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(Baby) Showers with Strangers

Second Baby Shower Blues When You’re In Need

By Amalah

Hi Amalah,

I am 6 months into my pregnancy with baby girl. Toddler girl is now two-and-a-half. I feel like I should preface this long-winded question with the fact that I live in the genteel south, where manners matter A LOT. A baby shower with number two is mostly shunned here, from what I am hearing from family and friends. The problem is, we don’t have a lot. We borrowed a good deal of things the first time around because our families and friends didn’t give a lot. There were maybe 6 outfits, 6 boxes of diapers, a diaper cake, some books, a bouncer, swing, and crib mattress. We borrowed a crib, stroller, and baby carrier-style car seat for as long as we could. We bought a car seat for our toddler that goes to 65 lbs., so we are still using it for her. We bought as many articles of clothing as we could while she transitioned sizes at a mind-boggling rate. She was born in the summer, and this one will be born in late winter. My toddler is still using the crib mattress for her toddler bed. I found a clearance bedding set for baby 2, but we still need so much. My husband and I both work full-time and do not have a lot to spend after bills, especially now with OB costs and out-of-pocket insurance costs. Is there a way to maybe suggest that we are drowning in need without being “tacky,” as my aunt called it?

Southern Mama in Need

Second Baby Showers and the South

So this is interesting to me, as throughout all my years of tackling baby shower etiquette questions, I’ve heard the exact opposite of the “genteel South,” at least anecdotally. I’ve always gotten the impression from both letter writers and commenters that the whole “only the first baby gets a shower” tradition is more of a “Northern” thing, and if you live in the South and want to have a second or third baby shower, no one will bat an eye, because YAY  BABIES YAY PARTIES.

But obviously the South is not a cultural monolith, and if you really are hearing things like “it’s simply not done” and  “tacky” on the idea of a second shower from both family and friends, well. You at least know how an invitation to a second shower will go over with your particular family and friends. Which is: Not Well. I’m sorry.

Second Baby Shower Etiquette

And considering that these are the same people who weren’t particular generous at your first shower, I’m not seeing a super good risk/reward scenario on trying again with a second shower, knowing full well that it’ll be judged/frowned upon and you’ll likely end up with some diapers and small stuff, but none of the “big ticket” items you need the most. For the record, Emily Post believes it’s fine to throw showers for second or third babies, but the guest list should be kept to very close friends and immediate family, or people who didn’t attend the first shower. But if it’s your very close friends and immediate family who seem Very Opposed to the Very Idea, My Lands, again, I’m not sure the potential gift haul is going to be worth the offense/alienation (however unwarranted) that you’ll risk causing.

And since it sounds like no one is even offering to throw you a shower, that would put you in the doubly-awkward position of having to ask someone to. Who might then be like, “ew, tacky, no,” or go along with it while feeling weird or uncomfortable about it. And then you get a lot of RSVPs for no anyway from the etiquette pearl clutchers and not a whole lot of gifts anyway. Blah.

Find Secondhand Baby Items

So short of sending everybody a modern-day etiquette book proving that second showers are totally fine, what can you do? I think it might be best to let go of the shower idea and come to terms with the fact that you’re probably going to remain mostly on your own, baby-supply wise. Continue to borrow whatever you can, hit the Salvation Army or Goodwill stores, go yard sale shopping on weekends, and definitely make heavy use of sites like Freecycle, NextDoor and Craigslist. And don’t hesitate to let friends/family/coworkers who have older daughters know that you would LOVE to take any and all hand-me-downs off their hands. There is no shame in secondhand stuff, especially stuff that get used for such a short period of time. (I kept everything until we were done having more babies, and then couldn’t give it all away fast enough — I imagine there’s a mother somewhere in your town staring at an empty crib, dusty stroller, mountain of clothes and a bunch of blinky plastic Fisher Price crap right at this moment, wishing she knew someone who could come haul it out of her house already. We just need to figure out how you two can find each other!)

If you can’t afford an infant carseat, call your local police station and your hospital. They can often provide one or hook you up with an organization who can. (Carseats are the one thing to avoid buying secondhand, as recall/safety issues are no longer being checked or sent out on older seats.) Many churches routinely collect donations of baby clothes and gear as well for needy families, and there are also usually local non-profits and charities that can help out (if you meet income requirements). Here’s a list to look into as a starting point.

Friends and Family are Resources

And it’s okay to be honest or drop hints to your friends and family about what you need, in ways that don’t involve a shower invitation. Ask your aunt if she knows anyone who makes baby clothes or blankets, because you could really use some. Lament to your mom that all the clothes from your first daughter are going to be all out-of-season at first. Let people know you’re actively looking to borrow or buy a secondhand crib or Pack-n-Play, do they know anyone? Oh wow, I can’t believe your son/daughter is four already…any chance you held onto a sling or baby carrier? I didn’t get one the first time around and definitely think that would be so helpful this time around!

Anyone with a brain or heart (or good “manners” that come from the proper place of making other people feel welcomed and comfortable, rather than just being “right”), will hear those sorts of things and go, “hmm, sounds like there’s a lot of baby stuff they still need! I shall get them a Babies R Us gift card or find out if my neighbor still has X, Y, Z in her basement.”

Consider a Sip & See

AND FINALLY: Host a low-key Sip & See party after the baby arrives. Which, according to The Internet, is a Southern tradition that your friends and family have no grounds to object to. It will serve the dual purpose of feeling like your second daughter is being celebrated just as much as your first, and yeah, some guests will likely bring gifts. I wouldn’t count on it to provide big-ticket essentials, but it should hopefully result in some seasonally-appropriate clothes and diapers.

But above all, stay centered and realistic on how much baby “stuff” is really unnecessary. A lot of it falls in the “nice to have” category, but you and your baby will survive and thrive just fine without it.

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 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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