Great Expectations

8 Apr

Baby showers: had never been to one, never had one and didn’t even know anyone who had hosted one, so I was wondering what I had let myself in for after a friend asked me to help organise hers.

At over eight month’s pregnant, she wanted something low-key, with no fuss and relaxed. It sounded simple but then you know how the simple things always seem to take more time and effort? Like natural-looking make-up probably takes twice as long to perfect than a full face of gaudy colour. Plus, not only have I never experienced child birth, none but one of the girls she invited had children either, so her vision of women all offering her pearls of wisdom and advice was also looking a little doubtful. Not to be defeated, I set about researching baby showers and thinking of ideas, which would give my friend the relaxed afternoon surrounded by girlfriends that she wanted.

If the term ‘earth mother’ fits anyone, it fits my friend. She has stocked up on bamboo silk, reuseable nappies, her windowsill is currently abound with jars of oil, infusing with calendula to bathe the baby-to-be, the baby will be fed on wholesome, organic foods and she holds dear all things related to her family and particularly the advice of her own mother, who happens to live in South Africa. As such, it was no surprise that she wanted, in her words, ‘a day of female-power’ and the pressure was on; it had to be meaningful with a capital M.

We discussed the guest list and dates and then she told me she would like everyone to write a message for her baby and place it on an ornamental tree that she owns. With this as a starting point, I then just had to organise, the gifts, the food, the drink, any activities and the decorations. It may have been my friend who was expecting but it dawned on me that there was going to be quite a lot of expectation on me too.

Given that my friend already has a lot of clothes, equipment and products for the baby, choosing a present she wanted or needed proved tricky so it seemed clubbing together to get something she would not get for herself was going to be the best way forward. I knew she would love a family photo shoot once the baby is born so between us we came up with enough to buy credit for a shoot and several prints. I used the extra to put together a pamper box of goodies she could use before and after the birth and a a couple of little things for the baby. Luckily in Sydney it is not too hard to find eco-friendly, paraben-free, sulfate-free, organic products!

Then there was food: baby-sized tea party was the theme so bite-size brownies and scones, mini cupcakes and cake pops, miniature carrot cakes and plenty of teas and champagne were on the menu. I made afternoon tea cup cakes and attempted cake pops (cakes on sticks – they should be simple as described  by Bakerella here  but mine were far from perfect and at 9am on the day of the shower after the first batch flopped and fell apart, I had to make do! I definitely did not give mine long enough to firm up.)

cup cakes

For the activity we ‘ummed and ahhed’ over doing something like a joint painting or decorating bibs and babygrows but whatever it was it had to be able to be done seated, involve everyone and hopefully create something that mum and baby could keep. That’s when I saw the calico teddy bears and had the idea that everyone could stitch a patch on to the bear. Cue an afternoon in my idea of heaven trawling craft stores for suitable materials for the bear and pretty papers for her messages on the tree. I reminded myself how to do a blanket stitch and started off with an ‘A’ for the baby’s name, Ash. Then it was on to making the card.

homemade baby shower card

Patch teddy

Of all the items on my to-do list, locating decorations and bunting seemed hardest and what to do when the places you go to have either sold out or require a second mortgage to purchase them? My solution: two packets of Cath Kidston napkins, a ball of string and a couple of hours in front of the TV that evening, sticking and sewing.

emergency hand-made bunting

Come the day before the shower I had a box of pampering goodies all wrapped and in cellophane, a scrap book for her to put all the messages in also filled with quotes and photos of her and the bump over the past few months, a card, a voucher for a family photo shoot, a teddy bear, sewing materials, Japanese papers for the messages, organza bags in which to put said messages to hang from the tree, trays of cupcakes and cake pops and some home-made bunting.

The day of the shower I arrived to set up with a couple of friends and mum-to-be disappeared for an hour to leave us to it. In that time, her mother-in-law, who she is very close to, arrived, so she was there to surprise her when she got back. Not only that, I had got in touch with her mum in South Africa, asking her to be part of the day too, so over the past few weeks I have been receiving parcels from Cape Town containing messages from her mum and other members of her family as well as a present and poem, written by her mum, to read. If all else failed, there were going to be enough surprises to keep the excitement levels up, I just had to hope they didn’t also cause the onset of labour!

After gifts were given and poems were read, we all got crafty and got our granny on and each stitched a patch on to the teddy bear. She now has a very individual gift, which we have all helped to create.

heart work

sweet talk

sweet treats

message tree

Loving Granny's blanket

I think I can hesitantly say my first baby shower was a success. There were screams (of surprise when she saw her mother-in-law), there were tears (when she saw there were messages from her family in South Africa), there were smiles and hugs for the presents and most importantly she loved being surrounded by her girlfriends, exchanging stories and words of support and encouragement. Hopefully there were enough meaningful moments and expectations were met and we get to meet the biggest expectation of all in just a couple of weeks.

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