Are Postpartum Parties the New Baby Shower?
December 7, 2018
While you might imagine that people have been gifting moms-to-be with baby gear and supplies for centuries, a Huffington Post article actually points out that, at least judging from Emily Post, the baby shower as we think of it isn't even 100 years old. In the 1937 edition of Post's book Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, the manners queen mentioned a "stork shower": "Showers are friendly neighborhood gatherings held usually in honor of a bride-to-be, or in welcome of a new clergyman or of new house-owners, or in expectation of the arrival of the stork." She also noted that "presents given at a stork shower include everything for a new baby," and "a stork shower is always given in the early afternoon and only intimate girl and women friends of the mother invited." Perhaps Post didn't realize it at the time, but this quickly-mentioned "stork shower" turned into a tradition that pretty much every mom-to-be in the U.S. enjoys at some point. However, the tide may very well be turning for some women who are considering skipping the baby shower in lieu of a postpartum party.
In their June/July 2018 issue, BUST magazine pointed out that sadly, the word "postpartum" tends to be associated with a far drearier word: "depression." And is that really any surprise, given that new parents in the U.S. suffer from a dearth of social support? Consider the fact that, as BUST notes, "employers aren’t required to provide paid parental leave, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act only guarantees that you’ll have a job to come back to after taking 12 weeks off…unpaid." For that reason alone, it makes sense that some new parents might prefer to receive more support following the birth of their child, as opposed to beforehand.
The BUST piece explains how to throw a postpartum "party." The first step? "Make a guest list, i.e. the folks you’ll want to see after giving birth. Invite them to the postpartum party, explaining that this event is actually six weeks long, is BYOF (food, that is), and will have supercool games like housecleaning and diaper changing."
They also suggest setting up "a house-cleaning registry. Cleaning up baby barf and dirty diapers is enough for a new parent; someone else should do the rest" and asking for "mothersitting ... Having someone who can hold a baby while you go to the bathroom, shower, nap, or who will even just listen as you talk postpartum changes is crucial. Consider bringing in a professional—like a postpartum doula—that folks can help pay for."
Finally, they recommend setting visiting hours, so new parents don't get overwhelmed. They suggest setting up a Google calendar or similar system so that friends and family can choose designated days and time slots to "bring food, do laundry, or walk the dog in exchange for newborn snuggles."
Granted, this ongoing support system is definitely different than an event that takes place in one afternoon. And it may not necessarily replace the baby shower as we know it. But given how much of an uphill battle new parenthood can be, a postpartum "party" like this may actually be the best thing friends and family could do to truly address moms and dads' needs.