You don’t have to go to that baby shower (advice I wish I had received while struggling with infertility)

I see that look in your eyes. You’re yearning to become a mother, wondering whether you might ever have a child, hoping and praying and sometimes despairing.
Then a baby shower invitation comes in the mail.
It’s for a close friend. A sister. A sister-in-law. A cousin who’s like a sister. Someone who will want you to be there that day. And you’d so love to be there. But it’s so much to ask.
You’re happy for her. You are. This isn’t a matter of jealousy. But going to a celebration of babies and motherhood and all things pregnancy and birth can be unbearably painful for someone who thinks—or knows—she may never, ever experience that.
Maybe the mother-to-be will be hurt if you don’t come. Maybe she’ll understand. Maybe she is aware of your struggles—or suspects—and just included you on the guest list because she didn’t want you to feel excluded. Or maybe she has no idea what you’re living with day after day, month after month, as you hope desperately that this time next year you’ll have a baby.
Consider this: You don’t have to go.
You can skip the shower.

There are times in our lives when we are allowed to think of ourselves.
There are times when we have to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others.
This is one of those times. If you know that you are going to struggle through the shower, if you are going to smile painfully through all the “When are you going to have a baby?” questions, if you know you’ll fall apart if one more person asks you about fertility treatments or adoption or how pregnancy happens when you stop trying, if you are going to cry all the way home, then maybe, just maybe, you should give yourself a break and miss it.
You know yourself best. Maybe you have the strength to be there. Maybe you are able to pull it together to be there. Maybe you can stay busy in the kitchen. Maybe you can have an appointment you need to leave for halfway through, so you can just give her a hug and a gift, tell her she’s beautiful, marvel at the baby growing inside her, and run for the door.
Only you know what you are able to handle—well, you and God. And it’s not a bad idea to bring Him into this conversation, too—not just for you as you discern what to do, of course, but also for the mother-to-be and her baby.
After all, if you aren’t up to shopping for a gift in a store full of obviously expectant mothers, or walking past racks and racks of adorable baby clothes with animal heads as feet, or sitting through the shower conversations about mastitis and labor pains and how easily everyone else gets pregnant, or realizing the mother-to-be is planning to use your favorite girls’ name of all time, you can still do one thing for the mommy-to-be—and it’s a big one: You can pray.
Whatever you decide, be gentle with yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for some prayers, too. You have mine.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.