Saturday, March 7, 2009

Baby Showers

I'll just start out by saying I'm not a big fan. That may make me a humbug or a wet blanket or whatever quaint/vaguely British and/or 19th century phrase you prefer, but I would even have chosen to skip my own. Not that I had that choice, of course, since my mom and her friends organized the whole thing.

It's not just the indignity of guessing the girth of the pregnant mom using toilet paper. Or having to ooh and aah over baby clothes (yawn). Although those things are part of it. Until the last baby shower I went to, I probably would have listed silly games and mustering enthusiasm as two of the chief objections. That and my dislike of crowds, mingling, and socializing in general. (Don't I sound like fun to be around?) My new reason might be even more nitpicky and curmudgeonly, you tell me, but at least it's a new one.

The most recent baby shower was a ladies-in-the-church event. I went with my mother. The showered mom, with newborn in tow, is actually someone I'd like to get to know better. We went to the same college, although I graduated eight-ahem, cough-ten years earlier. She has an older daughter just a little bit older than P. I've heard that she wasn't actually crazy about getting a baby shower since she's shy, too (there are no secrets among the ladies-in-the-church), but since her husband is the new music minister and the church ladies were insistent, she didn't have much of a choice. All that to make it clear, I don't blame the new mom. (These silly traditions aren't anyone's fault, really; we just get pulled along into them by a group-compulsion to conform to some unknown body's expectation. Yawn. Boring myself.)

No, the most irksome thing about this shower was the woman who played hostess. I don't know her. I've never met her. She may be a friend of the mom. She may just be the type who likes to take charge and boss, er, run things. I know from a few of her offhand comments during the baby trivia game (woo-hoo!) that she's a teacher and she doesn't have kids (Question: "What is the highest number of children recorded to be born to one couple?" Irrelevant-no-one-cares comment:"Do my twenty-one 4th graders count?" Snarky silent answer: I don't know, did you teach them to count?)

OMG, I sound so harsh. Did she remind me of some peppy cheerleader from high school? Yes, she did! But I try not to let that kind of thing cloud my snap judgment. (Who am I kidding?) Really, what I'm trying to get to is the giggle over the word "ut.erus". And the giggle over the word "br.east-fe.eding". Note: I am doing the weird thing where I put dots in words because I don't want to get random hits and because my post about sore actually got one.

The ut.erus question went like this:

Peppy hostess: [giggle, possible snort] Well, I guess we're all ladies here, so here goes. How big does a woman's ut.erus get during pregnancy? [giggle, small chorus of giggles from two or three other skinny young women] Is it 50 times its previous size? 100 times its previous size? 200 times? Or 500 times? [giggle, unsolicited comment about discomfort of giant ut.erus, giggle chorus from skinny bitches]
(If you're curious, I think the answer was 500 times. I could look it up, but I don't really care that much.)

Oh, and I think there was a question about the size of the pla.centa which she was also clearly uncomfortable with, almost like she was telling a dirty joke. In front of the church ladies.

I feel I should say something here. The poor girl hasn't had a baby yet. She's likely never tried to get pregnant. If she's not married, since this is a conservative evangelical church, there's a possibility she's not even having the se.x now. So, there is always a discomfort with the unknown. And we are trained to have weird hangups about the female anat.omy. Polite (possibly Southern) church women don't say words like "ut.erus" and "pla.centa" or even "br.east". So, although it was definitely annoying, I can't entirely dismiss her as a shallow, self-absorbed twit with a warped concept of which words are inappropriate. She'll learn. She'll get pregnant or struggle to get pregnant, and she'll learn. Ignorance can be overcome, often by experience. (And I certainly have to add that, from the IF blogs I read, trying to conceive, struggling to conceive, brings perhaps even a higher level of intimacy with the an.atomical stuff, than birth does. So this is not a "if you haven't had a baby, you just don't get it" rant. I think I come across the word ut.erus a whole lot more from the TTC crowd than the mommy bloggers.)

Also because I've experienced this embarrassment before. I took a human se.xuality class in my counseling program with mostly women. We were all ages, from mid-twenties to early sixties. Probably a third of the women didn't have children. (All three of the men were fathers and age 40 and up. Let's forget about them now. They are irrelevant to this discussion.) No one was a vi.rgin, though. I found it very interesting that many women were much more comfortable talking intimately about s.ex or s.ex toys than they were about va.ginal birth. Or even saying the word va.gina. Pictures of the male an.atomy brought a shrug from them. Pictures of the female an.atomy made them uncomfortable to the point of asking the professor to advance the powerpoint. "I can't look at that," one woman said. Which, if you know my professor, was just fascinating to him, since the whole point was to make us aware of our discomfort and deal with it.

Maybe it's because I came to this myself from the other direction. Pregnancy and childbirth brought me to a level of ease and comfort with my body, my se.xuality. I never talked to girlfriends about my s.ex life before I had kids. Now it may mostly be rolling my eyes saying, What s.ex life? but I would have been embarrassed to say even that before. Pregnancy and childbirth made me aware of myself as a se.xual person and comfortable and familiar with my an.atomy. We did a lot of comforting in that class. Sharing guilt and sadness when husbands didn't understand the period of disinterest in s.ex after childbirth, revealing unresolved pain from abortions gotten under pressure from partners, mourning the loss of possibilities from waiting too long to have children or from having children too soon. It was a healing class.

What's this have to do with the cheerleader from the shower? I don't know. This has been running around my head for a while and she brought it back to my mind. I should follow my own advice and be kind to women, even inane, bubbly-headed ones. We have it rough enough as it is.


Geohde said...

I didn't have a baby shower. But that's because I'd feel like I was expecting people to gime stuff for reproducing. WHich seems odd.

Mind you, we also had a 'no presents' wedding, which makes me the odd one out, maybe?

As for the size of the uterus thing- who on earth does the research, because I'm scratching my head to think of a single useful thing to do with that information :)


JG said...

Baby showers. Ugh. My first one was entirely game free -- we opened presents and ate lots of really yummy food.

I opted for a present-free party with beer for the second one. Seemed like too much to ask people to hand over gifts all over again, especially as I was having a second girl and she was going to get to wear/use all the first-round items. Also, 2 of my friends were due within a couple of weeks and I didn't want to add to the shower pressure for everyone.

I had a blast at thebeer shower. You know how people henna their bellies? My 3-year-old and some beer-swilling friends drew on mine with body art crayons. Smiley faces and stuff. It was hilarious.

MrsSpock said...

I went to a shower a couple years ago that had at least 30 people there, and we all had to cut a string we though was as big around as the mother. And it took nearly 2 hours for everyone to do it and then go up and test it. We were all ready to die from boredom.

I just taught 20 4th graders and their moms about puberty, periods, and breasts. ALL of the mothers were just as embarrassed to say body parts and talk about periods as their daughters were.