One of the cherished traditions in the USA that I was very much looking forward to is having a baby shower. I started imagining it in my mind not long after finding out I was pregnant. But to my dismay, I found out that baby showers are nearly unheard of in France.
Instead, friends and family provide expectant parents with hand-me-downs during the pregnancy so that they are prepared immediately after the baby is born and then are presented with gifts at the birth.
So ladies… no games, yummy food, colorful wrapping paper and dressing up for you here! The idea of throwing a baby shower is starting to become more popular, but French women are modifying the US tradition so that it fits neatly within their own custom of providing gifts at birth.
So what is a baby shower exactly? It is a tradition in the USA that was made popular after World War II. It is one of the last times before giving birth where the mother is center of attention. Some consider it marking the passage from when a woman becomes a mother. The baby shower is usually only held for the first child. It is not uncommon to have them when giving birth later if there is a long gap between children. For instance, if a woman gives birth to her second child 4 years after the first, then a shower may be thrown for her because she most likely does not still have everything from her first pregnancy.
A baby shower is usually given a theme, of which the decorations and food match. There is also a selection of games and a formal time for gift giving. When it is time for the future mother to open gifts, her friends and family gather around her to watch her open them one-by-one. The gifts usually are those that she will need for the first several months of the baby’s birth. However, a recent trend is to provide the future mother with things that will make her more comfortable, such as gift certificates for a massage, day at a spa, yoga or relaxation therapist.
My mother and sister visited me last week from Florida and brought TONS of gifts for me from everyone in the family. It was a surprise baby shower since they knew I would not get one here. It was a blast! The four of us (my husband stayed for the fun) had some chocolate, champagne (sparkling grape juice for me) and opened all our sweet gifts.
I hope the tradition of throwing a formal celebration for the expectant mother makes its way here to France. It truly is wonderful to have everyone you care about under one roof while enjoying some good food, games and laughter. While I did not get a chance to have a baby shower with everyone I love since they were back in the states, I cherish the memories of my little party. What a day!
Update 9/8/2011: Read more about why throwing a baby shower is France is unpopular and what French mothers are starting to do to get the ball rolling by reading my follow-up post.