Know a mom (or dad) expecting another child? Is it appropriate to throw a shower? If so, what's the protocol?
Lavish showers are generally reserved for first babies, a way to "shower" soon-to-be first-timers with the necessities of new parenting: high chair, car seat, crib, bedding, changing pads, diaper bags, layette clothes and on and on and on. Or if there's a long gap between babies, a second shower can be a godsend.
But for parents who are already well equipped, instead of a shower, think more in terms of "sprinkle." Second or third or even fourth babies aren't any less welcome, but parents generally already have most of the major baby gear. By throwing some originality into the mix, you can host a party for a second- or third-time mom that will sprinkle her with something she'll really use and enjoy.
'Helping hands' shower
Sabrina Hill and Joni Russell, authors of The Everything Baby Shower Book (Adams Media, 2008), suggest throwing a shower where friends get together to help the mom cope with the impending complications of multiple offspring. Plan out a calendar and fill in days with babysitting services, grocery store runs, carpool duty, laundry, even garden weeding and flower planting.
"We sometimes call it a 'shower shower,' meaning we're going to give mom a chance to get a shower every day," says Hill.
Such showers work well for moms without family nearby. You're giving her breaks without her having to ask. Find someone super-organized who can coordinate schedules and then fill out the calendar: "June 3: Johnny has playdate at Sue's from 10 a.m.-1 p.m." or "Round-trip ride to preschool every Monday." Hill and Russell have a template on their website, everydayeventplanner.com.
If you have a friend who loves to scrapbook, consider a baby book shower. Scrapbooking time falls off rapidly for the first few months of a child's life, and never more so than with a third or fourth child. Host a party where everyone creates a scrapbook album. Andrea Wolbers of Archiver's in Downers Grove holds many of these showers in her store.
She reports that two themes are particularly popular. One is a traditional baby book. "Everyone does a different page-baby's first smile, baby's first tooth, baby's first food and so on," she says. At the end, you have a beautifully coordinated template and all the mother has to do is fill in the details.
Another popular concept is to have each party guest write advice for the mother-to-be. "Everyone decorates their own page with advice and a photo of themselves and the mom then has a beautiful and very personal book," Wolbers says.
Bringing food to new mothers is a time-honored tradition. But that usually lasts two or three weeks-about the time most parents are at their most sleep-deprived, as babies hit their fussiest stage and older kids demand their share of attention. A "freezer shower" may be the answer. Ask everyone to whip up a casserole or soup or some type of dish that freezes well. (Pre-frozen foods and restaurant gift cards are good options as well.) Include a card with the name of the dish and instructions for reheating.
The birth of a subsequent child may mean major redecorating. Hill and Russell recommend what they call an "Extreme Nursery Makeover." A nursery shower brings together friends (dads too!) to help set up the new baby's room. If the nursery needs to be painted, everyone can pitch in. If a crib or changing table needs to be assembled, bring along the Allen wrenches. Other tasks: wash and fold the clothes, line dresser drawers, assemble the stroller and set up the car seat. This is a great way to involve the older siblings and it's especially helpful for moms on bedrest. Order bagels and coffee or pizza and pop. Encourage guests to bring gifts that complement the nursery theme or upgrade the baby's room.
Give a child the gift of reading. Laura Rehling of Elmhurst threw a book shower for her good friend who was an avid reader and pregnant with her third child.
"I asked everyone to bring a children's book to the shower," she says. "It could be their favorite book from childhood or one that they enjoyed reading to their children or grandchildren. Or it could be the latest beautiful picture book at the store."
The only stipulation was that the books should have meaning for the giver, accompanied by cards that expounded on why the book was chosen. The results can be quite moving, Rehling says. Choices needn't be limited to picture books. Chapter book classics like Mr. Popper's Penguins or Charlotte's Web can also be encouraged.
All babies are cause for celebration, but the arrival of a second or third baby provides a poignant reminder of how lucky we are. To celebrate the baby without inundating the parents, consider a donation shower. When Amy Engstrom Clugg of Elmhurst adopted her second child from Russia, they invited guests to bring donations for the children left behind in the orphanage.
"These were children who may never know the love and security of their own family," Clugg explains. "My pediatrician donated loads of important things like Neosporin. My mother-in-law sewed mountains of flannel baby blankets and my parents donated a suitcase full of Beanie Babies so each child could have something warm of their own to hug.
"We had or could buy whatever was needed for both of our kids, but overseas, donations were desperately needed," she says. "In addition, we wanted Russians to know how much people in the USA welcome children like ours, children who join their families through adoption."
Find a charity close to the mom-to-be's heart and consider collecting donations for babies in need.
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and a mother of four living in Elmhurst.