Sometimes, there’s a day where you get to be treated like royalty.
My bachelorette party (dress up +Mexican food and margaritas and wigs + dance party + yard swimming) was one of those days.
My wedding day (sleepover + set up in the chilly drizzle + a capella singing in the hide out room + the most beautiful, funny ceremony ever + epic dance party + after party) was another.
And now, my baby shower is a third.
One of the things those three days have in common is they were planned or supported by my special group of women. My Fierce Lady tribe, which yes, can sound super cliche — except it’s so true, so apt. I hope and pray if you’re reading this and you’re a lady of any age, you have this group in your life. If you don’t, I hope and pray you find one. I hope you search them out and cultivate them, in whatever way works best for you. These are my girls who put up with my intense organizational OCD needs, who humor my dramatic sensitive FEELS, and all the novel-length texts that let me EXPRESS MY FEELINGS and maintain some sense of calm. They let me take their picture all their time, and embarrass them with expressions of love, usually in the public eye. Who let me write about them and don’t just appear not to mind (please, tell me, someone, if you mind) but also follow what goes on here and reads.
The girls who let me be me, basically. Sometimes loud, sometimes overemotional, sometimes too analytical me. All the little flaws that make me up — and these are the girls who look past the flaws and just see all the good things about me too, and remind me when I’m having a hard time seeing them myself.
I cannot stop gushing about this group of women and what a beautiful, peaceful, healing little idyll of a party they set up and planned for me — again. My baby shower was one of those days where all of the details seemed — for me, at least — to fall magically into place. The entire party was better than I could have even imagined. When I heard who all was involved planning it, I kinda hoped — but these girls went above and beyond, over the top.
Who was there was a huge part of why it was such a special day. There were people who couldn’t make it, people missing, and I wish they could have been there — but as it was, so many of my favourite people came together. The group was made up of such funny, clever people, there was no way we couldn’t have a good time. Rachel, Alison, Erin, Jeannie and Lauren all worked together to pulled together to create this little magical haven of ladies, it truly felt like a day out of magazine or a book.
The first thing that seemed to work out perfectly was the location, and Alison being able to be home. I knew the girls had had some worries finding a place to hold the shower, and someone suggested Alison’s family farm, where we have held and attended various parties since way back in the high school bonfire/sand volleyback/cook out/barn sleepover days. Then turned out she, just before relocating to a new city and a new job (Woo, congrats, lady!!!), was going to come home to visit over the long Memorial Day weekend. Somehow, it worked out that she could not only be at the party, but facilitate them throwing the shower at her family farm.
The farm, as I said, is a place where Alison and her sister Lane have held various New Year’s Eve or End of Summer or Just Because parties. My family and I have known theirs since, jeez, at least elementary school. We grew up together, along with Lacey, all doing academic team and church and dance class together. Alison and Lane’s family became like my family, and ours became theirs. Over the last, seriously, 20 years(!), we have been having sleepovers and going to family functions with each other, and going on vacation together. Alison and Lane graciously threw Shaun and me an after-party at our wedding at the farm, and it was so perfect then too. The farmhouse is the most perfect place — a beautiful, funky house out on the back roads, spread out over green fields with Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrods, horses grazing. The interior is this perfect mix of homey and decorative, one of those houses with an equal balance of art, and vivid family photos.
So having the shower there already had a large degree of sentimental appreciation, and then the party planners clearly put a ton of work, planning, creating, cooking, decorating, and money into turning the farmhouse into an even more unique, celebratory place just for one day.
I arrived with my mama just after one PM. Before I even walked in the door, I could see they’d been hard at work. Glitter-dipped mason jars glittered with lavender candles. Rachel popped out on the porch, waved big with both arms, and said, Welcome to your baby shower! I knew she’d been helping with decorations when I saw the sign out front — Rachel’s calligraphy and design business clearly had been at work here.
Mama Suh and I were ushered inside, and as we found through to the back of the house, we saw these little touches everywhere. More of the candles in glitter jars, little vases of flowers. A bucket of diapers, so the guests could write funny or uplifting messages to me and Shaun on them to cheer us up on those hard diaper change days. A guest book that had each of the guests fill out a little questionnaire of advice for us, messages to baby girl, draw a self portrait, leave some love for me. We stepped into the kitchen and saw Ali and her mom Miss Donna, Lauren, and Jeannie sliding the last of the hors d’ouevres onto platters about the counter. Oh my God, the food. I mean, when I throw a party, I usually get a Wal-mart fruit tray and veggie tray, some hummus and crackers and salsa and chips, maybe some chips and dip if Travis is coming. A box of Oreos. Maybe if I’m really fancy, I make pizza rolls or piggies in a blanket, or Mexican layer dip. Things that take three steps and also please don’t look too close because I slapped it together. All this food was so dainty and pretty, healthy (mostly) and fresh, and — as we found out later — so delicious.
After we greeted and hugged everyone, Alison quickly got us drinks and just had Mama and I relax while everyone else arrived. So many of my favourite people were there — Rachel’s mom Barb and her wife Dawn were there. We love to tell this story — Dawn was my teacher every day for SEVEN years. 6 grade music, 7 and 8 grade choir, concert choir, chamber choir, women’s choir. Choir trips, choir competitions, choir festivals. This poor woman put up with a lot, she had me from weirdo awkward precocious middler schooler up to semi-reasonably human by the time I graduated high school. And at the same time — Barb was Shaun’s teacher for several years. They always say, our two favourite students grew up and married each other. On top of that, Rachel and I danced together for years, so I knew Barb growing up too.
Miss Donna and Miss Kim both were my second moms growing up. If Mama was out of town for a weekend or a business trip, Jeannie and I stayed at one or the other’s houses. Miss Kim was my dance teacher from fourth grade until I graduated, Miss Donna was my chime choir director for most of the 11 years I did it. These are women who have watched me grow up literally under their noses. And then, there was my dear Mama Suh, who I can hardly even talk about that day, she was so charming and sweet and lovely and funny and relaxed. Watching her enjoy the party gave me almost more joy than enjoying it myself.
And then my girls, my girls — Rachel who I danced with and fed ducks in the park with all through middle and high school. Alison, my goofy and clever and charming girl who always makes any situation better. My Murph who is so funny and down-to-earth and hardworking. Sweet Becky, one of my oldest friends and fellow new mama, and sweet baby Lucy. Emi, my doula and my teacher and my confidant and at times, life coach, with sweet baby Jude. My Jeannie, my baby sister, my best friend. My Laureny, heart of my heart.
For a while, we just mingled and caught up. Lucy and Jude were passed, arm to arm. Jude was charming, giggling and waving at everyone. Lucy was so relaxed and chill, and fell asleep in one person’s arms and then stayed asleep when transferred to another’s. Everyone kept trying to feel my baby girl kick — she’s either had a little stage fright, or just been stubborn, for a lot of people. Shaun feels her regularly, almost every night now — but it took a while. So often, I’d say, oh, she’s kicking! and he’d rush over to feel — and she’d immediately stop, as soon as his hand was on my belly. Now she’s gotten good at moving for her daddy, especially if he talks to her first (<3) — but my friends and family have had a difficult time feeling her consistently too. Anytime she moved, I’d tried and get anyone who really wanted to feel her — Lauren and Jeannie, always keen to feel her again, and then poor Emi who has been trying so hard to feel her, and Ali, only in for a few days — and luckily, we got everyone to feel her!
It was just so many people I loved and who made me laugh, all under one roof. We admired the beautiful decorations the girls had made and put together, we tried out the various drinks available. (Virgin mimosas! The best idea for a baby shower! I didn’t even ever think of this but sparkling cider + orange or pineapple juice — tastes just about the same.) Then Alison called everyone into the food, which as I said, was delicious. Curry chicken salad sandwiches, homemade pimento cheese on Kirchoff‘s sourdough bread. Strawberry basil crostini and fancy cheese and fruit quesadillas, black bean salsa and fruits and veggies, little custard tarts. We ate and sat around, on the screened in porch or down in the sitting area, or on the back patio.
After eating, we all grouped together on the back porch. The girls had the cutest idea to set up a station to make Baby Girl some headbands — a great idea, since I haven’t really bought any for her myself, and I will treasure these all the more knowing that my dear ones made them for my daughter.
All the while we were working on headbands, Dawn and Barb kept telling me they bought a special book for me, one that they give to all expectant moms, and that I had to perform a dramatic reading of it once I opened it. So it seemed like the right time to do presents!
The book ended up being “Go the F*ck To Sleep,” which is hysterical. I don’t normally cuss in front of my mom — she’s not someone who cusses, so out of respect for her, I rarely cuss in front of her. I opened the present, and Dawn kept saying, Well, I’m glad your grandma isn’t here…and Mom, having heard the she must read the book out loud introduction, kept asking me what the book was. Ha! I read it with aplomb and intonation, and everyone laughed.
The gifts were so lovely — I got some really personal gifts that either had emotional significance to my relationship with that person, or else were handmade. They even collected a Baby’s First Library, an Murph idea that I absolutely adore. Everyone brought a little book, so now the baby has good collections of books her bookworm mama (and daddy!) can read to her.
After the gifts, we had a few group pictures. I love group pictures, I love them so much. I love seeing reminders of good times, I love watching our group grow and strengthen over the years. I always want a group picture at any kind of major gathering.
I can’t wait to look back on this picture in a year, when these babies will seem so much bigger and Baby Girl will be the newest baby.
Also one with the mommies, as I called it at first. Dawn accused me of meaning the old ladies, and we agreed upon distinguished matriarchs.
(Oh my GOD, they’re so cute.)
After the gifts and the pictures, there wasn’t really anything specific left to do. I’d requested no games, really — sometimes bridal or baby shower games are goofy to me, and I think we all found it nicer just to sit, moving from group to group, and talk. The whole afternoon was so idyllic — all these funny, clever ladies talking together, mingling comfortably, catching up, telling stories, making jokes, passing babies. So much love in one home, and no drama, no negativity. It was my special day, and yet I hope it was a special day for everyone — despite their hard work, their preparations, their set-up and clean-up.
As we grow older, it’s rarer and rarer to get us together as a larger group. Maybe we can manage two or three of us together, here and there. Maybe once a month, or every couple of months, we get a small group together for dinner. Once or twice a year, we get the majority of us in one room. Even the mommies (ahem, distinguished matriarchs) were a treat — all of us are in our later twenties now, some of us in our early thirties. We’re not kids anymore. Some of us have our own kids, or are about to — and yet, all of us together, having known each other so long, our moms in the next room chatting comfortably together, treating us like their babies even though we’re grown — there’s something really rewarding and soothing about that. The idea that we are all growing up — how scary that can feel sometimes — and yet, some things can stay the same. Our friendships, our ability to rely on each other, our laughter. Our mothers’ loves and unending support.
And so, the party started to wind down, even though we maybe didn’t want it to. I know that I, by this point, started to feel much like a toddler myself. Overstimulated, probably on a crashing sugar high. Too much excitement, too much attention. Shaun showed up after he got off of work, and it was such a relief to see him — he’s such a solid, grounding presence in my life, constantly. Something about him being around just makes me feel good, steady, calmer.
The gals brought out the cake — after we’d all had a chance to clear some room in our bellies from the snacks earlier. Which was good, because this cake was MASSIVE. We could barely lift it, and Miss Donna even got out the measuring tape — it topped out at just over six inches!!
So we ate cake together, and then a few people had to start heading out — which would later start the flow of people tidying up and leaving for some rest.
But first — we got one more special treat.
I’ve mentioned that Dawn and Barb were Shaun’s and my teachers for years, and staying connected to them as adults is such a treat. We were at their wedding last year, and they were at ours two years before. One of the best gifts they gave of us on our wedding day wasn’t a thing you could touch or use — but an emotional gift, a meaningful gift — a song.
The rain may fall, the wind may blow, sunny skies may come and go. Through it all, one thing I’ve learned…we will always be partners.
A perfect song for a wedding, and although we were celebrating Shaun’s and my beloved daughter making her way into this world soon, it still seemed right to ask them to sing for us. Because live music, in any capacity, is a blessing and a balm. Because two such beautiful, blending voices as theirs deserve to be heard often and loudly. Because they’d made me read Go the F*ck to Sleep outloud in front of a crowd, and turnabout is fair play. Because their love for each other is so evident when they sing together. And because, well, Shaun and I are partners, and we will be partners bringing our daughter into the world, and raising her.
I grew up hearing Dawn sing, and she’s the woman who taught me how to sing, how to be a strong alto, how to find the harmony and blend my voice. Her and Barb’s voice together are so harmonious, Dawn’s lower voice strong and resonant, Barb’s higher voice smooth and lilting. I think several of the guests hadn’t heard them sing before, or seen the video from our wedding — and there were oos and ahs and maybe a couple touched tears afterwards.
And then — it was time to go. I won’t lie, I was exhausted, and I hadn’t done anything harder than smile, laugh, eat and drink and be merry. But again, my ladies (and Shaun!) were such sweethearts — got me some water, settled me in a rocking chair to read over my guest book, while Mama Suh rocked baby Lucy to sleep on her chest, practicing for her granddaughter, and Jude played at my feet.
In no time at all, the gifts had been packed out to the car, and leftovers distributed. We’d had some ambitious plan to meet up later on in the evening — Mexican food for dinner, then some time out at one of the local breweries — but it soon became evident none of us were up for that.
And so, in some ways, this is my favourite part:
We left the farm, slowly and in small groups. We all went home and unloaded our cars and got changed and maybe had a brief nap. Then — everyone came over to our house.
At the baby shower, we’d all been in spring dresses, our hair done up, and our make-up maybe a little nicer than usual. We’d had specific snacks and drinks, on nice china and goblets. We’d made sure to be polite and say please and thank you and sit with our legs crossed. We can be adults, every now again, if we must. But then — this evening gathering: sweatpants and yoga pants. Glasses and no make-up on. Husbands in tow, a quilt spread out on the floor for the babies. Eating leftover food from the shower off of paper plates and napkins. Four or five conversations going on top of each other. Mario Kart and Jurassic World and later, Clueless.
Just a comfortable, happy group of friends. Just a loving circle of people who are caring and generous and funny and loving and supportive — and don’t need anything fancier or more complicated than each other’s time.
I am so lucky to have them, so lucky Shaun and I can call them all our brothers and sisters. So lucky that our daughter will be brought into the world, already so loved and cherished by such a family.
[most of these pictures are mine, but a couple are borrowed from fellow guests, thank you!]