After losing Liam, my perspective on baby showers changed completely. I had never thought about it too much before–it was just a nice tradition, kind of a given, that I knew would be part of my path to motherhood. I remember preparing for Liam’s gender reveal party and being a little peeved that we were planning on holding it almost an hour away from home, closer to K’s family but farther from my friends. But I figured I would get to include my friends in the baby shower, and that would make it all even. The gender reveal party turned out great despite my concerns. Two of my closest friends, Louisa and Rachel, drove all the way up for me, and my mom and sister happened to be flying into town the same weekend, and I was relieved to have them there. It’s a tender mercy that that party turned out so perfect, because I never got the second chance I was planning on. Liam was gone less than a week later.
After that, it was hard to think of a baby shower as anything other than something I should have had and never did. It was hard to imagine having a baby shower for a new baby when Liam had never gotten one. I remember thinking even after he was gone that I wish there was some way to still hold a shower for him just so he could get that recognition and I could enjoy that rite of passage I had taken for granted. But what would a baby shower for a dead baby even look like? I didn’t need bottles or baby clothes anymore. Maybe what I really wanted was a memorial, but we hadn’t been ready for that at the time of his death, and as I started feeling more comfortable with the idea I also felt more and more like I had missed my chance. And even if I hadn’t, I had know idea what I would want his memorial to look like. What I wanted for him was a party, not a funeral, and they weren’t interchangeable.
Thankfully, we were able to find a way to remember and celebrate Liam on his due date by asking our friends and family to do acts of service on his behalf and share them on social media with the tag #4babyliam so that we could see them. Feeling the love of those close to me for K and I and our son was really all I needed to heal, and that day did that so well.
Our pregnancy with the twins was our first pregnancy after Liam’s due date and our little social media memorial for him. During our other pregnancies I had always wondered whether we would have a baby shower or not. I still felt like I had missed out, but we still had most of the baby gear we needed because we had bought it for Liam. And I couldn’t help but picture the worst case scenario… Me, surrounded by well-meaning acquaintances, opening package after package of onesies and having to act excited while everyone around me coos over how cute they are and how wonderful it will be when we finally have a baby and what a good mother I’ll be, all as if Liam had never existed. And likely I’d be facing that all alone, as baby showers traditionally don’t include fathers (which I personally find antiquated, sexist, and silly). I hadn’t attended a single baby shower since Liam’s death, even during the periods when I was optimistically pregnant again, partly because I couldn’t imagine how I should act in that environment. I just pictured myself opening diapers of melted chocolate and grimacing while everyone else giggled around me and wondered why I was such a buzzkill. Similar activities at my own shower were out of the question. I figured skipping the baby shower tradition was probably best. Feeling left out was just part of loss, and I would have to accept that.
Things slowly started to change when we became pregnant with the twins. On top of how devastating we knew another loss would be, K and I knew this would likely be our last go for a while. If things didn’t work out this time we would need to make some big decisions about expensive fertility treatments and adoption. We decided early on that we needed to face this pregnancy with faith and ask for as many prayers as we could get. At just five weeks when we found out my HCG levels were rising better than expected we decided to tell our families and ask for their prayers. A week later we found out we were miraculously expecting identical twins, and it only took one more week and one more peek at their little heartbeats to know we were ready to ask for more support. We were already attached and knew that we were suddenly at risk of losing two more babies and not just one. We chose to announce our pregnancy right away. We knew we would need prayers and love regardless of this pregnancy’s outcome. And we received so much support so quickly.
At that point I started to see a baby shower differently. I started to see it as an opportunity to celebrate these babies with the people who had loved us and support us from the beginning. And I didn’t want to give that up. But it was still hard to imagine myself participating in a traditional shower. And although I knew we suddenly needed a lot more baby gear than we had thought we would, I was still anxious about receiving gifts. Although we’d optimistically kept all of the baby gear we’d bought during our previous three pregnancies, seeing some of it was still sometimes a trigger for me. And I knew there was no chance of us having another set of twins, so as soon as we bought two of something I’d be betting on the twins making it. And I wasn’t ready to bet on that yet.
Early on I decided to plan a period of time when I felt having a baby shower would be relatively safe. I would never feel completely safe, but there would probably come a point when I felt a little more reassured. I figured the farther along the better, until I realized the risk of being put on bed rest in my third trimester. I considered having the shower after the babies were born, but there was also part of me that wanted to get the nursery put together right away so I could feel like all of this was more real. Not getting to finish Liam’s nursery was another thing I felt I’d missed out on. I compromised on a period after 26 weeks and before 30. Finally, I didn’t want the shower to fall too close to Liam’s birthday, because I wanted to block out that entire month for anything I decided to do in his memory as the time came closer. That left a three week period in May. I rechecked the criteria a million times, praying that we would make it that far.
Around 12 weeks my cousin and good friend, Rachel, offered to plan my shower for me however I wanted it and left it open to me to contact her when I felt comfortable planning. She’s the best. After a few weeks I finally felt like I had a plan that I was comfortable with. I told her about the three week window I was planning on, and I told her about my idea to have a BBQ with K and his friends instead of a traditional shower. She was very receptive to the idea. We later decided to tack on a small party with just a few friends where we could celebrate my pregnancy instead of focusing on when the babies arrive. My cousin and fellow twin mom, Valeri, and my dear friend, Louisa, offered to help plan as well. The three of them are superheroes and took all of my odd requests and ran with them. Valeri got a bunch of scrapbooking material together so we could scrapbook the twin’s hundreds of ultrasound pictures. Louisa arranged to have a henna artist come tattoo my belly when I (at the very last minute) realized that it would make me feel pampered and confident. Rachel kept on top of all the details, including most of the logistics for the BBQ that I had originally planned to organize myself, which turned out to be necessary as my pregnancy brain made remembering anything unlikely. And K’s friends energetically agreed to take on the job of actually barbecuing so K could spend time with his guests, (and I could spend time with him). And I couldn’t have imagined anything better.
I am so grateful to everyone who made this just the shower I was hoping for. And I’m especially thankful I had K with me the whole time. At the beginning of the BBQ he thanked everyone for all of the support they’ve shown us and recognized the last year we’ve spent without Liam and all the ups and downs we’ve had since then. It was a relief to hear Liam’s name at an event that is so important to our entire family. And then he told everyone how excited we are, and it was a relief to be able to hear that and feel it, too. And, ever so importantly, I never had to open a present without him by my side.
We got home feeling exhausted from a long day of excitement, but we couldn’t stop smiling. Multiple times we remarked to each other how “that was really fun.” We feel so full of the love our family and friends have shown us and our boys. Thank you for being part of this journey–for the patience and understanding, the words of love, empathy, and encouragement, and especially for the positive thoughts and prayers on our behalf. It has been a strength and a blessing not to have to journey through this alone.