Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Expecting showers (& other musings)

Last Sunday, dh & I braved the landmine field that is Toys R Us/Babies R Us to go shopping for a baby shower gift. StepBIL's wife is registered there, and her shower is this coming Sunday, at FIL & stepMIL's house. (She is due in late August.) There is no way that I can gracefully duck out, so I will go & smile until it hurts (while silently grinding my teeth).

Most of dh's aunts from that side of the family will be there, and perhaps even a few of his cousins, along with stepMIL's family and some of stepBIL's wife's family & friends. Dh's cousins don't know stepBIL or his wife, but stepMIL has been to all of their bridal & baby showers & kids' birthday parties, & I guess she figures it's payback time, because they've all been invited. In fact, I think they've invited about 60 people. And are praying desperately for sun (even though the latest weather forecast is calling for rain), since FIL & stepMIL have a fair-sized house, but not big enough to hold 60 people (& recently had stepBIL redo their patio with interlock brick, specifically with the idea of having the shower out there).

As we navigated through the aisles to the registry kiosk, dh muttered, "Wow… this is harder than I thought it would be." "Yeah, well, welcome to my world," I said unsympathetically. After all, all he had to do was walk through the store with me & carry the package out. He plans to spend Sunday afternoon at our place with his dad & brother & maybe one or both of the nephews, watching the EuroCup soccer finals. I'm the one who has to sit through the damn shower, watching everyone make a fuss over the mom-to-be (who is 41 years old & already the mother of a daughter who is in university)(!!), watching all the beautiful gifts being unwrapped to oohs & ahhs, playing all those incredibly stupid shower games, & listening to everyone comparing labour stories (hey, anyone want to hear MY labour story??).

The only saving grace about baby showers (& Italian showers in particular) is the food is bound to be pretty good. ; ) It's easier to play along with how many toilet paper squares it will take to wrap around the guest of honour's belly when your mouth is full of Zia's amaretti cookies. ; )

Even after so many years of living with loss & infertility, it's hard to go shower shopping. Some times are harder than others. I often opt for practical equipment as a gift over cute outfits or bedding (I bought a nursery monitor on this outing), & go somewhere like the Bay or WalMart to buy it. Here, however, you couldn't miss the display of cribs & nursery furniture, all decked out with adorable quilts, mobiles, stuffed animals, etc. I found myself saying, "Oh, isn't that cute?" but at the same time, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Still, after 10 years. We found the monitor we were looking for & got out of there as quickly as possible.

I can do this… I always have. I've been doing it for 10 years -- & nothing could be worse than those first few showers & first birthday parties that I attended after our daughter's stillbirth. Heck, I even went to a baby shower on my 40th birthday weekend, while in infertility treatment!! (I took the little square envelope out of the mailbox &, without opening it, said to dh, "This is an invitation for your cousin's baby shower -- & it's going to be on my 40th birthday weekend." I was right -- & I cried for two hours solid.) I find that the anticipation is usually worse than the actual event. To be honest, I probably find baby showers more boring than painful these days. (Or maybe that's just my self-protective shield kicking in.)

But I find it takes a lot out of me, & I'm totally exhausted afterwards from the effort.

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Also last Sunday, the New York Times Magazine had this article about the public's fascination with large families on television -- one "naturally" conceived (the Duggars of Arkansas) & one through fertility treatments (the Gosselins, aka Jon & Kate Plus 8).

I have to admit, I had never heard of the Duggars (do we even get their show in Canada?) until a few years ago, via the infertility boards I mostly lurk on. Their sheer numbers reminded me of the large Mennonite families in the small town I spent most of my elementary school years in. One family that lived on a farm outside of town had, I believe, 19 children. As each girl in the family reached high school, she would take a turn dropping out for a year, postponing graduation and any ambitions she may have had for herself, in order to stay at home & help the mother with the younger children.

Dh & I do watch Jon & Kate semi-regularly. Partly because the kids are just so darned cute, partly because (like many other people, I'm sure) we find it fascinating to watch how they manage to raise that many small children all at once. And partly because, while we wanted our fertility treatments to work, we didn't want them to work THAT well, and Jon & Kate remind us of the flip side of fertility treatments. You might wind up with the baby of your dreams, but you also might wind up with six of them, all at once. I like that Kate emphasizes how very blessed they are that all of their sextuplets turned out to be healthy. Liza Mundy's book, Everything Conceivable, which I wrote about awhile back covers the subject of multiples in great depth, including the greater risks involved (to both mother & babies), the touchy subject of selective reduction and the simple logistics of trying to bring up two or three or more babies at the same time.

I'll admit that I've always been fascinated with multiples, especially twins. My sister & I are only 21 months apart & looked sufficiently alike as children (& dressed alike too, at our own insistence) that people often thought we were twins. Our friends in high school dubbed us "the Bobbsey Twins" and, at university, we were often mistaken for each other. When I was in journalism school (25 years ago, in the very early days of modern fertility technology in North America) & looking for feature story material, I saw an ad in the local paper for a meeting of the local Parents of Multiple Births Association chapter. I attended several of their meetings & interviewed some of their members. One really interesting meeting featured a panel of teenaged & adult twins in all combinations -- fraternal male, identical male, fraternal female, identical female and fraternal male-female twins -- answering questions from the audience about what it was like to be a twin, what they wished their parents would have done differently, etc. One of the women attending that night was expecting triplets (!), & was herself a quadruplet (!!). She, of course, was born long before fertility treatments existed.

When we started doing clomid & then IUIs, I knew that multiples were a possibility (although my RE never said very much on the subject…!). I thought I could handle twins, & that twins might even be kind of cool. Anything more, I wasn't too sure about. I remember at one IUI being told there were four promising follicles. We drove away from the RE's office that day with me bawling my eyes out. All I could think was "quadruplets" & what the hell did we just do?? Of course it didn't work, and I knew that the chances of winding up with four (let alone one) were highly unlikely… but...

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Tomorrow is the last day of NaComLeavMo (National Comment Leaving Month), another of Mel's great ideas. I started out strong but the last week or two have fallen totally off the wagon. I'm not too bad at leaving five comments a day, since I generally do that most days anyway, but returning comments & visiting new blogs is where I fall down. So many blogs, so little time…! (sigh)


  1. Oh, the dreaded "other woman's shower". Sigh.

    I just went to one two weeks ago. The woman and I went through fertility treatment at nearly the same time. We both got pregnant (our due dates were a week apart) but I lost my twins, while she will be giving birth sometime soon. It stung.
    I only cried once, but I know what you mean about the exhaustion. Coming home that night, I felt like I had pulled an all-nighter. Will it ever get easier for us?

  2. Lori, I have to go to a shower this weekend myself and feel your pain. I am doing a joint gift with a group of friends and my part was the gift cards from Gymboree. I was so thankful that I could go in there, march up to the cash register, get the cards, and march back out without having to linger or even really glance at anything.

    I look forward to the day when I no longer know people who are baby-making age and have no more showers to go to!

    Anyway, will be thinking of you this weekend.

  3. Thank God at least the food will be good. :) Seriously though, if you feel obligated to go, then you have to go, but perhaps you could leave early? Come up with some sort of reason, some other commitment, then maybe you won't have to sit through the gift-opening (or whatever part will seem like too much).
    I hope it won't be too bad...I'll be thinking of you.

  4. Lori - I am so glad her shower is now and isn't in August, that month is going to be hard enough without that particular icing on the cake.

    The Duggars don't have a show - they get specials now and then on TLC. They seem very nice - but she is annoyingly hyperfertile and I keep waiting for them to report her uterus ruptured or something. I feel badly for the kids though - I wonder what they will go on to do later in life.

    Wishes of strength and comfort for this weekend.


  5. I agree, I always buy the baby monitor or something I can buy at Walmart or Target. Going to those mega baby stores is just too overwhelming. BUT, I will now be on the receiving end as our adoption of new daughter is coming soon and the family is throwing us a "couples" shower in August. I will love my daughter forever AND I will still long for those days when I **thought** I would get pregnant.
    Chin up - Hug all the children you can find..... it is so easy to be child-like around them.

    Alyson LID 01/27/06 (IA China)
    I enjoyed reading your blog; thanks to NCLM. Hugs....

  6. I, too, have found that the anticipation is usually worse than the actual event. I generally have bought registry gifts through Amazon so I didn't have to set foot in an actual Toys/Babies R Us. Good food helps -- so does some alcohol (at least around here) -- and I try to sit with someone who is childless or unmarried.

    I'll be thinking of you this weekend...

    I don't watch any of the big-family shows -- growing up Catholic, I thought the older kids in huge families had an especially raw deal -- and I know a few infertile women who have cancelled their Ladies Home Journal subscriptions (despite sharing my obsession with the "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" feature) because of their annual cover issue with the Iowa septuplets.

  7. I don't even know you and I would understand why you would not attend any more baby showers, much less this one in particular, so why is it that THEY don't understand why you'd rather not. And why do guys get left off the hook?

    When my best friend gets knocked up, I hope she gives me an out. It's just the whole cutesy let's share labour pain stories atmosphere I can't stand.

  8. If you were to catch a bit of a ... cough cough ... cold, then you just couldn't go to the shower and risk being contagious around the guest of honour. :)

    The big box baby stores have one saving grace - there is always at least one full blown temper tantrum going on and it is kind of comforting to know that I will be missing out on that aspect of parenthood.


  9. The one thing I can't stand about any gathering where moms attend in adundance, especially baby showers, is the attitude of superiorty they have because they have kids. Moms with young children or babies are especially guilty. That's something I just can't tolerate. Dealing with being one of the few childless persons there is enough to deal with without being made to feel I have nothing to contribute. Good luck and eat lots of cookies!

  10. I can't believe married to Mr. ABF that I've only been to one Italian-esque baby shower, but there was wine. And I would put up a stink about wondering what the cup score is (for real, I would do this! I would probably not go, actually . . . ) and maybe someone will take pity and flip on a television.

    Exhausting is right.

  11. I haven't had to attend a baby shower and I'm hoping I won't for a while. I'll be thinking of you this weekend. If all else fails, you can engorge yourself on Italian food and pastries until you can't see straight -- my mom spikes her custard filled peach cookies with vermouth -- it has always been quite an effective strategy for me :o)

    I can see how that email would sting, even after so much time, Loribeth; how can we forget our hurt and what we've lost? We just can't.

  12. The thing about baby showers is that they bring out that ugly side of nearly every woman on earth--the side that lauds pregnant women as madonnas and feels the need to compare and contrast. It's my opinion that the older (many) women get, the more obnoxious they are about pregnancy. The whole toilet paper guessing-how-big-she-is thing? Just an excuse, in my opinion, to publicly humiliate a woman who might be bigger than she is "supposed" to be at that point in her pregnancy.

    I just don't think that pregnancy and baby showers need to be quite as annoying as they are. Would you believe I was actually at a baby shower a year ago at which all the games were meant for mothers only? The planners basically excluded anyone who hadn't given birth to a child (yes, there was one woman there who had adopted who couldn't really participate, either).