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You will usually be expected to bring a gift for the prospective mother, but sometimes you may be asked to contribute towards the food as well as – or instead of – bringing a gift; or perhaps you could be asked to make a donation towards a combined gift.
Whatever the requirements for gifts or otherwise, your good wishes for the new baby are best expressed via a baby shower card.
There are as many different types of baby showers as there are different types of mothers-to-be! And while there are often lots of baby shower cards to choose from in card-shops and newsagents, it’s often difficult to know what to write on the card that you select.
See our article on Baby Shower Wording for tips on what to write on a baby shower card.
If this is the first time you’ve been to a baby shower, you might be a little concerned about the focus on gifts and games. But there is a growing trend now for baby showers to involve at least some attention to older traditions of passing on knowledge and celebrating a woman’s transition to becoming a mother.
Having a better understanding of the history and traditions behind a baby shower can help you to write a thoughtful and meaningful baby shower card for the new mother.
While they are a relatively new celebration in New Zealand, many cultures have a long history of celebrating the impending arrival of a new baby through a pre-birth welcoming ritual. The name ‘baby shower’ reflects the custom where a mother-to-be is ‘showered’ with gifts to help provide for her new baby.
Some anthropologists classify baby showers as ‘life-cycle’ events – much like birthdays, weddings and funerals. The event of a baby shower is meant to celebrate the transformation of a woman from childless adult to mother.
But in her ethnographic study of modern pregnancy, Dr. Janelle S Taylor from the University of Washington writes that the baby shower in American culture has evolved over time from “a ritual passing-on of knowledge between women” to a consumer ritual, focusing on gifts and food. These days, she says, it’s all about stuff.
Many people are now reacting against this consumer focus on ‘stuff’ with baby showers that include ‘wise words’ albums so friends can write words of encouragement and advice, or group craft activities to create a keepsake for the new mother.
Just a generation ago, new babies were often plied with hand-knitted booties and hats. This centuries-old tradition where older women craft handmade gifts for a new baby follows English and Celtic customs that have parallels in ancient Roman and Egyptian rituals.
One of the best-known examples of an ancient baby shower is that of the three Wise Men of Old Testament fame, who gave gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense at the birth of Jesus.
Your level of participation in a baby shower will depend on your relationship with the mother-to-be.
If you are a work colleague or acquaintance, you will not usually be expected to do much more than go along, give a baby shower card and usually a gift, participate in the activities and leave your best wishes at the end.
But no matter what level of participation in the event you might have, your words on the baby shower card that you give can be a lovely way to pass on a snippet of advice, offer some encouragement for a new mother who might feel a little apprehensive or perhaps share a favourite quote or poem about motherhood.
Don’t forget to look at our article on Baby Shower Wording for some suggestions for what you can write on a baby shower card.