The If, Hows, and Whens of Having a Baby Shower
When expecting a baby, it only seems natural to want to have a baby shower. After all, there are things that we need to prepare for a baby. I get a lot of questions about if, how, and when hopeful adoptive parents should have a shower. I personally felt it was best for us to gather the basics that we needed and celebrate after our baby was in our arms and termination of parental rights were signed, so that’s what we did. In my opinion, it was completely worth the wait. I know a lot of you plan to have a shower, but you want to know how to do it well. Let’s chat about why this is so controversial and talk about a few tips on doing it well.
When we come to our adoption journeys, one of the first things we do in our world today is look to the internet to see what everyone else is doing. This can be a both a blessing and a curse. A lot of times we do things simply because everyone else is doing them. If everyone is doing it, it must be okay. Right? Sadly, no. We blindly follow the masses without taking the time to peel back the layers, educate ourselves, and realize that just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. Sadly, so many things that we do as hopeful adoptive parents can be unintentionally unwise, unethical, and even downright coercive. This breaks my heart.
Let me say, as always, there is no judgement here. There is no condemnation. In some areas, there is no one size fits all when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of adoption. In other areas there are very clearly things that are right and wrong. There are certain things that I believe should and shouldn’t be done if we are holding ourselves to the highest standards we can. Please don’t take what is said here and judge someone who hasn’t done things the way we’ll talk about. There are ways that we can do better. ALL of us will do at least one thing (probably many) that we will look back on and wish we did differently. I asked for the input of adoption professionals and birth parents for this post, so know that this is not just my personal opinion. I believe that there is a very large gray area when it comes to baby showers and adoption, but there are some things that I think are very important to take into consideration.
One of the hardest parts of learning how to navigate the domestic infant adoption process well is facing the fact that it’s not the same as carrying a biological child. I’m very passionate about the fact that adoption is not just for people who have walked through infertility, but I know that a large portion of hopeful adoptive parents fall into that category. It’s heartbreaking to know that we may never be able to grow our family biologically. I understand that this is such a sensitive and sad topic for many hopeful adoptive parents. Like I said, I’ve asked for input from professionals, birth parents, and adoptees on this. They all said the same thing: we will not be able to adopt as well if we have not grieved our infertility. It will not be easy to understand why there are some things that are frowned upon ethically that we would be able to do if we were having a child biologically. This is not to say “get over it.” Infertility is not something that you just pick up and move on from. This is just to say, we need to make sure that we give ourselves the time to grieve the fact that we haven’t been able to carry biological children. We need to give ourselves the time that we need to be able to separate our infertility from our adoption. We need to understand that although one may have led us to the other, they are two separate journeys. In doing this, we’ll be able to love the expectant parents that we come in contact with in a much healthier way. We will be able to make choices that uphold the highest ethics even though the'y’ll be different than what we may have envisioned for our baby preparations. This is tough stuff, friends. So read on with an open mind and give yourself grace if these are hard pills to swallow or are foreign ideas. I know this is hard, but I also know that we’re here because we want to do this well. It’s gonna be okay.
Should I have a baby shower before the baby is born and papers are signed?
This is tough. I believe you can have a baby shower to get prepared for your hopeful baby, but you should do it very, very carefully if you’re going to do it. I’m sure that any woman who is considering placing her child with a family wants the family to be good and ready, but let’s not forget that it’s much more important to prepare our hearts than a perfect nursery or clothing collection. There are some things we should strongly consider if we’re going to have a baby shower.
Even if we’ve been chosen by an expectant momma and we feel confident that she will place her child with us, the hard truth is that the baby simply isn’t ours yet. The fact that we have been chosen to potentially parent her child if she decides to follow through with her adoption plan is an honor. But she does not owe us anything. This is not our baby in any way, shape, or form. This is 100% her baby. We should feel passionate about this and want to love her well in this season, consistently reassuring her that we will support her no matter what she decides. If we’re going to have a shower, we need to let it be preparation for a baby, but definitely not for a specific baby. There's nothing wrong with celebrating and preparing. There is a problem with doing all of those things in preparation for a specific baby. That is when it turns to being coercive. We cannot claim a child as our own before TPR (termination of parental rights) has been signed. We have to realize that this baby may never become ours. It's hard. I know it stings, but it's true. And it’s right. I know that this is where many of us would come in with our, “but my situation is different,” or “but she’s positive she isn't going to change her mind,” or “but she told us it was okay for us to ____.” Friends, we have got to stop making exceptions to try to justify doing things in unethical or questionable ways. It’s not worth it. It’s not okay. We have to resist the urge to let this apply to everyone but ourselves. We will never regret holding ourselves to an even higher standard than necessary, but we could face mounds of regret for making poor choices and being coercive because of our own desires. If we’re going to have a shower while in the wait, one tip would be to do it before we have been chosen by an expectant momma so that we can do it in the most pure way possible. It will be easier for our hearts and minds to grasp that we are preparing for a baby, but not a specific baby, if we do it ahead of time.
A sip and see is a great option! This is what I did. If you’ve never heard of this, look it up on Pinterest. There are tons of adorable ideas out there. After our baby was placed with us and papers were signed, we had a big shower where family and friends came to celebrate, shower us with gifts, and meet our sweet new bundle. This is what I would recommend to be the least “risky” as far as ethics and coercion go.
We have to remember that in the world we live in today, there’s a very good chance that an expectant momma who chooses us is looking at our social media accounts. I know, I know… We always think our situation is different, but I think many times that can be a cop out. We have to be very careful that the things we post are not coercive in any way. From an expectant momma’s perspective, she will feel a lot of pressure to place if she knows we’re acting like her baby is already ours. Even if we think she won't be able to find us online, it's still best to err on the side of caution when it comes to what we post. We can post anything we want after everything is final if she decides to go through with her adoption plan. We have to use wisdom and discernment here.
Like I mentioned above, we have to understand that adopting is different than being pregnant. We have to take hold of a very uncertain journey and love the expectant mom (and potentially father and other family members) that have been placed in front of us as well as we can for as long as we can- regardless of if she ends up choosing to place her child with us or becomes empowered to parent.