­ing cute. And who knew they made a spe­cial baby air tem­per­a­ture mon­i­tor so that the baby’s room stays just right?

The house was filled with women of all ages. Some I had known for years and some I met for the first time. In that room, nearly ev­ery kind of woman was rep­re­sented. But the one thing we all had in com­mon was that we all adore this new mom and this baby who is on the way.

There is some­thing truly mag­i­cal about women of all types and from all back­grounds and life ex­pe­ri­ences coming to­gether in once place to cel­e­brate and honor the pas­sage into moth­er­hood.

At one point, when I started to tear up, I no­ticed that Katie had seen it and a look of right­eous smug­ness swept across her face.

I chose the card for the baby’s 13th birth­day and wrote her a mes­sage. One day, I am go­ing to tell her about her baby shower and how it re­minded me of one of life’s most im­por­tant lessons:

Never as­sume you un­der­stand the beauty of some­thing un­til you have seen it for your­self.

Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huff­in­g­ton Post. She broke ground as the first out les­bian ra­dio per­son­al­ity on a ma­jor sta­tion in At­lanta and was one of the few out morn­ing show per­son­al­i­ties in the coun­try. Fol­low her on Twit­ter @Melis­saCarter

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