Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ms. B's Advice on Baby Shower Invitations

Dear Ms. B,

One of my good friends lost her baby nine months ago.  Now a mutual friend of ours is pregnant and I'm co-hosting a baby shower for her next month.  I want to invite my friend whose baby died because she's such an important part of our close circle of friends, and I want her to know that we love her and miss her and want to include her in everything.  But I also don't want to upset her or make her feel like we expect her to be there if it's too difficult for her.  We (the pregnant mom and other hostesses) have talked about how we understand if she can't attend.  In fact, we're not really expecting her to be there, but we also wish very much that things were different and she could come.  Do we go ahead and send her an invitation?  Or would it be better to avoid mentioning the shower to her at all?

Shower Hostess

Dear Hostess,

The fact that you are worried about this speaks volumes to the sort of kindness you're extending to your friend who lost her child.  The best way to handle this may depend on the geography of the shower, on the personality of your friend, and on various other personal issues.  But in Ms. B's experience, open lines of communication are almost always the best option.

Ms. B would suggest sending an e-mail to your bereaved friend saying something similar to what you've said here.  She's obviously aware that your mutual friend is pregnant, and realizes there will be a baby shower for that friend.  She may or may not plan to attend it, but I think the kindest thing you can do is explain that you want her to know she's welcome, and straight up tell her that you don't want to upset her if an invitation would  be what they call a "grief trigger."

Your friend may respond that she would rather not see the invitation, in which case you can simply follow her wishes.  Or she may thank you for the e-mail and tell you to go ahead and send the invitation.

If she responds with the latter, one of the nicest ways to do this is to enclose the invitation with another note or card addressed to the bereaved mother that offers a few words of sympathy or encouragement.  You don't have to go over the top, but doing a little something to acknowledge that you didn't just slap a stamp on it, and that you were thinking of her personally when you addressed the envelope, would be appreciated by the bereaved mom.

As the hostess, it would also be very nice of you to offer to split a gift with the bereaved mother and tell her that you'll take care of all the arrangements if she'll just send you a check for X amount.  She may want to get something personal for her friend if she can't be there; on the other hand, she may feel sick at the thought of looking at a baby registry or picking out gifts, and sending you a check would be a a relief for her.

Of course, Ms. B is assuming your friend will decline the invitation and not attend.  The truth is that everyone feels differently about this, and your friend may decide she wants to be there.  Do keep in mind, though, that many (most?) bereaved parents find themselves unable to go to those kind of events for a couple of years after their loss.  Baby showers are a huge grief trigger for many mothers who crowed over beautiful gifts that then sat unused in an empty, silent nursery.  Seeing other moms receive similar items and plan to use them for their babies, well, it's incredibly difficult.  But it's also true that moms who had earlier losses, and perhaps did not get to have a baby shower for their little one, would find the idea of attending someone else's shower to be really hard--a reminder of everything they missed out on.

Not attending the shower isn't exactly a relief either--the bereaved parent will probably feel a lot of guilt about being a "bad friend," and a lot of sadness about missing out on "normal" life experiences.  Your sensitivity in this matter is really important, and Ms. B is confident that your bereaved friend will appreciate your kindness even if she cannot join you in the baby shower celebration.

Ms. B

Readers:  Do you agree?  Or would you rather be left off the invitation list all together?  Do you think there's a time frame of when it would be appropriate?  Two months out, for example, just skip the invitation?  Several months later, maybe you can send it with a note attached?  Does it depend on how close the friend is?  Those of you who are further out--can you comment on when (if ever) you felt comfortable attending a baby shower after your loss?  Did those kind of events get easier after a "rainbow baby"?  Or do you find they continue to be a grief trigger for you?


  1. I think your advice is perfect.

    I'm not sure whether I could attend a shower- a few short months ago and there would be no way Jose, but now I'm not sure. It would definitely depend on how it was handled and whether I thought I could handle it. The excitement of a baby shower might be a bit much for me right now, but perhaps after JB's has arrived, I may be able to swing it more confidently, so each comment doesn't feel like a slap across the face. Make sense? :)

  2. I don't think I'd like to be left off - I hated when people made assumptions about how I'd handle things.

    I can go to baby showers now and it's not a big deal. I can pretend that all babies live and talk excited pregnancy talk with most expectant moms and I keep the inner dialogue of ``I hope it works out`` to myself. I have only attended baby showers since I had my rainbow, so not sure if it would be so easy if I was still ttc. Probably not. The one event I attended that I found very difficult was my SIL`s birthing way - hosted by a sanctimonious doula who thought giving birth is the most natural thing in the world and we were all to tell our birth stories in a circle holding red string that attached us together (representing menstrual blood). I am not making this shit up. When it got to my turn, I just said ``good luck!`` and that was it. Later, I cried at home because no one ever really wants to hear my first birth story. Sorry - long comment.

  3. Perfectly put. At 15 months out from the death of my son and I'm still not entirely comfortable attending baby showers with a few exceptions. I attended my best friends baby shower this past May, but wasn't comfortable going to my cousin's. Everyone's different and every shower/party is different.

    Anyway, I think your advice is excellent. I hope the bereaved mother finds comfort in her friends' compassion. xo

  4. I totally agree. A work friend of mine is expecting her baby boy and was just 5 days ahead of my twins in gestation. I lost them in August at 14w2d and she's been very supportive of me during my journey, and I of her in her pregnancy (it's the only pregnancy I can handle right now for some reason). She did exactly what you suggested, rather than having someone invite me outright. I appreciated the head's up and being able to tell her that yes, of course I'd attend. I was nervous the day of but it was great...and she was so great to me while I was there. I think your reply was perfect!

  5. I think the advice is good. Asking first is a sensitive way to handle a tough situation .I'm 19 months out (and pregnant myself) and whether or not I went would depend on how supportive the guest of honor and hostess had been after my baby died. Also I know that in many places it's traditional to hold the shower before the baby arrives, but now it's very hard for me not think of it as being more than a little naive to assume that pregnant=take home baby.

  6. I couldn't agree more. I think asking is the best policy -- never assume. I was fortunate enough not to receive a shower invitation until two years had passed, & even then it was hard (it was for the weekend of my 40th birthday...!!)... but I would have felt awful if I knew that I had been deliberately left off the guest list -- like I was a bad luck omen to have around.

    I have never said no, although there are times I would have liked to. It helps if I can find someone to sit with who is happy to talk about other things besides pregnancy & babies at least part of the time. And finding a carrot -- something I know I have to look forward to afterwards as a treat or "reward" to myself for attending & making it through!

    Chipping in on a gift -- asking the other person to do the shopping -- is a strategy I've employed many times!

  7. Good advice Mrs B. Ask, never assume and go the extra mile for your friend, she will thank you for it.
    So for me, three years and three months out - still haven't been to one. Threw a small "non baby shower baby shower" for my sister when she had her first baby, but she was really wary of it being a trigger for me so we made it as non-babyish as possible. Really we just sat around eating cake, and she got a few presents. No colour schemes, no themes, no stupid games. I haven't had many invites to many others (maybe I've just been left off the list) but most of my friends have already had their first babies now (in Australia you really only have a baby shower for your first baby, after that it is just greedy) so I have done well to avoid them. I still don't think I could go to one, if an invite arrived tomorrow. But I can manage the first birthday parties again, and that took about 18 months.

  8. From my experience, they get easier, but still sting. They get easier because I can go to them, but it's hard, even after a rainbow, becuase people are so full of hope, excited . . .naive. The bitter and hurt and sad part of me wants to scream "This isn't a done deal sweety!" But, who wants that kind of person at a baby shower?! I wouldn't have.

    I'm actually going to a shower in a couple weeks. For a little boy. And while I think it'll be hard, I also have think that if the worst thing happened, and this baby didn't make it, like mine didn't, then I would want that mom to look back on her pregnancy and feel loved. I would want her to at least have some happy memories of her time with her baby to help survice all the sadness. I had that and am so thankful for it.

    So. . . I go because the baby deserves a happy memory, especially if he won't get very many. Pessimistic way of looking it it, but it's my "motivation" for going to such events.

  9. it would definitely depend for me. if the person whose shower it is is a very close friend, then i would definitely appreciate an email like you mentioned. though i would most likely opt out of receiving the actual invite and of being there, as it's still too painful for me to attend baby showers. but it is nice to know that they are considering my feelings and my pain, and are keeping me part of their lives.

    if the friend is not close, definitely just leave me off of everything. please. and no email is needed.

    again, you give such eloquent/succint advice. thank you!

  10. I am now 3.5 months pregnant with my rainbow baby and almost 11 months out from my sons passing. I received an invite to a baby shower a few weeks back and I had to decline. I am happy for her but I am not quite yet to the point of being able to go to one. Maybe after my babies is born, but not yet. Part of me was happy to get the invite but another part of me felt like it was a slap in the face. Not on purpose of course, I know the sender meant well who invited me. I just still have a hard time with other prego people.

  11. This also wasn't a close friend. If it was a close friend who new my situation I might have considered going.