Baby showers don't have to cost as much as Meghan Markle's
PUBLISHED: 20:00 26 February 2019
The royal's New York party has been much reported and speculated upon. Our columnist reveals more about the tradition.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has had a baby shower.
It was something of a mystery to me until comparatively recently when my I was invited to one. If you had asked me when I was pregnant, in the early 80s, if I would like a baby shower, I would have imagined it to be something that you used in the bath.
Now gaining in popularity, alongside other American traditions such as hen and stag dos, Hallowe’en trick or treating and Black Friday, the baby shower has also been embraced by British culture. Personally, I welcome anything that uncurls that stiff upper lip for which, as a nation, we are famous.
The idea is that the friends of the mother-to-be gather for, preferably, a no-booze daytime bash where people talk babies and give gifts. If you look online, you’ll find lots of baby shower present suggestions.
Traditionally, the baby shower is given only for the family’s first child, and only women are invited, though increasingly the men are allowed in.
At the one I attended, the menfolk headed off for a pub lunch and showed up after the girly stuff was over… Hmm, admire bootees or sup a half of Adnams? Tough choice.
We spent the afternoon in the garden of the mum-to-be’s home. The Duchess’s baby shower was held in a posh hotel suite in New York with girlfriends and it has inevitably attracted criticism, largely because it is rumoured to have cost $348,000 or maybe $200,000 or even $500,000 - depending on which report you read. It is also claimed that that tennis ace Serena Williams paid for the venue and lawyer Amal Clooney paid for the private jet that brought Meghan back to the UK. Moreover, I read that Kensington Palace has said the baby shower was “privately funded”. In which case, I suppose, it’s none of our business.
There are also whispers about whether the royal baby is a boy or a girl based on the alleged colour theme of Meghan’s baby shower desserts. Good grief.
What do people do at baby showers? Well it’s about gift-giving and playing themed games.
According to online oracle Wikipedia, one such game might be “guess the mother’s measurements”, which sounds a bit intrusive.
The baby shower is typically arranged and hosted by a close friend rather than a member of the family, since it is considered rude for families to beg for gifts on behalf of their members. But this also varies.
In the United States, if a baby shower doesn’t happen before the arrival of the baby, a sip-and-see party (a what?) can be organised after the birth. This is arranged so that the family can meet its newest member. In fact, some people have both a before and after party – there’s a way to get enough muslin squares.
Around the world, the imminent arrival of new babies attracts all manner of traditional practices.
In India, the mother-to-be, nearing confinement, is showered with dry fruits, sweets and other gifts. A musical event to please the baby’s ears is the highlight of the ritual (Ed Sheeran, something for the royal baby, maybe).
In Medieval Europe there were practical considerations as childbirth was thought to be a time of spiritual and physical danger. Priests would often visit women during labour so they could confess their sins. If I may make an observation here, if someone had invited me to confess while I was in labour, I would have said a few things that would have warranted a further confession.
In Victorian times women would keep their pregnancy secret. Presumably this was in line with the prudish nature of the time – a time when piano legs should be covered so as not to offend.
Advice online offers help such as suggesting there could be a theme for the baby shower “to tie everything together”.
I’m not sure what theme that might be but I’m guessing Star Wars and Rambo are probably out. One website that sells paper plates and the like offers a range of themes such as Boho Baby and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Apparently, it is common to give a goody bag to everyone who attends a baby shower... a balloon and a piece of cake, I guess.
Meanwhile on babble.com Monica Bielank lists what you shouldn’t do at a baby shower - based on responses from Facebook friends. “Stop The Games” came top and I can understand why if smelling baby food is one of the cheery pastimes.
It shouldn’t be all about gifts, Ms Bielank suggests everyone could be asked to bring a box of diapers (she’s American) and that solves the problem of what to buy and how much should be spent.
Also on her list is “include men” and although it may not be in line with the original concept, it certainly chimes with 21st century culture in which men can be the main child carers, are involved in the birth and have paternity leave.
Dealing with dirty nappies is not exclusive to women. (Prince Harry, please note).