Why you should give an adoptive mom a baby shower (or an adoption shower)

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Maybe it sounds petty but I’m bummed that I never had a baby shower or an adoption shower. Part of me knows I should get over it but another part of me knows I’ll never let it go completely. We’ve had a lot of adoption hurdles: finances, depression, relationship struggles, difficulty in attaching.

And I’m still butt hurt about the baby shower. It kind of feels good to admit it.

I have three kids, and I’ve never had a baby shower.

Editor’s note: This post was originally written in 2014 and has been updated.

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Why you should give an adoption mom a baby shower (or an adoption shower)

My daughter was born in 1992. We adopted our sons from China in 2012 and 2013 at the ages of two and three, respectively. I have a twenty-two year old and two preschoolers. Life is loud and a little crazy. (If you want to draw my attention to the age gap between my oldest and youngest or tell me I have my hands full, got it.)

Related: Adoption Christmas Ornaments You’ll Love

Our family’s adoption story…some of it, at least

When I was expecting my daughter a gazillion years ago, I had medical issues late pregnancy that put the brakes on partying. I got gifts and cards but I was bummed I didn’t experience the “diaper cake.” You know, the one made from Pampers and baby washcloths (I really hate creative people who can do that stuff and make it look easy but I still wanted one. There, I said it.) There were no “oooohs” and “ahhs” as I tore open packages adorned with pink and blue ribbons packages.

No one made sherbet punch in my honor and I didn’t get to play the diaper pin “don’t say the B word” game (B is for baby, not the other B word.)

When we brought our boys home, we didn’t get the fanfare that usually goes with the arrival of a child. Between our two boys, I can count the number of presents and cards we got on both hands. It’s not that we don’t have friends. I don’t think it’s not that people don’t like us (at least I hope people like us.) It’s because we treat adoption as different, especially older child adoption.

Think about it.

When a woman is expecting, we trip over ourselves to be nice. We ask her how she’s feeling. Okay, sometimes we try to scare her with stories about nightmare pregnancies but normally our exchanges with moms-to-be are positive. We tell her she’s glowing and all sorts of happy crap.

When the baby comes out the family gets flowers, balloons and more presents. Tuna casseroles and Bundt cakes out the wazoo give sleep deprived parents a break from figuring out where the heck dinner is coming from.

Ask an adopting family if they are registered anywhere.

If the answer is no, ask them if they’d like help signing up or if they want you to register them. Amazon’s Baby Registry can be used for adoption and it’s easy to modify and select gifts more appropriate for an older child.

Adoption a child isn’t the same as having a child. Right?

Adoption is different. Right?

We don’t always see a child joining a family through adoption as celebratory. The diaper pin game is not everyone’s thing, I get that. But why aren’t adoption showers more common?

The most important thing in world to an adoptive mom-to-be (and yes, she is a mom-to-be) is the child she’s bringing to her family. She might not have swollen ankles and her skinny jeans still zip. But she is stressed, excited and “I wanna throw up” scared all at once. She has a long list of stuff to do before the big day. She worries about being a good mom, balancing the needs of her new child with other stuff in her life and if her relationship dynamic with her husband will change.

Considering giving an adoption gift? Check out these ideas.

Right after (and I mean right after) our first son came home from China, a my husband’s boss’ wife asked me to help organize meals for a new mom (This went over like a fart in church by the way. There had been exactly zero meals brought to our door when we arrived home the week before (yes, the week before) with a freaked out two-year old.

Said two-year-old was not super clear on who I was at this point or why I kept making a big deal out of that blue box of mac n’ cheese. Our adjustment was rough. Trying to beat jet lag with a jet-lagged toddler made for some tense moments (and a couple of freak-outs over running low on Diet Coke. )Asking me to help a new mom while not recognizing I was one made me feel all kinds of negative emotions and that I was unimportant. 

One month after our second adoption, there was a lavish on-the-clock baby shower for not one, but three of my coworkers. My “new baby” was three, and while I get that it isn’t exactly the same thing, it would have been nice to be celebrated, too. I tried to put my big girl panties on and attend this shower.

I lasted five minutes, bolted during the “I have the best coworkers in the world” speech and spent the next half hour locked in my office crying. My colleagues were stunned that I was upset and were appropriately apologetic. They didn’t mean to exclude me; they just didn’t think of me as a new mom. It was awkward.

Because adoption is different.

Intentional or not, these slights stung tremendously. It’s not about presents or cake (although I really love cake.) An adoption shower is about recognition of a milestone and celebrating families. I still feel twinges of envy and hurt when I get a baby shower invite. If my friends would have known a shower was important to me, things might have played out differently. I’ve struggled to make my peace and move on.

Related: 10 pictures that prove fatherhood is about love, not DNA.

What you should do the next time a friend announces an adoption – Consider an adoption shower.

Think about this next time a friend announces she’s adopting: adoption is deliberate. The sheer amount of paperwork boggles the mind. If you’re teetering on the brink of crazy, this will drive you over. Adoption is usually a “shout from the rooftops” kind of big deal; treat it that way. Whether or not you organize an adoption baby shower or take part in one, be interested. Ask how things are going.

And no, questions like “do you really know what you’re getting in to?” don’t count.

Don’t point out how lucky she is to keep her figure (besides, the tales I could tell about pre-adoption stress eating are epic). You might not know what road someone traveled to get to adoption. Maybe you’re saying “poo, you’re doing it the easy way” to someone who thinks doing the deed and incubating for nine months is an easier option.

Don’t assume a family who is adopting doesn’t want an adoption shower or celebration, even if the child isn’t a newborn. A child joining a family that will love them FOREVER is cause for some cake. Maybe even a balloon or two.

Diaper pin game optional.

If you’re in doubt, ask the family but most will appreciate some sort of recognition.

You might also like Yes, we celebrate Gotcha Day. But, it’s complicated.

 

Why you should give an adoptive mom a baby shower|Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
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34 Comments

  1. Ooof. I can see how being asked to organize meals for a new mom while being overlooked for becoming a mom for the second time would really sting. Youch.

    Good advice: ==> “Don’t assume a family who is adopting doesn’t want a celebration.”

  2. I 100% agree! I don’t have any close friends or family who’ve adopted, but my automatic thought would be to throw them a shower if I did. Glad you’re posting about it–motherhood is a celebration; whether you’re birthing or adopting, you’re becoming a mother!

  3. THIS! When our two sons came home, I was a wreck! There were several new relational dynamics in our house, nobody knew what to expect, everyone was a little freaked out, AND my cell was constantly ringing with people who NEEDED to meet our new children.

    There wasn’t even a “How are you all doing?” let alone a “What can I do to help?” or “How can we celebrate?”

    We did have friends come over and pray for us and that meant a ton. A couple of them brought gifts, but it didn’t compare to a shower. It was beautiful and yet heavy, so it didn’t compare to a celebration.

    A friend of mine has six kids and she once said, “Every baby deserves to be showered,” meaning we should be thrilled about each child coming into a family. I think that’s what hurts the most. In not showering our children, it feels (to me) as if they are less treasured and as if my mom-ness is less important to those around me.

    All of these feelings while I was drowning in a sea of I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this.

    Thanks for writing this!

  4. I had a similar experience many years ago, and like you, am still trying to let it go. I worked at a big company for almost eight years before adopting our first child (a 9-month-old from overseas). Came back to work to very little fanfare- no shower or celebration-just a balloon and gift from one thoughtful co-worker. Two years later we adopted our second child; my new baby was barely acknowledged. A few month later a new guy gets hired in our department. His wife happens to be pregnant. Two months into his new job, our department throws a huge baby shower for him at work! Talk about hurt feelings! I made an excuse why I couldn’t join them at the party and to this day still can’t fathom how they thought this was right.

    I can see people’s hesitancy to throw showers before the adopted child comes home. Snags do happen. But there’s no reason why a celebration can’t be thrown afterward. And if the family and friends aren’t sure what the new parents would like to do – that is, having the party before or after – just ASK them!

  5. Thanks for this great post. Upon the adoption of our two children, both adopted at birth through private adoption. We had a visit from another adoptive couple who brought gifts for the babies. There were also visits from immediate family. But, there was no casserole, not to mention a shower! My husband and I decided to throw a “welcome home babies” party ourselves about four months post adoption. All the guests brought gifts and came to meet our babies. However, this was not a traditional shower. If we hadn’t thrown the party, there wouldn’t have been anything. I get that many people don’t understand the complexity of adoption and just what is involved, but, this is a new baby joining the family! One thing I tell myself is that we may not have all the traditional stories of childbirth but, we have our own version of labor and delivery! Because we did experience a different “Labor” and certainly a different “delivery.” I realize that our stories are unique and beautiful. As adoptive moms we can understand this but, unfortunately not everyone can relate. I think as a result some just don’t view the arrival of an adopted child the same and therefore don’t celebrate it traditionally. Perhaps someday.

  6. Right on! Can’t say how much I agree! I adopted my baby girl from Korea. She got held up (her exit visa and passport) in government red tape because they had reached their quota for that year and she was detained for three more months. I was devastated. My child (since the moment I got her referral) was on the other side of the world without me. I cancelled my flights there, my hotel, etc and went into a deep, dark place. My dear friend decided to try and distract me with a baby shower. She put my baby’s referral picture in a pretty frame next to the pink cake with baby bottles all over it. Thirty people showered me with love and support (and gifts!) and I smiled all day. Everyone said how adorable she was in the framed picture and I told them new video footage was promised soon!

    Only my mother-in-law didn’t chime in and when I asked her what she thought of her new granddaughter, she looked shocked. “Oh??! That’s really her? That’s the exact baby you’re bringing here?” she asked. “I thought that was just a generic picture of a sample baby Korea offers, like you see in a catalogue.” Duh!

    Anyhow adoption is the formation of a new forever family and is every bit a reason to pull out all the stops and put a melted Hershey’s kiss in a cloth diaper to see who gets the lucky “poop” and a prize. Thanks for making this point so eloquently!

  7. I now feel even luckier that I had two baby showers before we traveled to meet our daughter in China. I work at a state agency, and everyone knew we were adopting, and followed our process for four years. Two close friends at work organized an after-hours shower, including blow ups of every picture we’d received of her, and made sure enough people went in on a big ticket item that we really needed, a hard core stroller, besides all of the generous individual gifts. Plus my mom, mother-in-law and close friends hosted a huge party – and lots of people said it was so much more fun to buy toddler presents rather than yet another onesie! I figured adoption baby showers were the norm – you’re still becoming a parent! – and I’m saddeneded to find I ought not to have assumed. If you have an Amazon wish list, I will totally send you a kid-shower present! Even if only for all the “right ons” and “damn straights” your blog has given me.

  8. My God… I was looking for some other articles and google showed me yours… I am so touched! I have never thought about this case before… Now my sister is pregnant and I was looking for ideas to make her baby shower… In the same time my cousin is trying to adopt baby. Now, after your article I definitely know that I should do that! What is funny, she is also trying to adopt baby from China. I am always into useful gifts, that is why for baby shower I give “savings account” with some amount of money on it, but only for baby. Now I am thinking to buy also a Star from Kingdom of Universe (they give certificates etc), but to find one, which is easy to notice from China and from Albany…
    Again – thank you for this post. Case of gift is not so important now, but to show to my cousin, that we also cannot wait for her baby. 🙂

  9. I think this is a wonderful idea! I dont think just that pregnant mothers should have a babyshower. Adoption is giving a baby or child a forever home and family much like pregnant mothers and their families (all though some dont even raise their children). I was adopted and thankfully by a good family and would one day like to adopt as well.

  10. I agree! I have an aunt who adopted a baby. They didn’t really want a big to-do about it because the birth mother could change her mind for several months and the adoption wasn’t official for 9 months. Once the adoption was official they wanted a party, but we still celebrated the new addition to the family. The hardest part was they didn’t know they were getting their daughter until the day she was born. Anyway, I am getting a little off track here. I just wanted to say I agree and even an adoption should be celebrated because it’s still a new baby or child. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Reading your heartfelt thoughtful article made me stop and think. Yes we generally put on baby showers for first time moms and after that not much where I live. Yet bringing home an adopted baby is very much a milestone as you say. I know a number of children who were adopted and actually tried to get the parents to have a party when they signed the papers on their boys. You are right it is hurtful. Thank you for sharing your heart and making me more aware of this for the future!

  12. I am in the middle of adopting a beautiful 15 year old boy. I do not expect a baby shower when he comes to live here, but at least a few more positive comments to offset the negative ones would help!! You are never too old for family, and teens are the least likely to find a forever home. Sorry to sound a bit defensive, but hopefully others will realize that this is an overlooked segment of kids that needs a spotlight!!

  13. Hi my name Melissa’s and when i get out of schools and every thing go well I’m going to ADOPT all in every wanted is to be a mother

  14. I agree. Mother is a mother whether she has adopted a child or has given birth to one. Every mom needs all the special attention as they are responsible for giving a responsible and sincere citizen to the society.

  15. When we adopted our son, we threw the party ourselves!! No one asked us if they could do it for us, but this was a big deal for us, so we just did it! 🙂

    However, I get what you’re saying. It would have meant the world to me to have someone offer to do it. It stings a bit, for sure.

  16. I had to stop reading this article a couple times because a huge knot developed in my throat. My husbands work did have a small shower for us so I cannot say I have never had one and I am so grateful for that, but I do know exactly where you are coming from. I don’t feel like I get the same reaction when I announced that I am adopting and other ladies around me get when they announce they are pregnant.
    My son is just as important, he is mine. My little baby and one day hopefully soon, he will legally be apart of our family. We deserve to celebrate as though I gave birth to him. ❤

  17. This is such a wonderful post! All moms should be celebrated! Adding a child to your family is stressful and joyous and should be shared!

  18. Adoption has it’s own set of labour pains and rituals that once your “got’ch’a!” day is. That is like your baby shower because that is when the kids are yours. I do not know if they still do baby cacoon-ing. but when a close friend of mine (momma donna) was going thru her adoption process the model was cacoon for a lengthy period of time so the child can start forming attatchment to you as caregiver. And access of the child by others was very limited and your big moment was when the judge said your adoption was finalized. Then there is usually a gathering and party and then gifts are given. because then the kids are yours. I know that the traditional model of motherhood is sorta askew when you adopt but it does not make you any less part of the mommy club.

  19. I know the feeling my husband and I are adopting. I wish they will make a big deal about it. It’s the truth. Thank you for a good reading

  20. It was awkward to ask others to given me an adoption shower for my twins. Their adoption was final at 1 and 3/4 years of age. I just gave them a big 1st birthday bash and it was sort of like a substitute way of celebrating. Yes I still wish I had one and now that I’m adopting again I wish I can just celebrate all over again. But I would have to give it….. how about those beans.

  21. It was awkward to ask others to given me an adoption shower for my twins. Their adoption was final at 1 and 3/4 years of age. I just gave them a big 1st birthday bash and it was sort of like a substitute way of celebrating. Yes I still wish I had one and now that I’m adopting again I wish I can just celebrate all over again. But I would have to give it….. how about those beans.

  22. Hi, thanks for writing this. My husband and I are adopting 2 siblings in the next 2 weeks and right now we are planning our party which makes me sad that no one thought of planning one for us. Thank you for your words. They made me cry. I’m glad I’m not alone but it still hurts.

  23. Hi! I’ve come across this particular post several times since adopting my twins a few years ago. And each time I reread it I sob. These feelings you describe are my feelings too. I’m still not over it. Obviously. Thanks for putting into words what my feelings were/are.

    1. This post is an oldie but it recirculates for a reason. I think, for the most part that I am over it, or at least in a different place…but I remember EXACTLY how I felt when I wrote this. I think it’s possible to move past and still remember. Like most adoption stuff, it’s complicated.

  24. I will throw you a shower RIGHT NOW! It’s not too late. 🙂 I’ve been struggling with having a shower, because I know I need that right of passage. I had a kitten shower when we adopted our three cats; almost everyone bailed and it was actually devastating…that’s when I realized how badly I was missing this right of passage (and how I could never explain that to anyone else without feeling stupid). We are fostering to adopt two children and they are 7 and 9; how can I ask for a shower, because the kids don’t need anything? A friend finally convinced me and I’m so happy, but still don’t feel deserving. There are no “adoption showers” on Evite, just baby showers, and only baby registries on Amazon; the gift options immediately populate with diaper and wipes. Sigh. I totally get the feeling of not being a “real” new Mom.
    So many emotions and such a crazy journey. You are not alone and thank you so much for all your words! Much Love to you and your family.
    🙂

  25. I cannot say THANK YOU enough for posting this. This is exactly what I needed to hear tonight after sitting her crying for the last hour after my friends decided to cancel our shower today. We are matched with our first baby (due soon) and our friends were so excited at first to throw us a shower. Then I got told today that they did not want to do it until after we bring the baby home to make sure she is “actually ours”. I can’t explain how hurtful this is! It isn’t that I want attention, but I feel like a shower is a time for your friends and family to show their support for your growing family. Now I just feel hurt.

    1. I hear you! It is so hard for anyone who hasn’t gone through this process to understand where we’re coming from and it’s so hard to ask for what we need because we have a whole bunch of generations of “shoulda” hanging on our shoulders and we don’t have a way to articulate what’s coming from our guys and our hearts; I wish I could give you a baby shower, but I can tell you that I hear you and I validate you and am giving you a huge hug and you are worth Celebrating!

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