Receiving an invite to a baby shower after loss or infertility can be difficult to navigate. Here’s how one mom learned to graciously handle these happy invites at the saddest time.
Creaking open my black mailbox, I peered in to see a dainty hand-addressed card sitting neatly on a stash of bills and advertisements. Ever excited to receive personal mail, I eagerly tore open the envelope.
“Ready to pop!” the baby shower invitation announced in darling pastels.
I carefully laid the invitation on the counter and regarded it as though I had just been stung. Of course, my friend’s pregnancy was happy news. Of course, I should celebrate with her.
But I had no idea how.
While her baby belly grew ready to pop, mine remained flat and empty, as it had for the last several months following my ectopic pregnancy, and failed attempts at pregnancy since.
There was only one clear answer to this baby shower invite: Procrastinate on giving an answer at all.
I vacillated between wanting to support her and not wanting ever to go to another baby shower again.
She supported me through loss, I reasoned. I should support her in her pregnancy. It’s the right thing to do. She is my FRIEND, I guilted myself. This is what friends do.
So I went. But I shouldn’t have.
It was too early. I was too raw. I spent a solid chunk of time in my friend’s bathroom sobbing as quietly as I could, then spent the same amount of time trying to repair the damage to my makeup.
My efforts to hide my feelings were in vain. My friend, who should have felt nothing but a joyous celebration, realized I was struggling and offered support to me through tears in her own eyes.
This was not “celebrating with those who celebrate.” This was a good intention gone wrong.
Instead of adding to her joy, I distracted her from it.
Her baby shower was NOT the time she should have worried about my feelings about my loss. I vowed not to make this mistake again.
Related: Baby showers are a painful reminder
After a long journey of infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, I learned how graciously handle the happiest invite at the saddest time:
I paid attention to how the invitation made me feel.
Was I excited about the baby shower? Or apprehensive? Did the thought of attending fill me with dread? If the invite itself caused a slew of unpleasant emotions, I knew a decline was probably in both our self-interests.
I considered our relationship.
The closer I was to the mom in question, the more often I pulled through the few hours of discomfort, making sure to process my own feelings before and after the event.
If I said yes, I kept busy.
Staying busy at the baby shower helped keep my thoughts from the nagging what-ifs. I’d to write down her gifts to avoid staring at each dainty item and listen to the oohs and aahs. I’d ditch the game in favor of cleaning dishes. I even found hosting a shower easier than attending because I wouldn’t have to face surprising triggers.
I learned to say no with grace.
Sometimes I didn’t have a legitimate time conflict that would make attending impossible. But I knew my friend or family member risked feeling hurt by declining. I eventually decided on this decline:
“Showers are supposed to be joyous occasions, and that’s what you deserve. Even though time has passed, my personal situation with loss and infertility often cause me to have tears at events like this — and I don’t want you to worry about me when this shower is about you and baby. Even if I am sad for us, I am happy for you. Your gift is on its way!”
Because the truth is, babies do deserve to be celebrated, and not everything is about me and my loss.
I gave a gift.
Or rather, a gift card. Let’s face it. Aisles full of tiny cute baby things, when you are missing the tiny cute baby to use them for, can be massively triggering. A gift card purchased online to Target or Amazon is always appreciated and made the gift-buying process as easy on my heart as possible.
Self-care had to come first.
Grief and healing take radical self-care. I needed to recognize that my first priority had to be my healing for a time. There would be millions of others who were happy to celebrate with that person on the impending birth of their child. It was ok that, for a season, I couldn’t be that person.
After five years of trying, and five losses, I was finally able to celebrate my rainbow with a shower.
Having a baby shower for my baby born after loss was an incredibly healing event. Even when I knew her safe arrival wasn’t guaranteed, I relished sharing my hope with loved ones in a way I couldn’t with our pregnancies which ended too soon.
Since having my rainbow and a lot of grief work, baby showers feel much more comfortable. I would even say they are now the happiest invite at the (almost) happiest time.
How have you handled baby showers after loss or infertility? What tips would you offer newly grieving or newly diagnosed parents about this happy/sad event?
Tips for pregnant moms when your friends are facing infertility or loss:
- Always extend an invite. Grief is socially isolating. Even if we need to decline, most of us want to know we are wanted.
- Consider a heads-up first: “We’ll be celebrating this baby next month. I’d love to have you, but completely understand if you can’t come. Would you like an invite?”
- Don’t take her decline personally. Even if your friend cannot celebrate to the same degree you mourned with her, please give her the benefit of the doubt that she is trying.
- If she accepts, let her know you appreciate her coming, and give her your blessing to leave early if she needs. Then celebrate. Because all babies are a miracle and deserve all the celebration this life has to offer.
Rachel Lewis is a foster, adoptive and birth mom. She lost her second baby she named Olivia to a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and had 4 miscarriages in the following 4 years. On the journey to becoming a family, she gave birth twice (once to a rainbow), adopted a precious daughter and fostered and released a darling son after a year and a half. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids around, you can find her shopping at Trader Joe’s, drinking coffee, or writing about her journey as a mom at www.TheLewisNote.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/Thelewisnote. And join her online support group for bereaved and infertile mamas at Brave Mamas, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1657136001012257/