Sunday, 22 February 2015

Baby Showers for Alexander

Oh wow.  I cant believe I'm sitting down to write this post.  I've been searching through old files and collaging pictures for a few days now - but I've been letting this post whirl around in my head all month (if not for nearly 3 years).  I have a lump in my throat.  I know I will cry.  I know this will be hard.  But dammit, I've been so compelled to do this ever since Alexander died, I've got to start somewhere.

A baby shower wasn't on my wish list when I was pregnant with Alexander.  Really, I was fine without one.  I don't know why - and I try to get my mind off the train of thought that maybe I was physic - but I didn't feel "safe" in doing one.  I just felt like it was counting my chicken before the egg hatched, you know?  I didn't ever feel DOOM, I just felt it risky.  Like...let's just wait.  Let's just let the kid get here and get settled in our new home before we start buying bathtubs and swings.  I knew there was a handful of stuff we were borrowing (car seat, bassinet, hand-me-down clothes).  So I didn't feel it necessary to receive all this STUFF before we knew how we were actually going to require anything after the baby was born. 

I didn't want to be swimming in STUFF ...BABY stuff... when I didn't even have a proper living room set. 

I didn't think this way for ANYONE ELSE.  Just me.  I'm not against baby showers - I even threw one for my friend in 2009, and attended 2 more for other friends in the very next year - I just didn't feel right doing one for me.  Maybe it was all the attention and fuss. That's not my style - I don't like anyone going out of their way for me.  I love to go over the top, and shower people with gifts and be thoughtful and all that... but knowing people were changing their schedules and shopping (and stressing!) over me really felt wrong. 

My mother came to dinner at Daniel's parents one night when I was, I'll say...6/7 months pregnant?  I know our house was purchased but not move-in ready, but I cant remember the exact day she was over with Dan's parents.  But anyway, my mother and Dan's mother were trying to talk out of my ear shot at one point, and they were talking about a baby shower.  I caught my mother by her car before she left and was frank with her.  I said don't sneak around and don't try to surprise me.  I wont like it, and I meant it!  My mother knows me, so she didn't go along with any façade, but she did tell me she wanted to organize a shower for me, but her and Daniel's mother weren't seeing eye to eye.

Thing was, my mother wanted to do it at her house (an hour away) or at our new house (with almost no furniture).  Daniel's mother wanted to do it at her house so all her family (and we are talking 40-50+++ people!!!) could come.  I didn't want it at Daniel's parents because then none of MY friends would come (they're 20-30 minutes away from the city, and my friends don't all own cars), my mother's house was out of the question, and finally, I wasn't comfortable in holding it our new house because we haven't even been living there yet!

But the motion kind of moved on without me, and my mother twisted my arm in having something at my house and she worked on the guest list I sent her.  Daniel's mother was persistent to express her "need" to have something at her place (and invite half the world in the process), because in her words "I want to get my money back".  I was so turned off at the thought of letting Daniel's mother host a party for me just so she could feel like she's getting what goes around comes around in the fashion of having price returned from her family for all the times she gave gifts to other expecting mothers alike.  When one of Daniel's sisters asked me why I didn't want (another) shower held at her parents house, I said, "I don't know anyone all that well, and I feel bad for asking everyone to come and buy me/this baby things in a setting that's not intimate....I honestly don't know all their names, let alone who they ARE in the family!"  And she replied, "but that's when you get all your stuff..."  And she was serious.  It's tradition in their family to invite EVERYONE and EVERYONE gets/gives something, gifts or money.  It's not important that you NEVER see these people otherwise, it's tradition to go and give.  In turn, all of Daniel's sisters and mother have gone to dozens of baby showers in the family (if not hundreds), and they didn't see it as weird to accept a load of gifts from "distant" family members. 

Anyway, long story short... leading up to the shower my mother and I were planning for January 29th, another shower got planned for Feb 5th (one week later exactly).  I agreed to it in the case scenario that they only invite the cousins that I've MET and knew vaguely by name.  I felt overwhelmed, and didn't need a meet and greet at the same time as attending another shower. 

I'll start with the shower held at my house.  It kind of ended up being planned and organized by me.  I'm a bit of a control freak (when it comes to things/issues directly effecting me), and with my mother being an hour away and only doing one visit before the shower, I choose the colours and (VERY MINIMAL) party decorations myself and planned out a few games.

cake made and decorated by my mother's sister-in-law
This ended up being the only pictures I took of the shower decorations.  I know... is there a word that describes something less than MINIMAL??  But there was a huge food table where I sprinkled little baby themed confetti all over, and I had little lavender/green and blue/green balloon clusters all over the house, and the banner "It's a boy" was hung again over the bay window with more balloons and baby theme plates. 
I was particularly short with my mother that day.  I was so stressed and felt like I was drowning.  We had moved into the house the weekend before the shower date, and I felt so under prepared with this party.  Looking back, I know it's a stupid party and who cares if you have nice chairs or pretty table settings... but back then, I cared.  This was the first time ANYONE was seeing our new house (all done and fully renovated) and all I had was my couch and ugly TV unit.  We bought a couch from IK.EA and ottoman - which we knew we would use in the basement afterwards - specifically for this party.  There were folding chairs and old puke yellow hand-me-down dining chairs for people to sit everywhere... and we bought and assembled the couch just days before the shower.  But my mother kept saying "no one will care, no one will care"... and the different person that I was then (full of hormones) I snapped back, "I CARE!!" and we (regrettably) had a not-so-great day together.
But all that being said, once people started showing up and things got into full swing... it was actually a great day.  Everyone had fun, and NO ONE CARED that my house wasn't fully decorated (shocking, I know). 

2 out of 3 of Daniel's sisters brought their kids and a few of my friends with their kids... and on top of that, a bunch of other family and friends stopped by.  I made a trivia game with gift cards as the prize.  Everyone had fun, and it really got everyone talking (and cheating!!).

the game
I also put together a slide show of baby pictures of myself and Daniel.  I felt like no one would have anything to LOOK AT since our house was so empty, so I threw it together not only because it was super cute, but also because I needed a feature for the party.  There were about 100-150 pictures of us, side by side as babies.  It looped and provided just what I needed as a party piece.  I would post some, but like I said, 150 pictures... so... no, lol. 
Anther "activity" I did was a name suggestion box.
I was still a little uncertain... on the fence with Alexander and Anthony and Christopher was a distant third.  I knew I wanted David as a second name (and was even toying with the idea as David as the first name - after my late father).  So I had a little note pad and decorative bag for people to leave their suggestions in.  A lot were based on names people were well aware I was already liking, and some where kind of out-of-the-blue names.  (Funny, I'm just now going through this bag again after maybe 2 years of not looking through it, and I see that Tonia suggested Adrian.  I liked that name, and was sure I was going to use an "A" name for my baby.  3 1/2 months after Alexander died, and her son was born, she named him Adrian (Adriano).  My heart doesn't know if it should hurt or be warmed by that). 
My mother started and brought an advice journal where guests could right their best advice for new parents - whether they were parent themselves or not, it was for everyone to share some loving words for the "parents-to-be".  (Note: I don't call pregnant couples "parents to be anymore".  Clearly, they're already parents!).  I'll post about that soon.

There I am, SUPER pregnant, 37+ weeks along...making my way through gifts.  The change pad in the middle right picture we still use with Theo.  The bath I returned after Alexander died.  That religious painting was from Daniel's mother.  That might be a story for another day - it's hard to explain - but it's still tucked away behind the dresser in Alexander/Theodore's room.  Oh, and my brother showed up...ha!

More gifts and kid craziness.  Mathew stood by me and "helped" me open all the gifts.  I found it annoying because his mother didn't even try to suggest he give me space (so really I was annoyed with her), but found it cute all the same.  We still use the baby hamper, I returned the pack-and-play and exchanged it for a rocking chair, and the clothes didn't ever get worn by Theo (accidentally - I just stored them away and didn't pull them out on time/in season for Theo to wear).  
The keep sake box we have, but it's only got a few keepsakes in it from Theo.  That little plaid outfit I had Theo in around 6 months old.  I think I ended up keeping all of the clothes we received for Alexander.  Unless I thought it was absolutely hideous and returned it BEFORE he died, I think I kept them all.  Theo made his way into a lot of the outfits, but there a few pieces I have that are still only Alexander's.  (I'm hoping to post about them this week).  And I kept the tree blanket.  I loved it.  It was on the twin bed after Alexander died for the longest time.  I wanted to do Alexander's room nature themed with touches of "Classic Winnie the Pooh" when we finally got the chance to do it... I thought that blanket would look so great hung on the wall among the small touches of Winnie I had planned to put up.  Winnie and his friends all lived in the forest, the blanket felt fitting in a not so matchy matchy way.  The bottom 3 pictures are of me opening the gift from my mother.  She got me a big basket of knick knacks all baby related.  And this Winnie the Pooh blanket was one of them. 
(that blanket started to shed and fall apart in the wash when I was preparing for Alexander.  I got rid of it in fear that the fibers would suffocate my newborn child.)
Unfortunately, my mother and I got into a bit of a heated conversation that night after the shower.  I try not to think about it, and really, I don't remember how it all started or what it was based around... I just remember criticizing her for getting me "too much stuff" (I might have used the word useless too - not my best day).  I remember telling her that one of my big anxieties in having this new home with a new baby was TOO MUCH CRAP everywhere.  I didn't want the gifts and all the stuff because we weren't settled... and I didn't want the stress of returning anything or storing anything or figuring anything out when we were on the brink of much more important stresses.  I remember specially blowing up during the conversation about the bath sling she included in the gift basket.  I received 3 baby baths that day... and she gave me all this stuff and NO gift receipts, WHAT THE HELL WAS I GOING TO DO WITH THIS STUPID SLING?!?  (Please note: I used that "stupid sling" for the first 2-3 months of Theo's life as I bathed him in an oversized basin in my bedroom). 
I was unreason, jacked up on hormones, injected with new house stress.  My mother left that night, and I was in tears.  I felt myself focusing on the wrong things, but at the same time I couldn't help it.  I woke up the next morning and went through my mother's gift piece by piece, and felt like the worst daughter on earth.  The dear woman put so much thought into getting all these little things that she used to use/do when she was looking after us as newborns.  I felt my stomach knotting with disbelief that I got so harsh with her.
I quickly took to my email, bawling my eyes out, and sent her this:

Thank You, I Love You



to Erna

Hi Mommy,
I was going to send you a card, but I feel like I want you to receive this information right away.
Thank you for yesterday.  I went through the gift you got me this morning, and I feel like I didn't thank you enough.  I know a lot of time, thought and effort went into everything you got for me, and the gift receiving experience yesterday just went by in a flash, and I didn't have any time to collect my thoughts and feelings and properly express them.  You got me all the bare necessities all wrapped with tenderness, love and care.  I love learning about how you learned how to mother us, and the experiences you went through while going through the trail and error of becoming a parent.  Your gift made me think of what it must have been like for you to have me - and no one else is capable of giving that gift.
Spending time with you is something I do less of more and more as the years go by... and with this new chapter starting in my life, I would like to change that.  I know there's a lot more I want to share with you in the future - and while opening your gift again this morning it made me realize that you probably feel the same way too. 
I wish I could do yesterday over and make you feel more appreciated.  I would have complimented you more (told you how pretty I think you looked!) and told you how happy that I was to have you there, in my home, hosting all the people I have in my life. 
Yesterday, I got caught up on focusing on all the wrong things, and failed to focus on and acknowledge what was really important - that you're my Mom, and you're doing great and I love you for it.  I'm sorry, because I know that didn't come across, and I feel terrible for making you feel bad.
There were very few pictures taken yesterday - but the ones that I have of you I feel you look anxious, and I cant help but feel responsible for putting you in that state.
Something I have learned as I've become an adult is that nothing is worth making someone you love feel bad.  At the end of the day, it's all just a pile of things that could easily be donated on thrown away - and Daniel and I could start over with this baby shopping list. Nothing gives merit to making someone who is trying their best feel inadequate.  No matter how you may be deciding to act or express yourself - I didn't follow through with the reminder I often give myself that allows me to see things clearly... you are the only mother I have, and you are perfect in being exactly that.  And that is always enough. 
I hope we do something in Cambridge in late March or early April with all of your family on Paul's side to celebrate the birth of your first grandchild. 
Thank you Mommy for yesterday - I love you
Love Veronica
I'll see you this Sunday at 21 N cres.  I'm hoping Valerie and Mike can come too... that way I'll know a few people there!

We talked on the phone that night, and I kind of centered myself again.  Pregnancy is crazy, and I will say I didn't think it was effecting me in that crazy hormonal irrational way that is so stereotypical... but it was that night. 

But fast forward one week, and we were at the second shower!


Here I am, with all of Alexander's cousins.  The date was February 5th, 2012.  Sabrina on the far left (born December 2010) on to Emily (born December 2008), Isabella (born April 2008), Mathew (born August 2007) and Sarah (born July 2009). 

Tina (Daniel's sister) did all the party decorations and she picked a loose theme of Winnie the Pooh / honey bees/pots.  It was in the basement of their parents house and it was set up like a little hall.  5 long rectangular tables with 10 settings on each, all with touches of yellow and blue.  She had little honey bears at all the place settings (as the take home favor).  She did clothes-lines hanging from the ceiling with baby clothes/newborn onesies hung - all for Alexander. 

Luisa liked the slide show idea, so she asked us to somehow run it for her party too.  We did, on a lap top, much less "feature"ish than it was at my house... but it was there too nonetheless. 

My mother brought alone the advice journal (and the name suggestion bag) and the dozens of vaguely known family members added to our memories.

Here are a few pages - from shower guests from both parties.  I'm pretty sure you can click and zoom if you're interested in seeing what exactly was written... but I pulled just a few from close family, and a few more to give a feel of what people were writing in general.  2 - from my mom.  3 - Tonia.  4 - my sister.  6 - my godmother.  8 - a funny friend of mine.  12 - someone's daughter at the second shower.

Here are all the name suggestions after it was all over.  My brother (and I think Daniel) poked fun at the activity, and submitted all joke names (I think/hope).
Back to shower #2:

Me and my mom, me with Tina, Me with my mother and Luisa, me with my sister and her fiancé, and me with Daniel and his parents.  Lots of pictures of people, but not any of the decorations.
I was much less stressed on this day as everything was out of my control.  (And really, because I could go into labor any second and have a full term 38+ week gestated baby and was ready ready ready).  It was clear that everyone at this party had done this before in some way or another and everything went smoothly.  Tina worked the crowd during our huge and over the top catered meal with trivia and group fun.  She had like 20 $5 Tim's cards in her back pocket and was giving them away in an auction like manner.  It was hilarious and cute. 
But after we all ate and had some fun.. it was a marathon of gifts to get through.  I'm posting these for no other reason than I'm pregnant with Alexander and Daniel and I are as happy as can be.  And I only agreed to do this if Daniel was up there with me and reading the cards and thanking people as we went along (because honestly, I didn't even know who to look at when seeing the names in the cards!!!)
My faces are totally random and weird.  I thought it was the cutest thing to put clothes up against Daniel and picture them on the "mini me" he was expecting.

The top left is a Winnie themed gift, but the bear was a hand-me-down (regift?) as the shirt said "2011".  I gave it to charity as 2011 wasn't Alexander's birth year. The middle horizontal row was a gift from my sister - centered around Winnie the pooh.  She found a copy of the book my dad used to read to us before bed (I'm holding it in middle left), and wrote "1st book for your baby's library".
It was no secret I loved Winnie The Pooh (I've had a love for him since early childhood), and was so looking forward to showering my first born with my ongoing Winnie Love. 

The kids starting to get antsy and we had to let them in on the gift opening.  Especially when it was THEIR gifts (gifts from their parents to us) we were opening.

The last gift was from my mother.  I was overwhelmed by her generosity.  I wasn't expecting anything as she already gave me a bunch of stuff at the shower we did together at my place.
I still have pretty much everything that was included in that gift "cake".  Or maybe it was called a diaper cake - because the backside was all newborn diapers.  But we have or use everything to this day.  All the washcloths rolled up are still a daily staple in our house.  The star and stripped onesies I had packed for Alexander's hospital bag, and decided to pack the stars for Theo's hospital bag (and he wore the stripes too).  There is a "baby Winnie" pajama in there somewhere.  That was going to be Alexander's homecoming outfit.  Well, maybe... it was on the bigger side, and we packed another pajama my sister gave us as a back-up.  But the one that was in this diaper cake is still tucked in a drawer.  It's one of Alexander's things that Theo didn't ever wear.  

I wrote Thank You cards to all the guests that came to the shower at our new house.  I picked them out days after that shower.

 This little mouse, skipping along, happy as can be.  Because that's how I felt.  I still have a few.  I cant bare to part with them.
I wrote every note out in a book first, enabling myself to edit and not run out of room.  They were personalized and written with so much gratitude and excitement.  In every card, I talked about "I cant wait to see you again after our baby comes".  I still have that note book with all my rough drafts...


But that it's.  For our baby.  For our boy.  Going through all these pictures and remembering this time is such a tug-a-war of feelings.  It all makes me so happy, but so so sad. 

I was looking through some pictures and a part of me wanted to forward them off to the people who bought the gifts.  Almost in a way to remind them who they spent the time and money on to buy a gift for.  And to remind them that just because he died, he still deserved every last bit of it all, and that he STILL matters.  My heart might be going in the wrong direction here, but I see a lot of the outpour from before he died and I get bitter because the outpour of support after he died wasn't nearly as quantified.  The "I'm sorry's" where quiet and quick, and what happened to us was whispered about behind closed doors.  Oh, the pain in seeing how real he was is so enormous.  Had he lived, he would still be so huge in our lives... but because he died, he is so often (if not always by some) forgotten. 

But we loved him so, and when I was left in shock that night he died so suddenly inside my belly at 41 weeks ... I thought about these baby showers.  I was so embarrassed and ashamed.  All this work and outpour and time and money.. and I couldn't pull through with a damn child to show for it.  I think I said the words in the hospital I knew we shouldn't have had a shower.  And not because I thought it was bad luck or CAUSED anything... but because look at what can happen and dammit what a goddamn shame.  But I did think that that feeling of all things caving in on me around making these baby showers work was a bit of a nudge.  I don't know what for.  But a nudge.  Maybe if we DIDN'T have the shower's, everything would have been so much more low key, and live or die, maybe it all would have been easier?

I don't know.  I just know it was so hard to know that just a FEW WEEKS before he died we were celebrating and having a blast expecting our baby.  How is that possible?  Why is that allowed? 

I came home after his stillbirth to a mantel filled with all these cards.  I was going to take pictures of him and send a birth announcement out with a thank you card to all the people who came to Daniel's mothers for the shower because the jarring task in writing/completing 40-50 thank you cards when I was "any day now" status was too much.

But I love the love all the same.  I love how much he was loved, even if it was just for a moment in time.  He was loved and wanted and anticipated by many.  All of these cards stayed on my mantel for months after he died.  I didn't know what else to do with them.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye.  I never will be... but at that time, taking the cards down felt like I was closing his chapter.  Like I was "calling it".  He's dead, better take these down.  Couldn't do it.
But I'm thankful that I got this post done.  I'm thankful I've put all this out there, and created a central place for all my feelings. 
I've had to spread this post out (life got in the way).  It started in the morning, and now it's almost Theo's bed time.  I got through it all with all but a huge lump in my throat.  I will probably have a good cry now as I reread, and edit and reflect.
Thank you, anyone and everyone out there, for reading about my beloved first born son xox
*cue the tears* correction, I did cry when I went through my old email to my mother


  1. I didn't want a baby shower either but Kirk's mom had one and my mom flew across the country and surprised me and it was fun and sweet and filled with love for our boy.
    Your email to your mom is wonderful and I'm glad you had the courage to acknowledge that stress caused you to not be as nice and make things better. I snap at my mom sometimes and then feel so badly. Ugh.
    I'm so glad so many people saw you hugely prego and celebrated Alexander.

  2. Your email was so touching. So much love for that boy. Thanks for sharing.