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Baptism Drama

Baptism By In-Law Drama

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

First, I want to tell you that I love your Pregnancy Calendar, and following along with your blog. I am 37 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I swear, I would be lost without you.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOnto my question. So, as I said, I am 37 weeks pregnant and starting to think about the things we’ll have to do once this baby is actually around. We moved West about 7 months ago, from my husband’s home town, and where all of his family currently lives. My family lives abroad and is planning to stay with us for a few weeks when the baby is first born. We are planning to go back to my husband’s home town for about a week in July before my maternity leave is up, if there aren’t any complications with our baby’s arrival. Now, one of the bigger topics of discussion with my in-laws are a million questions about the baby’s baptism.

Neither my husband or I are particularly religious, but we do want to do a baptism. My parents are religious, and believe that a baptism is important in a purely religious sense. To them, whether they are around or not isn’t a big deal, as long as the baby is baptized before she is “taken out of the house” (read: goes on a plane in July, as we are planning). To my husband’s family, it is more cultural than religious, as in they want to have a party and eat tons of food. Keep in mind that none of my husband’s family has ever moved out of State, and we moved because my job offered me a promotion out West, and I’ve taken their precious son/brother/grandchild away from them. Some of my in-laws have said that they would come out West if we chose to have the baptism here, but we know that for my father-in-law and sister-in-law, they will not be able to afford the trip. I would also hate to ask the Godparents to travel for the baptism (I honestly don’t care if they are there, or if we have some stand-ins during the actual ceremony – they honestly don’t concern me that much, they are both reasonable people, hence the choosing them as Godparents and all).

My inclination is to have a quick ceremony a couple of weeks after she is born, before she does any traveling, with no frills. I sort of tend to agree with my parent’s viewpoint that taking an baby on a plane without her being baptized kind of scares me, as irrational as that may be. I do not want to have to organize and throw a party back in our home town, not to mention coordinate with a priest’s schedule and travel more while trying to get the hang of being a MOM. And I KNOW my husband isn’t going to do it. I’ve tried talking to him about this, but he doesn’t have any strong feelings about the baptism itself, but doesn’t want to hurt his family’s feelings.

I don’t even particularly want my in-laws coming here if we do a quick local ceremony, since we’ll be seeing them in a couple of weeks when we go back east (again, I do not want to have to organize and throw a party while figuring out how to BREASTFEED!) Now, the problem with doing it this way is that my parents would obviously be around for this baptism, and I am concerned that it will seem like I win and I don’t care that my in-laws aren’t around, and my in-laws will blow things out of proportion as they tend to do (I’m not joking, my sister-in-law stopped talking to my husband for 3 weeks because he accidentally texted a different person with the same first name as her- but that’s another issue).

So now, wisest Amy, how can I compromise? What kind of decisions am I allowed to make with respect to this kind of thing? Can I say, the baptism is on (fill in a date 2 or 3 weeks after she’s born), come if you want, but don’t expect a party?

-A

Okay, so first, because it is My Way and thus, The Way Of The Smackdown, let me frame my advice with my own personal experience: Neither of my children are baptized. We are not religious, we do not attend a church, we do not hold any particular beliefs or superstitions about the importance of having a newborn baptized, we have taken them both on planes and across the country and out of the country in a completely non-baptized state without a second thought, etc.

But both sets of grandparents are very religious — my in-laws fairly fanatically so — yet thankfully they have all kept their opinions about our decision to not baptize (mostly) to themselves. I think it helps that they both attend churches/denominations that place a higher premium on secondary, non-infant baptisms made past the age of “reason” or “consent” or whatever it was they called it back when I attended those catechism classes ahead of my own teenaged baptism (even though I’d been baptized as an infant as well). So you know, there’s hope for the souls of our children yet, in their minds.

So it’s funny — not “ha ha funny”, but YOU KNOW — that your baptism dilemma is of the mostly non-religious sort. You could probably very likely swap out the idea of a baptism party with a baby shower or first birthday or…I don’t know, one of those Red Tent Parties people are throwing for their daughter’s periods…and still be talking about the same basic problem: You don’t live locally, thus, planning and travel for said party is a bitch, and you kinda don’t care as much as everybody else does but still don’t want hurt feelings, etc. .

Honestly, I can’t imagine the idea of planning and throwing a big party just a couple weeks after giving birth — at least not without significant outsourcing to local friends and family. (Which is what probably happens for most of the in-state baptism parties in your husband’s family.) If you don’t have a ton of local friends and family, I don’t see anything horrible or offensive about explaining the lack of a baptism party in that way. “Listen, for us, the actual baptism is the important thing here, so we’ll be doing that in the traditional time frame. However, we just won’t be able to have any sort of party or reception or deluge of houseguests right at that same time.”

(And I mean for your husband to say that, by the way.)

Some churches offer the option of a low-key, on-site reception following baptisms (that of course you pay for), so that could be a compromise if some relatives absolutely insist on coming to witness the baptism. Though then you might be on the hook for in-laws piling up in your guest room and sleeper sofas, so…would a better compromise be to ask them to help plan a party during your visit? Perhaps there’s a (non-baptism) secondary blessing or dedication the family’s priest or pastor could do at the time, just to lend the occasion a bit of religious meaning or formality? My church also had an “infant dedication” option for non-church-members or for those who felt baptism should be done as a conscious, personal choice later on. Maybe your in-laws’ church could offer something along those lines, or just a priest showing up to pray and bless your daughter during the party?

That way you can 1) keep your space during the early weeks, 2) baptize when YOU want to, according to YOUR beliefs about the timing and significance, but also 3) accommodate and include their traditions, even if it means not doing it at the precise occasion it’s traditionally done.

********


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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I’m with Amy in that I’m not religious and won’t be baptizing my children (in the interests of full disclosure).

What I think would work to please both sets of parents would be to have the formal, small baptism sans party before you visit your in-laws, and tell them that they’re welcome to plan a party for your daughter when you visit (but that you won’t be taking part in the planning). That way your parents get their “baby doesn’t go out of the house without being baptized” and your in-laws get their party.

Amy
Guest
Amy

I think it’s rude to juxtapose the letter writer’s beliefs with superstitions. 

JLM
Guest
JLM

As someone who DID baptize both her kids and is religious, I frankly, find the stance of “just get your kid baptized” a little offensive. 
Have you considered standing up for your beliefs (or lack thereof)?
Baptism isn’t magical, it’s a commitment to raise your kid as a Christian. If you don’t want to make that commitment, don’t baptize your child.
Doing so is making a mockery of my religion.  

Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

Amy, you’re clearly going to get a lot of interesting comments on this one. I, for one, completely agree with your advice – a post-baptism party with the in-laws sounds like a perfect compromise.

As for JLM’s comment, it certainly sounds like the LW is Catholic, whereby the act of baptism is something that must be done as soon as possible (the same being true for last rites). It’s not a mockery of YOUR religion, as you don’t know what the LW’s faith background is.  Please don’t take that personally.

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

It sounds like there’s a lot of friends and family back in your husband’s hometown, so the idea of some kind of party or open house is a good one, as it may be hard to visit everyone in the short time frame.  I’d put it to your husband to let his parents know they are free to arrange such a gathering if they wish, but that you and he won’t be doing the baptism there or planning such a gathering yourselves.

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

I had a somewhat similar issue with my family. But I was able to make a compromise. The baby was born in August and we combined the baptism with Thanksgiving weekend. That way my husband’s family could travel and I had time to recover and cope with planning a party. My parents were originally uncomfortable with waiting that long for the baptism but my priest explained that it is very common these days to wait until the baby is about 3-4 months for the baptism (and yes I am Catholic). And I was happy that everyone was happy. Maybe you… Read more »

the grumbles
Guest

A back-home open house hosted by his family sounds like a good compromise. My parents did something similar since we live out of town and it seemed to please everyone with nearly zero planning/stress on me during those early months. As hard as it is at some point you’re just going to have to make a decision that you think is best and say this is what we’re doing to those who may be offended. I think that’s a tough lesson with a new baby, one I’ve struggled with. Don’t be afraid to call the shots and have confidence in… Read more »

Leslie M.
Guest
Leslie M.

So I am not religious at all and will likely not be baptizing any children I may have. But I am wondering – would it be possible to have the baby baptized twice? Once at home, and then again with your in-laws? Obviously if this is taboo in your religion, then that’s understandable. It seemed kind of obvious to me, but again, I don’t know what your religious customs or rules are.

J
Guest
J

JLM, anybody can be raised a christian without being baptized any particular “branch” of religion…being a christian is doing things “christ-like” which just boils down to being a good person…being a catholic is the “title”, being a christian is in the way you act (i’m the grand daughter of a catholic deacon so please don’t think i don’t know what i’m talking about)

JenVegas
Guest
JenVegas

I was raised in a very actively Catholic Italian family but have been…let’s go with Agnostic…for some time now. When I was expecting a relative of mine, who I love dearly, asked where we were going to baptize the baby and if she was going to be invited. I told her we weren’t planning on a baptism and she flipped out on me but I explained that I felt it would be not only disingenuous for us to baptize a baby we didn’t plan on raising in the Catholic church but that it would also be completely disrespectful to get… Read more »

Candace
Guest
Candace

I am a Catholic and my son was baptized at nine months after numerous plane rides. As you will learn in class, in the event of a life altering emergency YOU can baptize anyone who wishes to be baptized or needs to be ( infant).  So since I live in a different state than both sets of parents we waited until a good time for everyone to baptize, which was summer time as my MIL and SIL are school teachers. My son was a little old to be baptized but the priest didn’t comment, he just was happy to be… Read more »

Candace
Guest
Candace

I am a Catholic and my son was baptized at nine months after numerous plane rides. As you will learn in class, in the event of a life altering emergency YOU can baptize anyone who wishes to be baptized or needs to be ( infant).  So since I live in a different state than both sets of parents we waited until a good time for everyone to baptize, which was summer time as my MIL and SIL are school teachers. My son was a little old to be baptized but the priest didn’t comment, he just was happy to be… Read more »

Clueless
Guest
Clueless

Thanks Candace – great response. My son was baptized at 4 mon after a ton of trips but we wanted family to be there and it was great.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

I would have the baptism with your parents and strongly discourage out-of-town guests. To the point of not telling them about it, if need be. If they HAVE to come, they should stay in a hotel.  Then, ask the in-laws to plan a party for when you’ll be there.  P.S. If there’s no way to not have a bunch of people overrunning your house for a baptism, I’d risk the plane and have the baptism back home. Anything to avoid extra house guests at 2 weeks postpartum! P.P.S. We are religious and had an infant dedication at 2 weeks (our… Read more »

-k-
Guest
-k-

Candace, it’s so funny to know that’s *allowed*.. Not suggesting it’s funny that it would be– I say this because I was raised Unitarian and thus not baptized but dedicated as a Child of the Earth (haaaaay); my (very) Catholic grandmother, however, did a DIY baptism on my infant self without my mother’s knowledge, an act of which, decades later, she remains exceedingly proud. I always just thought she had gone holy-rogue to make sure I was taken care of by any means necesssary– never knew it was within protocol! (I would be pretty unhappy, to put it lightly, if… Read more »

Liz
Guest
Liz

Candace – spot on & thank you, although I do understand the LW’s mom’s concern since (at least for Catholics) the teaching was only recently updated to clarify God’s grace towards children. That said, we held our baby’s baptism 6 weeks after her birth on a Sat evening with a brunch the next morning @ our house. I & offered out of town guests a free hotel room (my fam is in the East&South, but I now lice in the Midwest) – only 3 families needed to take us up on it & boy was it easier on me to… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

Well, with my first we had him baptized with a big family party two months after his birth, which, looking back, was INSANE. I had to somehow order food platters and a cake, while figuring out this new little person. Add to that my insane family and…yeah. Second time around, we waited six months, and it was much more doable, and we only invited my husband’s parents and the godparents and godparents’ kids. Much easier. The third baby didn’t get baptized until he was three years old. Long story. And we didn’t make a big deal out of it, we… Read more »

Holly
Guest
Holly

Could you have the actual baptism at home, but the celebration/reception in July? I know people who’ve done that for weddings. Or baptize the baby twice?

kari Weber
Guest

Ahhh. This. Right now.  Sigh.  My mother use to be a nun y’all! Out of highschool… ten years.  Had to write to the POPE to be released from her vows! So.  We got the Catholic thing DOWN in this family! And yet… My first son was 7 months old when he was baptized.  My second, ahem… still not.  He just turned two.  I WANT to get him baptized! I just… seem to have lost track of time.  My mother keeps “hinting” and putting church bulletins in my diaper bag when she watches the kids.  My husband is NOT religious.  We… Read more »

MS
Guest
MS

Gotta agree with Kari above here…this new little person will be your family now. You, your husband, and baby. Have a calm few moments of discussion about what is important to you both about this situation and what is not. To me, it sounded like hurt feelings of family=very important, actual baptism=sorta still on the fence as to importance to you both. Baptism doesn’t have to equal a party as far as I know. Sort of along the same thought with weddings and wedding receptions or birthdays and birthday parties. The absence of the party doesn’t negate the event! So… Read more »

Sharon
Guest
Sharon

In nursing school I was taught how to do emergency baptisms. 
As an atheist I’m glad I was never in a situation where I needed to do one. I would either have to refuse, or do it out of pity and feel like a hypocrite.

When I got married I dragged a very heavy Virgin Mary statue into a corner of Grandmother-in-laws garden. We didn’t have our ceremony right in front of it (that would have been a bit much), but she could see it and feel a wee bit better about the heathens 🙂

Family + differences in belief = run away, run away!

Amy in StL
Guest
Amy in StL

Okay, I had to google Red Tent Party. I read the book and had no idea that people were now seeing fit to humiliate girls in that awkward time of their life. Wow, I feel like I’ve learned my one thing for today; wonder if I can go home now.