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Don't forget to celebrate your friend whose baby shower just got canceled

A baby shower might not seem worthy enough of a loss to grieve over, but for me it is.

woman pregnant during coronavirus pandemic

I know I have much to be grateful for, and a canceled baby shower is not necessarily worth being upset about during these unprecedented times.

Except that it is.

While the world tries to deal with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, many people have had to cancel joyous milestones and big life events. A baby shower might not seem worthy enough of a loss to grieve over, but for me it is. And your pregnant friend might feel the same.

After the initial shock of the pandemic wore off and I had made the call to cancel my baby shower, a disappointing thought finally set in. I would never get to be properly celebrated for the miraculous and arduous journey my body had been through during my twin pregnancy.

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I had thought about rescheduling my baby shower, but my twins are due in June and I might even go early, so it didn't make sense to reschedule the baby shower for May. Besides, nobody knows when this devastating health crisis will be over anyway. I would possibly have to cancel it then, too.

My friends and family suggested we host a "Sip and See" party—where guests stop by to see the baby and sip refreshments—in late summer or early fall. By then, the babies will be here, the pandemic will (hopefully) be over and friends and family can safely meet the babies and visit with me. People would still bring gifts and it would essentially be just like a baby shower.

While a Sip and See is a lovely and kindhearted idea, I wasn't as excited about it as I was for my baby shower. That's because I wasn't throwing a baby shower for the gifts—I had planned it as a celebration of motherhood. A celebration of pregnancy. A celebration of my body, which has been strong enough to grow two babies at the same time.

Because I feel so ready to finally celebrate my body—a body that had disappointed me for 19 months while my husband and I tried to conceive. It was around the time when I felt so ready to give up trying, so ready to accept the fact I'd never be able to get pregnant—that I saw a positive pregnancy test for the first time in my life. And at our first ultrasound, we were blessed with not one but two precious heartbeats.

At 18 weeks, I started to plan my baby shower. It was going to be a celebration of womanhood, I'd decided. A high-tea concept. We'd break out the fine china and antique silverware. There'd be mini cakes and scones, and every woman would feel proud to be there, together, a sisterhood of motherhood. I was excited to wear a dress that showed off my enormous twin bump I'd spent years wishing for. I wanted to celebrate being a woman, being a mom, and yes, I wanted to celebrate me. After all, a woman is only pregnant for the first time once.

After I have my babies, I know the focus will no longer be on me. Don't get me wrong, I want my babies to be loved and welcomed—I can't wait to become a mother. But I also know when babies are born a mother often becomes invisible.

I've heard the stories. I've read the articles. I've seen it with my own eyes. When a woman gives birth, everyone's attention turns to the new bundle of joy. And why shouldn't it? A baby is a beautiful gift of hope—a tiny, helpless being who deserves to be loved, held and doted on.

But so does a mother.

And that's why we shower her with love, attention and gifts before the baby arrives. Now, because of the coronavirus, we can't celebrate our pregnant friend the way we normally do.

So I'm asking you: Please don't forget about your pregnant friend whose shower was canceled because of these strange times.

She still deserves to be celebrated for everything she's been through—the years trying to conceive, maybe the painful shots and surgeries she endured to get pregnant, giving up wine and coffee and sushi for nine months, her swollen feet and aching back. Not to mention her likely new fears of giving birth during a pandemic.

What can you do to celebrate her despite the circumstances? Send cupcakes to her house. Decorate her apartment door with balloons and cards. Let her know you love her. Write her a letter expressing how strong and brave she is during this time. Still buy and send gifts from her registry if you are able to.

Just don't forget about her.

No woman should turn invisible when she becomes a mother. And she certainly shouldn't become invisible before she gives birth, either. She deserves to be celebrated for the life she has created. She deserves to be acknowledged for her sacrifice.

So please, even if you host a Sip and See when this pandemic is all over, please don't focus entirely on the babies and forget about the new mama who stands before you. Because a lot has happened, and she's still standing. Remember to celebrate her when this is all over.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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As a mom, I say the phrase 'let me just…' to my kids more times a day than I can count.

Yes, I can help you log into your class, let me just send this email.
Yes, I can play with you, let me just make one more call.
Yes, I can get you a snack, let me just empty the dishwasher.

I say it a lot at work, too.

Yes, I can write that article, let me just clear my inbox.
Yes, I can clear my inbox, let me just finish this meeting.
Yes, I can attend that meeting, let me just get this project out the door.

The problem is that every 'let me just' is followed by another 'let me just'... and by the time they're all done, the day is over, and I didn't do most of the things I intended—and I feel pretty bad about myself because of it.

I wasn't present with my kids today.
I didn't meet that deadline.
I couldn't muster the energy to cook dinner.
The house is a mess. I am a mess. The world is a mess.

It's okay, I tell myself. Let me just try again tomorrow.

But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes and the list of things I didn't get to or didn't do well bears down on my shoulders and my heart, and all I can think is, "I am failing."

And I think that maybe I'm not alone.

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