One of the most challenging experiences after babyloss can happen when you are invited to a baby shower. Maybe the person who is expecting was unaware of your loss, or perhaps they are a close friend or family member who wants to include you, but may not have asked if you wanted to be invited. Unfortunately, even the people that care about us the most may struggle with finding the right words when it comes to asking about how you feel about going to baby-centric events, and most may choose to send out an invitation without asking you anything at all. So, what do you do when you receive that telltale Evite or envelope, inviting you to come celebrate the impending birth of a healthy child? Here are some tips.
1. Give yourself permission to bail. Believe it or not, most babyloss mamas that I know feel as though they are required to go to baby showers, particularly if the shower is for a close family member. These kind-hearted mamas worry about looking selfish in the wake of their loss, and they struggle with being so happy for their family member, but also feeling understandably anxious, worried, grief-ridden, or jealous (see my post on Pregnancy Jealousy if this applies to you, because it is normal!). My belief is that no mama should be forced to participate in the happiness and joy of another pregnancy when her own pregnancy has ended in a heartbreaking way. If the roles were reversed, I know these mamas would be completely understanding as to why a woman who has just lost a pregnancy does not feel she can attend a baby shower. The shower would be a painful trigger to endure, and these showers can last a very long time and conversations can become very focused on babies, birth, and child-rearing. There is no reason why a babyloss mama should have to face these. So, if you're struggling with the decision to attend, please give yourself permission not to attend. Send a gift and a note, but avoid the event altogether, and also skip the guilt, if you can.
2. Go, but give yourself permission to bail. If you really want to go, it might be useful for you to set a time limit for how long you want to spend at the shower. Arriving early and staying for an hour might limit your interaction with too many nosy nellies asking about your pregnancy, and you might get to spend some quality time with the expecting mama. Arriving at the end of the shower will ensure that you miss the games, gifts, and cake, but will give you some social time if you'd like to still show up. Also, you might find some areas to escape to if the shower becomes too overwhelming. When you arrive, scope out where the nearest bathroom is, as well as any outdoor areas that you can access that will allow you a few moments to take some deep breaths, cry, or phone a friend. There is no rule that requires your unlimited participation at the baby shower, so be sure to set your expectations very low for your threshold of how much you can endure if you go. Don't wait until you're feeling too overwhelmed or grief-stricken to leave. In addition to setting a limit, work with your therapist to identify some triggers or thoughts and feelings that might arise at the shower that will signal for you that it's time to go, then allow yourself to leave.
3. Enlist the help of a buddy. Is there a close friend or family member that knows your story who might be a useful ally at the shower? It can be helpful to ask this person beforehand if they can be your support if you go. Together, you can come up with a special signal or cue that you can flash to that person when you feel as though you need rescuing from intrusive conversations or triggering moments. It always helps to have someone to lean on. If that person isn't attending, perhaps you can ask them to phone you or send text messages at regular intervals to check in on you and see how you're doing. This will be a great break from the shower and also serve as an important reminder that somebody is thinking of you and considering your feelings on this difficult day.
4. Be sure to talk to the host(ess) and/or expectant mama. If you're feeling ambivalent or unsure about whether you should attend the shower, be sure to check in with the people directly involved. Send an email or text explaining your feelings, and don't apologize for them! You should never be made to feel as though your grief is inconvenient or inappropriate. Rather, as a babyloss mama, your voice needs to be heard, and if you are invited to a baby shower, your feelings must be considered. You could schedule a one on one lunch date or coffee with the expectant mama where you can give her a present or your advice without the overwhelming atmosphere of a baby shower or, perhaps a phone call will do if you're too triggered by spending time with a pregnant woman, which is completely understandable. You can also pass along a message of love and support with the host(ess) so that you don't personally have to communicate about why attending a baby shower feels like too much right now.
Please don't deny your feelings or avoid your grief when this commonly-experienced trigger arises. It's also important to check in with your therapist about ways to talk about your loss or decline a shower invitation, including doing some role playing where you can practice finding the right words to say that feel true to you. Take a deep breath: attending a baby shower when you've lost a baby yourself is a very big deal, and nobody should make you feel bad about whatever your decision about attending may be.