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The Green-Eyed Baby Shower Guest

Nov19

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amalah,

I’m 25 years old, and my husband and I have been trying to conceive for over a year. During that time, a family member on my husband’s side got pregnant during a drunken one night stand. She moved back in with her parents, and in spite of dropping out of college “to save up for the baby,” her parents and grandparents have bought her everything, including a car. I just received a baby shower invitation for her. My thoughts are a) I don’t think a baby shower is appropriate, but maybe I’m just an old-fashioned, bitter jerk and b) I don’t know how I’d handle the emotional upheaval of this shower. Things have been kind of strained with my in-laws (and we all live in the same town), and I don’t want to make the situation any worse by not going. This whole infertility deal by itself has been devastating, and then to have to deal with the way my in-laws are being enablers is really frustrating on top of it. Please help!

And please sign me,
Anonymous

Oh, don’t go.

Now, I personally have zero qualms with a baby shower being thrown for a single mother with an unexpected pregnancy. Zero. Not inappropriate at all. That baby deserves to be celebrated and fussed over just as much as any baby, and in spite of supportive parents and a free car, single motherhood is tough. The rest of her circumstances (no father figure in the picture, dropping out of college, no means of self-support, the fact that everybody “knows” her story and are likely quietly judging her, etc.) are tough. Her parents and grandparents are taking care of things for now, and maybe yeah, she really doesn’t “need” more gifts from friends and family…I really can’t fault her for allowing someone to throw her a little party in the meantime.

But.

You’re in no shape to attend this shower. That’s obvious. You’re hurting, you’re jealous, and unless you feel certain you can steel your nerves and sit through a couple hours of baby!baby!baby! stuff with a big fake smile on your face (as opposed to like, glaring in the corner or crying the bathroom), I think it would be a terrible idea. If Knocked Up was like, your sister or BFF from childhood, I’d probably encourage you to sack up a little bit and attend for her sake. But in this particular case? There’s just no reason why you MUST do this to yourself.

Yes, yes, maybe there will be annoyance from your in-laws that you can’t attend. Is there any chance your husband would be willing to TALK to his side of the family — at least his mom — and explain that “Hey, Anonymous and I have been trying to have a baby for some time now without any luck. Knocked Up’s pregnancy and shower came at a tough time for us. Please understand that’s why Anonymous won’t be attending.” Just be honest. Then pick out a super-basic shower gift and ask that they deliver it for you, just to further take the edge off the potential “snubbing.”

If your husband isn’t comfortable being that open with your in-laws (or you’d rather no one know about any of it), I’d still enlist his help. It’s his family, but you’re his wife, and even if guys don’t always really “get” this part of infertility and how much it sucks to see someone else achieve what you want so easily, he should attempt to understand and support your decision to skip the shower. Have him book a weekend trip or buy event tickets for that day, like “Oh! Can you believe it? I told him the date of the shower and he got it mixed up and now I can’t attend. DRAT!” Or…hell. If it’s just a casual get-together at someone’s home and the headcount isn’t that vital, RSVP that you’ll be there and then call out sick with a stomach bug the morning of.

Obviously, the Super Ethical Advice-Giver-Type Person in me wants to encourage you to go with the honesty route, via your husband. If you are comfortable with that, it could possibly help in other ways — maybe they’d think twice before mentioning Knocked Up’s pregnancy in glowing terms all the time, maybe things would be less strained if they understood the stress you guys are under right now. Or…not. Maybe they’d just ask stupid intrusive questions about the state of your uterus or tell everyone in town your business. If that’s the case, then…yeah. You totally have my permission to stoop to some subterfuge…and skip the shower for whatever reason without another agonized thought.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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23 Responses to “The Green-Eyed Baby Shower Guest”

  1. Julie Nov 19 at 1:46 pm Reply

    Yeah, totally don’t go. Send a card, maybe even a small gift if you feel up to it, and hopefully that will dilute any “buy why aren’t you being supportive?” angst from that side of the family. But quietly make your excuses in one way or another and don’t put yourself through the stress of going.

  2. MommaFergie Nov 19 at 2:11 pm Reply

    Hmmm…. Yeah, I don’t think going would be in your best interest right now. I’d buy a small gift with a note and send to the party. You don’t have to tell anyone why you aren’t attending (it’s really nobody’s business). If anyone asks I’d tell them you had a prior engagement (that should suffice). Best wishes to your and your hubby in your endeavors :)

  3. JB Nov 19 at 3:34 pm Reply

    If my daughter got pregnant from a one-night-stand, I’d do all I can to support her, regardless of how devastating this would be.  That’s what family is for.  Maybe there is more to the story but wow, I don’t see anything inappropriate about family taking care of this single mom and throwing her a baby shower.  I agree with Amalah that this baby should be celebrated.
    And I agree with everyone else in advising you not to go.  You’re obviously too upset to be a polite guest.  I hope your husband is understanding and finds a way to make excusing yourself easier for you.
    I really hope for the best for you and your husband.  

  4. Hannah Nov 19 at 3:38 pm Reply

    Get a small gift off of the registry (or send your husband to do it) and send it with a note saying that you’re SOOO sorry, but you have [company picnic] [horrible work project] [top-secret espionage mission] [mailbox decoupage class] and can’t make it. Then forget it and buy yourself some [shoes] [chocolate] [books] [expensive gaming systems] and good luck!

  5. S Nov 19 at 3:55 pm Reply

    I agree with the approach to just send a gift and skip the shower. I’m a conflict-avoider and also a privacy-protector, so I would just pretend to be sick the day of the shower and say that I was afraid of giving the mom-to-be my bug. When you raise the specter of giving your illness to someone, she’ll focus on what she sees as an avoided risk to herself and her baby rather than the fact that you didn’t attend! And good luck to you in starting your family, too!

  6. Anonymous Nov 19 at 4:31 pm Reply

    Thank you all for your replies!  I didn’t mean to imply that the baby didn’t deserve to be fussed over – he’s not here yet!  I guess that’s my small distinction between pre-baby shower and making sure the baby himself, when he shows up, is celebrated.  But either way, I really didn’t mean to imply that the baby shouldn’t be celebrated.  Maybe I have been foolishly distinguishing between celebrating the pregnancy and celebrating the baby.  

  7. JB Nov 19 at 5:39 pm Reply

    ^^My name is also JB, awesome :) .

    I am another person saying to SKIP the shower. Seriously, I skip events ALL THE TIME, with just the excuse of that I have a “prior engagement,” when the real reason is that I don’t feel like going/spending the money/whatever.

    Maybe this is just me being anti-social ;) BUT you never need to feel bad about “not” attending something, in my book.

  8. HereWeGoAJen Nov 19 at 8:20 pm Reply

    When this happened to me (although for an out of town shower that I couldn’t have gone to anyway), I bought the cheapest baby stuff off the Wal-mart clearance rack (baby pants for $1! Two shirts for $2 each!) and mailed them. Somehow it made me feel better that I had been super cheap. Kind of a low blow, even though I don’t think anyone could have noticed it.

  9. Deedee Nov 19 at 8:36 pm Reply

    I am a little confused why everybody wants anonymous to buy a cheap gift??  It’s family.  I totally agree with you all that she should not attend the shower.  But it’s her husband’s sister.  I don’t think that makes a “cheap gift” appropriate.  Be generous with the gift, just don’t go to the shower.  A generous gift will go a long way towards no hard feelings – and it was mentioned there was a strained relationship going on.  I personally would probably take the “chicken” way out and say I was coming and then call that day and beg off due to illness.  But it is also OK to just say you have prior plans and decline the invite.  And I think a nice gift will soften the blow.

  10. Catheriine Nov 20 at 10:13 am Reply

    I doubt a nice gift will help. I went to a shower with the axact same situation (except they also bought the couple a house, $425k to be exact). I bought a nice gift and went, we found out about the house at the shower. It did not go well, we haven’t spoken to any from that side for 7 months.

  11. Ilurk Nov 20 at 12:06 pm Reply

    It seems that there are two issues here — Anonymous’s heartbreak over her infertility, which is a valid reason not to go to the shower, and what sounds like jealousy/disapproval over her sister-in-law getting “knocked up” and the ensuing generosity of her in-laws. Which, frankly, just isn’t valid at all. If Anonymous doesn’t approve, that is her perogitive, but she should realize that it is going to drive a wedge between her and her in-laws.
    On the other hand, I completely sympathize with her situation in regards to infertility. It’s just plain hard to go have what has been denied to you flaunted in your face by someone who has been given this amazing gift without even having to ask for it. I would advocate honesty in reagrds to your in-laws. Just tell the truth, it’s very hard for you right now to be a part of things as you are just too emotionally burdened with your own hurdles. It doesn’t have to even be that clear — you can always say that you and your husband have been trying for a really long time and things are hard for you right now. If your in-laws are the supportive people they appear to be when it comes to their kids, you may be pleasantly surprised by their understanding.

    So yeah, don’t go, it’s okay, but please understand that someday you (hopefully, cross my fingers, send up a little prayer) may be in her position, knocked up and wanting your baby to be celebrated and acknowledged, too. And you’ll be really happy when your in-laws are there for you, too. So don’t be too hard on your sister-in-law and maybe add a little good karma to the universe and do something genuinely nice for her.

  12. Kerry Nov 20 at 1:26 pm Reply

    This isn’t directed at anyone in particular, and it’s probably just my weird perspective, but I don’t think it’s quite fair to tell the family that you are having fertility problems right now. I think that might make them feel like they can’t be happy about this baby around you, because it will hurt your feelings. I would feel awkward if people had to stiffen up and treat the pregnancy like the “500 lb gorilla in the room” every time they saw me. Just like I wouldn’t want someone to hide their engagement ring around me just because I had a recent break-up.

  13. AR Nov 20 at 2:50 pm Reply

    I am normally not the commenting type, but this question really upset me. I also got pregnant on accident from a “drunken one-night stand”, decided to have the baby on my own, and received a huge amount of support from friends and family. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, and yes, people were very generous with us and I had to move back in with my mom for the first two years of my baby’s life. My baby shower was one of my favorite memories of my pregnancy, not because of all the gifts I received, but because of all the love and support I felt that day, which was so important while going through a pregnancy alone. This idea that the girl somehow doesn’t deserve a shower (or that she should be bought crappy gifts as some sort of insult) really disgusts me. Grow up. 

  14. LR Nov 20 at 6:16 pm Reply

    Anonymous- It is okay to be jealous. It is okay to be heartbroken. I understand that you have some anger toward this girl but try to realize it is really anger toward your infertility and not really at her or the in-laws. Send a gift card (it is really a good gift since they can buy whatever they like or really want/need) and a polite RSVP that you cannot attend. You don’t have to give a reason. And then try to forget about it and concentrate on you and your husband. I speak from experience – my SIL was pregnant, due 2 weeks after me, it was a total oops and they weren’t married at the time. i was married for seven years and lost my first pregnancy at 19 weeks. It was horrible and I couldn’t stand her or the baby for awhile. Luckily, my brother and SIL were totally understanding of my grief and were cool about it all. Eventually, two years later I had a son and now it is all water under the bridge and our kids are great friends as are we. Good Luck..

  15. AlexMMR Nov 21 at 2:29 am Reply

    To AR – The discussion of the circumstances of this pregnancy weren’t posted in an attempt to judge her. They were mentioned in a bit of “life is so not fair” resentment. Not resentment towards that individual, but resentment at the universe that while she who is prepared and wants a pregnancy can’t have one, while this other person who wasn’t prepared and wasn’t trying to get pregnant just randomly gets what the OP has always wanted.

    While I was going through IVF, I resented every single non-perfect circumstance pregnancy. I had spent an entire lifetime creating the perfect circumstances to have a baby (in my mind at least) and the universe kept saying no. It was just so unfair. Fortunately, I was finally smiled on and am now pregnant with twins.

    The OP doesn’t need to grow up and she wasn’t judging your circumstances. Her comments weren’t even about the pregnant person, they were about the unfairness and the pain of that unfairness that made her want to avoid the shower. They were perfectly valid comments and feelings.

  16. Carolina Nov 21 at 2:38 am Reply

    While I’m sympathetic to the feelings of insane jealously due to the infertility (it took us over a year to conceive), the judgmental tones in this letter turn me off. So what if it was a drunken one-night stand? What would you have her do? Not have the baby? What would you have her family do? Not support her? Shun her? Stitch a scarlet “A” on her chest? It is sad that she didn’t want a baby yet got one so easily, but single motherhood at young age will be a long, tough road. She needs love and support and I’m happy she’s getting it. I also don’t understand the idea of sending the cheapest gift imaginable. Send the same type of gift you would send to any other family member and stay home. Your grief and jealously (very valid emotions) will prevent you from being a nice guest. I really hope you get the baby of your dreams soon.

  17. E.M. Nov 21 at 8:16 am Reply

    Thank you AR, I’m in the EXACT same situation and I find Anonymous’ words sad and upsetting. While I understand the infertility feelings, I tried for a while with no results, 8 years ago. I started disliking (to say the least) seeing pregnant women, so I’ve been on both sides. I also just became pregnant during a short relationship I had 7 months ago and I ONLY see it as a blessing. I’m excited to do this on my own, to call all the shots, etc. And so does my tiny town with mostly conservative, old fashioned, older people. They are very excited for me and they told me they’re throwing me a huge shower to celebrate. I don’t get free cars or anything, just love, excitement, and support. I don’t know many people who wouldn’t see BOTH the pregnancy and the baby in any similar situation as a gift even if it was an “Oops”. I think Anonymous needs to take a look at that extreme jealousy and see that it has more to do with her and her infertility. Those negative feeling can’t help in life. That said Anonymous, I wish both you and your husband all the best in everyway. And I say don’t go to the shower, that would be torture for you and if you don’t want to buy a gift then don’t, but I also don’t want that to cause a rift in family relations. I would RSVP and then say you caught a bug just like they said, that way it seems like you tried but because of uncontrollable circumstances you just couldn’t make it and they can’t blame you for that! Take care of YOU Anonymous, be kind to yourself, you deserve it!

  18. lolismum Nov 22 at 11:17 am Reply

    I am with AR and Carolina. The tone of the letter is terrible. There’s clearly jealousy and frustration, all valid feelings to have during infertility, but buying cheap gifts out of spite? Calling a baby shower inappropriate because of the circumstances and ease of conception? That’s really immature. And as for all of you crying, “it’s not fair”. You know what, as you get older, you will realize that everyone, every single person you meet will have their own tragedies. Some will deal with infertility, some will deal with cancer later on life, some will deal with family members with addiction or illness. Some will deal with disability. SOme will deal with domestic abuse and some will deal with serious financial hardship. It’s OK to have all these negative emotions, but as an adult you should learn to manage them publicly. Don’t go to the shower, acknowledge with a decent gift and a nice card. 

  19. Karen Nov 22 at 11:32 am Reply

    Right on lolismum. Couldn’t have said it better. When I realized the world doesn’t owe me anything, even a kid, I started to feel a lot more joy for myself and others.

  20. Kim Nov 22 at 1:34 pm Reply

    The crux of the problem seems to be the in-laws. Without knowing what caused the original strain, I’d err on the side of not sharing personal circumstances. But if everybody is in the same town, and things are already bad, then I think the OP needs to take a good hard look at what’s going on in that relationship, and how she wants it to go, and how she’s playing a part in it. Gift, yes, and I’d say the shower, tioo. Clearly the family is rallying around the SIL, and the OP is part of that family. This is a seminal event. If there’s even a hint of resentment or insincerity detected in the OP’s not showing up, it will be remembered. (I get the infertility, beleieve me, I do. But sometimes you have to do the hard thing. But the pregnancy iand the baby is a Big Deal.)

  21. SarahB Nov 22 at 2:38 pm Reply

    Couple your struggles with infertility and your struggles with your in-laws, and I’d suggest 1) not going to the shower and 2) putting your husband entirely in charge of choosing and delivering the gift.  Set an amount with him, and then let it leave your mind.  

    Save your energy for other areas where it’s needed.

  22. April Nov 22 at 3:45 pm Reply

    I’ve been there.
    My solution: schedule something else that you “just can’t get out of” for that event time.  And send a generic baby card & gift with the typical boring phrasing along with another guest or send it by mail.  Internet shopping has been my best friend when I don’t want to attend baby events in person but feel I have to send something to keep face.  

    And regarding infertility: don’t let people tell you your feelings aren’t worth feeling, even if they say they had similar infertility experiences as you, its never the same, and your feelings are genuinely your own.  The tricky part is making the decisions on how to react to your feelings, maintain as good of relationships with the rest of the world despite your infertility, and take care of yourself with healthy boundaries.  

    I’ve also learned that while you do not need to explain yourself (you don’t “owe” anyone an explanation), if you don’t want to feel forced to explain or answer awkward questions then you also can’t overshare and make it about you.  People are very quick to judge when you try to “teach” about infertility struggles.  So, you have to make the call for every person you know if it’s worth it to explain your feelings, or if you have to be the one to realize that person will just never be sympathetic of where you are coming from no matter what you say.

    Good luck!

  23. G.G.R Nov 22 at 4:46 pm Reply

    Harsh words and tone to the OP. I think she is brave because she wrote what she truly feels, and I am convinced that many of those who are or have struggled with infertility have had these type of ‘low point’ thoughts in your private moments when the sting felt unbearable. The only difference is that the OP is reaching out and revealing her truth to someone she figuered would understand. And Amalah did and that is full of yay!
    After my father died I had these ‘low point’ thoughts if people were celebrating someones birthday because omg! my dad is DEAD and you’re celebrating LIFE?! You suck! and yes, I’ve been judged for that but it was part of my grieving and in that subject I wasn’t myself, and I wasn’t thinking straight. It was purely an expression of my grief. I’m glad I had the bravery like the OP to express them to someone.

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