From Deborah L. Davis, Ph.D.:
Handle them the way you FEEL like handling them, not just the way you THINK you should. For instance, what will the family think if you don't attend your own sister's shower? Their disapproval may be enough to shame you into going, BUT attending under duress is not necessarily good for anyone. If you can't decide, flip a coin. Really. The decision is out of your hands, it's up to the coin. Heads, you go; Tails, you don't Now flip.
TAILS - you're not going.
How does this FEEL to you? Are you relieved or disappointed? If you feel relieved, this probably means that indeed, you really don't want to go. So, don't go. On the other hand, if you feel disappointed, maybe you should go and know that while it may be difficult, your heart knows that's where you belong. For ANY decision where the options are difficult to weigh and sort out, flipping a coin can give you a clear view of the bottom line of how you feel about an issue. When you can't think it through, FEEL it through.
By the way, if you don't attend a shower, there are other ways to honor your friend's or sister's baby. You can send her a card and/or gift through the mail. Or deliver the gift privately, so you don't have to worry about revealing your emotions in front of a large audience. If you can't stand the thought of picking out baby stuff, there are other suitable gifts. Go to an artisan's showroom, craft fair, antique store or anywhere fine home decorating gifts are sold and pick out a piece of ceramic pottery, a wall hanging, a woven blanket, a wooden sculpture, a pretty frame for a photograph, a beautiful arrangement of silk or dried flowers. It may not be pink and blue bunnies, but it will be treasured for the fine piece of art that it is. Buy something for yourself too.
After the announcement, if you can't bear to visit or call the new mother and child, send something through the mail to let them know that you're thinking of them. If you've kept the lines of communication open, they'll understand why you're not coming around. Or maybe this is the time to gently reveal your feelings of loss over your own baby, and reassure them that you'll be back soon. On the other hand, flip that coin to see if perhaps going to see the baby isn't perhaps the thing to do. Many mothers, terrified that they'll fall apart and covet their friend's baby, are relieved to discover that this baby is not the one they're wishing for. You too may surprise yourself with how nonchalant you feel about their squirmy, froggy little bundle. It's not the same cherub you've been dreaming of.
From Maribeth Doerr:
I agree with Debbie . . . you need to do what truly feels right to you. For me, I just didn't feel comfortable going, and most people who knew me were somewhat uncomfortable with me coming (although, why they sent the invitations is beyond me!). Usually, my husband bought the gift and card, I signed for us and mailed or he would drop it off. He was VERY supportive during this time and didn't push me. He wasn't up to the couples' showers either.
The first shower I actually attended after my baby Mark died was my shower for my first living son, Eric. He was a month old (and this was 4 1/2 years after Mark died!). I refused to have the shower before his birth and went round and round over that with my best friend. She finally agreed and had it on his one month birthday, and it was wonderful! We passed him around and everybody celebrated with me, including lots of heavy sighs and whews! she finally did it!
This worked for me, and those who knew me well understood. I still feel a little uncomfortable going to a shower before the baby is born. It reminds me of the huge shower I had for baby Mark while 7 months pregnant, and how I wanted to send all of those gifts back after he died. I guess some feelings just never go away, but I usually attend showers now and quietly celebrate the fact that most babies are born healthy, full term and alive.
From Heather Williams:
I don't do baby showers. In general, I don't offer anyexplanationss, I simply RSVP my regrets, as I have other plans, and perhaps drag my feet on a gift until the baby arrives. When one of my dearest friends had a pre-baby shower (when I was still in the midst of my losses), we talked about it one-on-one that neither she nor I would be comfortable there, and our friendship was quite strong enough to endure that. I later chose a selection of very special gifts and gave them to her in a quiet setting where we both felt safe, crying together, and hoping for her baby and for my future babies. I didn't feel I'd disappointed her by not attending, and she didn't have to anguish over whether she was exacerbating my pain by having me there.
Birth announcements are okay now, and I manage to get a card and/or gift sent within an appropriatetime framee. But they used to be a killer. Sometimes I asked my husband to obtain a card and send it; I'd provide the address. I certainly wasn't going to put myself through looking for "new baby" congrats cards. Only the true-blue friends merited that sort of energy, and we all know how few those are in life. If they arrived from completely superficial acquaintances, I'd often just toss them in the trash. My energy was too limited and precious to even worry about it. I appreciated the friends and relatives who were tasteful enough to just let us know by word-of-mouth, rather than send an announcement in the mail.
Bottom line: don't put yourself through any more anguish than necessary. No one else would in your shoes. This is a prime example of when you need to be gentle to yourself, etiquette and social skills be damned. Good luck.