Confession: I, um, kind of hate baby showers. I've thought a lot about why, and I think it stems from what feels like a lack of acknowledgement about what it's really like to have a new baby. Onesies and tiny shoes are so cute, I know! But those only get you so far when you're bleeding, exhausted (and I mean exhausted), hungry, hormonal, and have just gone through the most powerful physical and existential shift you likely ever will. So here I suggest baby shower gifts that acknowledge and celebrate the transformation of mother and family after a new baby is born.
1. Postpartum Survival Kit
What you include in this will depend on your closeness with the recipient, and whether they plan to breast feed or not. Here are a few physical items that might make their first few weeks a little easier, and that they might not have thought to stock up on themselves: nipple cream and reusable breast pads, nursing tea, menstrual pads, water bottle and Emergen-c, non-perishable snacks, Tucks pads, stool softener, books or movies... and you can hide affirmations in her box of pads so she gets a little boost when she needs it most. ("You're a perfect mother for your baby." "Your baby is so lucky to have you." "You are enough.")
2. Luxurious Loungewear
OK, so this category certainly doesn't cover "essentials" the way that others do, but how nice would it be to get something that would make you feel beautiful and comfortable while you snuggle your new baby? Soft pants, drapy cardigans, cozy robes; there are many alternatives to traditional maternity or postpartum clothing that can be such a treat.
3. Food. FOOD.
Food, glorious food. Postpartum, nursing me was the hungriest version of me I've ever known. I thought about food all the time, and I almost always craved something warm, savory, and homemade. But, of course, my husband and I rarely had the time, or head space, to plan and execute such a meal. I was forever grateful for the friends and family who delivered meals to us during that time. Here are some ways you can feed the person you love:
- Create and manage a meal train for them! Have meals delivered 4 times a week instead of everyday to eliminate food waste, find out if there are any dietary restrictions, and coordinate with the new family to figure out the best time and place for a drop off.
- Give gift cards for local restaurants that do take out or delivery. Or, if they live in a rural area like me, to a grocery store where they can get pre-made food to go.
- If you do live nearby and want to bring a meal or two, avoid saying, "I'd love to bring you a meal, let me know when you want one!" Instead say, "I am going to drop dinner off on Wednesday. Does that work?" It's much easier to accept a gift when it doesn't feel like a choice!
4. Household Essentials
This gift would be... bold and awesome. Here's what I'm picturing: toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, toilet paper, soap, dish soap, paper towels, the list could go on! The category really being: things-they-might-run-out-of-and-replacing-them-will-feel-like-an-insurmountable-obstacle-to-deal-with-in-the-moment.
5. Extra Help
"It takes a village..." We hear this all the time, but so often new families are utterly alone in the world after their baby is born. Extended family lives far away, local friends have their own lives to attend to, and partners, and often even new mothers, need to return to work shortly after the baby is born. This is a societal problem that needs to be addressed, but until major changes in our family leave policies are enacted, we're stuck with what we've got. A wonderful gift would be to hire a housekeeper, a postpartum doula, a dog-walker, a babysitter or mother's helper for older children, someone to shovel or rake the yard, or anyone else you can pay to do any of the tasks it takes to run a household (and a life) that become nearly impossible when you have a new baby.
I'd love to hear your ideas for unconventional shower gifts!