How to survive baby showers after a miscarriage
I was such a jerk at my best friends’ joint baby shower.
I had a miscarriage just two months earlier and here I was having to celebrate not one, but two babies coming into the world. While I was so happy for my friends, it was torture having to pretend that I loved playing the baby games and guessing the size of my friends’ pregnant bellies while my mind was still reeling from my recent experience of pregnancy loss. So, I was a jerk. I obnoxiously threw myself into the games, making it my mission to win each and every one so I would get that $5 gift card from Starbucks (because hey I can have all the caffeine I want now). I made zero effort to socialize with anyone and after receiving a few seemingly innocuous, but deeply painful questions about when it was going to be my “turn” to have a baby, I went off on this poor, unsuspecting woman about the ridiculousness that is constantly asking people to define their next life steps to strangers and acquaintances. Shockingly, she quickly exited the conversation and everyone else gave me a wide berth for the remainder of the party. So, yeah I was a jerk.
You don’t know me yet, but I’m not usually a jerk. I’m quite the opposite. Most would describe me as warm, compassionate, kind, loyal, and always ready to help others. In my work as a psychologist, I have been described by clients as accepting, open, and friendly. My appearance as an irritable and obnoxious party guest was indicative of the huge impact a miscarriage can have on your life, your body, and the way you show up for months, maybe years after.
Baby showers used to be a normal level unpleasantness for me (i.e., forced social interaction with people I rarely see while playing weird games), but after a miscarriage, attending a baby shower can bring up so many painful feelings. For the weeks, months, perhaps even years following your miscarriage, baby showers may cause you to feel sadness, anger, disappointment, and shame. Quite an emotionally exhausting cocktail – and on top of that, there may not even be real cocktails at these things!
While it may feel impossible to enjoy a baby shower after a miscarriage, here are some ways to make it a little more bearable:
· If you feel comfortable, share with your pregnant friend(s) how you are feeling and let them know what you need and what you don’t need. While I was initially so worried about sharing with my friends that I did not feel comfortable planning their joint baby shower as I had originally planned, it was definitely the right step for both me and them. My friends were grateful that I shared with them how I was feeling and were completely understanding and had shared that they had been wondering how I was reacting to their pregnancy. Your friends care about you and they want to support you, so let them know how. For me, that meant I would send the invitations for their joint baby shower and would help with decorating and cleaning up, but I left coming up with the baby games and other parts of the party planning to them. Spend some time considering what would make this experience tolerable for you, and if you feel up to it, share these ideas with your friend(s).
· Enlist a supportive friend to come with you. Now, in my experience, I was dealing with my two closest friends who already knew all the details of my miscarriage and my grief. However, if I was going to the baby shower of a relative, friend, or co-worker who I didn’t feel comfortable sharing so much with, I would suggest enlisting a buddy to be there with me as my support and potentially to play interference for me when questions about “When is it going to be your turn?” came up. If significant others are invited, you could bring your partner or friend, or if you are close with another friend who will be there, consider enlisting her/him as an ally.
· Be prepared. Considering that you are at a baby-centered event, if you are anywhere close to a childbearing age, anticipate receiving questions about when you will be having children. This question can feel like a gut punch after a miscarriage and while there may not be a way to lessen the emotional impact, preparing what you are going to say ahead of time to this question may lessen the shock. There are multiple options depending on how much you want to share. I kept it vague saying “Not for a while, we are focused on other things right now” and then would turn the attention back to them.
· Have an exit plan. Enlist support from the outside. Have a friend who you can call on the way there to give you a pep talk before you go in and to plan an exit strategy with (e.g., I’m only going to stay one hour and then I have to leave because of a work obligation or my friend is going to call and fake an emergency). If possible, plan to meet up with your friend or at least plan to speak to them on the phone after the baby shower to share all the feelings, thoughts, and reactions that came up for you.
· Consider compassionately declining the invitation. Another option here, that may be difficult depending on the circumstances, is to decline the invitation to the baby shower. Following my miscarriage, there were some invitations I just had to decline for my own well-being and because I knew if I was there, I would not be able to hold it together. In those situations, if I felt comfortable, I would share the reason with my friend or if I didn’t feel comfortable, I came up with an excuse, sent a gift, a lovely card, and asked if I could take that friend out for lunch, nails, a massage, whatever just to let her know I did care about her and wanted to celebrate her even if I couldn’t attend her baby shower.
· Treat yourself with care. Last, please, know that it is so understandable that you are having a complicated reaction to attending a baby shower. Even as you are happy for your pregnant friend or family member, it is completely normal that you are also experiencing a range of painful emotions that make attending this event very challenging. Treat yourself with care whether that means showing yourself some compassion or planning a day of self-care following the baby shower.