No matter how a parent’s bundle of joy has arrived, a traditional baby shower is a thoughtful and fun way to welcome the new arrival. But in the case of an adoption, you’ll want to avoid offending with the typical references to pregnancy and labor. Instead, follow these tips to strike the right note of celebration.
- Before or After Adoption? Just Ask: The first thing to do before planning the shindig is to ask the prospective parents what they want. Don’t make this a surprise shower. Some parents will want the shower to happen prior to the birth so they can enjoy the event the way other parents traditionally do, while others will prefer to hold the shower after the placement, when they no longer worry about the adoption falling through.
2. Remember to Specify Age, Gender and Size: If the child wasn’t adopted as a newborn, or if the shower is taking place sometime after the placement, make sure guests know the age, gender and size of the child so they can buy appropriate clothing.
3. To Invite Birth Mother or Not: Speaking of invitations, consider inviting the prospective birth mother. Of course, the birth mother and the adoptive mother need to have a special relationship for this to work, and they both need to be on board with the idea. But if they’ve developed a bond, it can make for an extremely meaningful event.
4. Choose a Theme Carefully: This goes for the invitations, decorations, goodie bags and throughout the whole event. Instead of pregnancy, labor and birth, focus on a general baby theme, a favorite storybook character or the nursery design. A fun idea for a child being adopted abroad is to have guests sign a globe in lieu of a guest book.
5. Stay Flexible with the Date: If the shower is planned for before the birth, the circumstances of the adoption can change. Or if it’s planned for after placement, some of the details (such as time of day or location) may no longer be the right fit once the child comes home. Avoid making the new mom feel guilty about any of this. Better to happily make changes and celebrate accordingly.
6. Keep the Games: Just because you’re not doing a pregnancy theme doesn’t mean you should skip the games. But be careful when purchasing game items; many pre-packaged shower games on the market would be inappropriate. Instead, play games such as Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy or a Baby Item Scavenger Hunt.
7. Spoil the Mother, Like Always: Treat the mom with the same amount of attention, fuss and excitement as you would with any other baby shower. A lot of what she dreamed about related to growing her family may have been lost. So, let her enjoy this rite of passage with lots of love and care.
8. Fend Off Myths and Horror Stories: Never, ever, ever discuss adoption myths or “horror stories” at the shower. If someone starts, it’s your responsibility as hostess to run interference. Also, make sure the adoption itself doesn’t receive too much attention. Intrusive questions about the child’s background or circumstances can put a damper on the festivities. Ahead of time, you may want to chat with people you know well and make sure they understand the conversation should focus on the new family member as a joyous addition.
9. Leverage Technology: When the invitation is electronic, it’s super easy to include links to sites that can educate shower attendees about adoption beforehand. If the adoptive parents blogged their journey, you could link to that so everyone knows their story. You could include a link on Positive Adoption Language, as well.
10. Forego Presents: Adoption is expensive. More than another cute toy or outfit, adoptive parents may need help paying off some of those adoption costs. It’s easy to set up a GoFundMe account, to which people can donate in lieu of giving a gift.
Nicole Witt is executive director of The Adoption Consultancy.