When should we have a baby shower if we’re adopting?

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Photo by Stephanie Kaloi.
Photo by Stephanie Kaloi.
In a few short months, after years of planning and waiting, my partner-in-crime and I will be bringing home a baby. Nope, I’m definitely not pregnant — we are building a family through domestic transracial infant adoption!

Both our families are unbelievably stoked about our new addition; however no one, myself included, is not sure how to handle some of the details. Unfortunately, a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… Through A Birthmother with a Social Worker” does not exist (yet) and details, such as throwing a baby shower or when we can comfortably share the news of our wee one’s due date and homecoming date are challenging to navigate. Our agency and network of friends who have adopted have all made us aware that a placement does not always result in a family and that our situation could change very abruptly.

We are as emotionally prepared for that circumstance as we can be (which does not mean very much) and have spoken with both our parents and siblings about the possibly of this happening. But does that mean bypassing all the nesting-with-friends-and-family traditions that come with traditional family-buildin’? I would love our community of friends and family to feel involved and welcome as we prepare to bring home our monster bebe. — Kate.

We asked regular Offbeat Mama contributor and twice-adoptive mother Alissa (you can read her archive of posts here) for her thoughts on the topic… here’s what she had to say:

Based on what worked well for us, I would say yes, you absolutely can do the shower/nesting with friends stuff — just do it after the baby is here and with you (or if it is a foster-to-adopt situation, after the baby is legally free). What we did with our first child was a general announcement of intent to adopt (via Facebook, I think) which was basically a link to the blog I was writing about the experience. Then I announced widely again when we were matched, but I wouldn’t let anyone buy us presents or throw a shower until we had the baby… which was a good thing, because we had to make another general announcement when our match fell through.

The bummer side of this is that you are very excited and want to have parties and get presents and so forth and so on. Plus, for me, there was a temptation to get stuff so that it would seem real, since there was no baby growing in my belly reminding me that I was in a process that would end in a real little person in my life forever. But we went ahead and got the basics ourselves. When our first match fell through, I was so glad we hadn’t celebrated prematurely — all our baby stuff fit into a closet and was easy to put out of sight for a little while as we grieved the lost match.

The upside, which I’d never ever have traded away, was having a shower/welcome party for our daughter after she was in the world and in our arms. I think J was about four-months-old when we had her “Lullaby Shower” a party where all of our friends brought lullabys and sang them for her. We recorded it, and she’ll have something forever to remind her how joyously she was welcomed into our family and community. And honestly I think we got even more spoiled by our friends (with love, gifts, meals, just SPOILED) doing it after she was ours than we would have if we’d celebrated in advance.

So basically my recommendation is this: do everything you want to do, just do it after the baby is here and yours for real and forever.

Comments on When should we have a baby shower if we’re adopting?

  1. A coworker of mine just went through this and she’s having it after the baby arrives. The reason she decided to do this is this is now the third adoption she is going through. The first adoption the mother changed her mind after the baby was born and the second adoption the mother ended up miscarrying. The third time was a success and she now has the baby safely at home so we’re having the shower for her later this month.

  2. Both of our children are ours by birth, and we still had the party after they were born. We called it a baby welcoming and everyone was thrilled about that. After all, everyone wants to meet the baby anyway (and the expectations for what you are going to do are so much lower when everyone knows that you’re sleep deprived and have new-parent brain!).


  3. I had my daughter at 18 and hadnt told anyone that I was pregnant, because of this the baby showers were all when she was already here and i loved it! I always thought that I would do it that way with the next one, its just so nice.

  4. Our friends who adopted from China had their shower a couple of weeks before their travel date. That gave them time to make sure they had everything they needed, purchase things they didn’t receive as gifts, etc. But for domestic adoption, I agree with the above posters who said to wait until things are more stable after the child is home with you.

  5. As a recent transracial adoptive momma myself, these are a few things that we did that seemed to work our really well for us!

    1) after we got homestufy approved, we went to the big box baby store and made a registry of baby NEEDS (car seat, stroller, crib, etc). This was not made public, and we did this because if we got The Call and had a very short time to travel, we could have one of our parents buy our list for us while we were gone. Or, in our case, we did end up having some time to get ready, but not a lot, and already having our list together was very helpful.

    2)We got matched 5 weeks after we were homestudy approved, and had our baby 7 weeks later, so we were a bit short on time for preperation. The day before we traveled, my co-workers threw a “gift card” shower. Gift cards to Target, Baby stores, and grocery stores were given. This was a big life saver as we spent 3 weeks out of state and did need to buy things like clothes, formula,diapers…and food for us! This was a very thoughful idea because if something unfortunate did happen last minute, we weren’t sitting on a bunch of baby things. Gift cards are easily tucked away don’t expire, and can always be used at a later date.

    3)When our son was 6 weeks old, our family hosted a shower for him. It was a wonderful expereince because he was there to celebrate too! Family from all over the US came to meet our son, so we have some really lovely photos from that party. It was SO much better because he was there!

    Best of luck!!

  6. This makes me think of a quote from Natalie Portman on why she chose not to have a baby shower before her baby was born. She said that jewish tradition dictated you wait, not share names, buy gifts etc until you had the baby. According to http://www.jewfaq.org/birth.htm :
    “Although attitudes towards this are changing, Jews traditionally did not hold baby showers before the baby was born. In fact, traditionally Jewish parents did not even purchase things for the baby or discuss baby names until the baby was born. The usual reason given for this custom is pure superstition: drawing attention to the baby also draws bad luck to the baby.

    However, there are solid psychological reasons for this custom as well: the old proverb about not counting your chickens before they’ve hatched. There was a time when miscarriages, stillborn babies and infant mortality were quite common. Consider the pain of a parent who has lost a potential child but is left with piles of gifts that the baby will never use, gifts that they have to return, reopening the wound each time. Although this sort of thing is less common today than it was a century ago, it still happens.”

    The same can go for an adopted baby. Wait until it is there and have a special party. This post could easily be written for a premature baby as well. My friend recently gave birth at 26 weeks. The baby is doing fine and is gaining weight all the time, but for many months, it was touch and go as to when/if the baby was coming home. When my friend is at home, AND baby is in the clear- we are having a BIG BABY COOING PARTY. Baby showers are more fun with a baby anyways!

    • My mother’s family is Greek and I grew up with the same “nothing for the baby until he’s here” custom. I think at the end of the day, it is probably the best way to do it.I mean, you get to meet THE BABY at the babyshower.

    • Yup, our family members gave gifts for our baby boy at the Bris (when he was 8 days old). We did have a nursery building day in advance though. Made sure he had a place to sleep when he showed up early.

  7. What about ideas for a “not-baby” shower for adopting older children? My partner and I are planning on adopting from the foster system and would be taking kids who are already school-aged. Clearly a big party of unfamiliar people is a bad idea. But we would love to have the support for ourselves and for them. Does anyone have experience with this kind of adoption party?

    • Maybe a big “welcome to the family” party after the kid has settled in and adjusted a bit to the new home and met some of the guests in smaller, less pressure settings. The good thing with an older kid is that you can ask for their input.

    • My family had an adoption party for my 2 younger sisters and younger brother who were adopted on the same day as they were a family unit. They were in our family as foster children before adoption so everyone knew them and they them. The party wasn’t until the afternoon of the court date when the adoption was finalized.

  8. I love the idea of having the festivities once the baby arrives. It removes the questions of whether or not things will actually happen and let’s everyone celebrate with abandon- not to mention meet the new baby!

    A friend who adopted a toddler from China had a shower after her daughter was home and settled enough to enjoy it too. Everyone got to meet her and watch her enjoy the presents along with her mom and dad. It was great to be a part of.

    • Another thing- I’ve heard of a party called a “Sip and See” where you serve tea and have everyone over to see the new baby. I’ve heard it done for second babies (when a baby shower isn’t necessary since the family is all set), but it could work in a situation where the event is happening after baby arrives.

  9. The parents of my daughter had their baby shower after she was home with them. They didn’t even tell most friends that they were placed (everyone knew they were trying to adopt though). Only close family and bosses knew that I had picked them because they were being cautious and didn’t want to have the heartbreak all over again. A year before C came, they had gotten twins and had them over night and the next day the birthmother came back for them (as her state allowed a couple of days after signing to change your mind). Once I signed the papers (in my state there is no allotted time period in case we decide we can’t go through with it) they sent out a mass picture text to everyone. I think they also really enjoyed having her there to celebrate (they even sent me pictures and the favors they had for her) so much so that when I have my own to parent that I may wait for the little one to be there as well.

    • I’m a birthmother as well. About a month after my daughter was born I invited her, her adoptive parents, and my close friends over to my home and asked everyone to bring a letter to the baby about how loved she was and pictures of “her” from when I was pregnant. We put everything in a box for her to open when she’s older, to help prevent the common worry about why she was given up. Her adoptive parents had a post-adoption party to celebrate her homecoming and sent me pictures of her with all her new family members, which meant a lot to me. I love the idea of holding a shower to meet the baby after it is born and will probably do that when I start a family of my own.

      • aww that is so sweet! I wish I could have done something like that with my family and friends but the family I picked happened to live across the country and very few people knew at the time that I was even pregnant. I did however have them come over to the maternity house I was at and we went and had a baby dedication at my church.

  10. We went through the same thing before we adopted my son. Several people were anxious to throw us a baby shower, but it really felt presumptuous. I couldn’t assume he was ours until his birth mom said so. We did have a welcome party about a month after he came home, and it was great for everyone to be able to meet him.

    As for supplies, we got the bare minimum and gathered some hand me downs from friends once we had a match, and gathered the rest after he was born. I did lots of “nesting with friends” through sharing my feelings about the adoption process, and did the same speculating about my future kids that I think most people do.

    In a way I felt my prep was easier on me then what many of my friends did-they did so much planning for the birth and such that when it all went differently they were thrown off. We knew from the start that we had to figure out things as they unfolded and be ready to abandon any preconceived ideas. The whole experience was good prep for parenting:)

    Good luck and congrats!

  11. My kiddo is now two years old, and we’re a transracial family through domestic adoption.

    Guess I’m in the minority here, but we had a shower *before* our son was born. However, a big difference is that I wanted to have the shower before we were matched so that the shower wasn’t “attached” to any specific match situation. That way, if it fell through, I wouldn’t be too upset about the shower stuff.

    It worked out great! I loved getting to have a pre-baby shower like all my other mom friends have. 🙂 We made the shower colors gender neutral and made it clear that we wanted all items to be gender neutral, particularly since we didn’t know yet if we’d get a boy or a girl.

    Turns out, we got a “sky baby” and were called to be matched with our son the day *after* he was born. We had to travel asap and it was a big help to already have a lot of the things we would need.

    Given that you are matched, it might be difficult for family/friends/you to keep the shower as separate from the match, so in that case I would do it post-baby and have a welcome baby party.

    Best of luck to you!

  12. I have two adopted siblings, one domestic (and transracial) and one international. I don’t recall if we had many disappointments that fell through — I know we had at least one with the domestic adoption; my parents were VERY careful not to get the rest of us overexcited and then disappointed. (There were 3 others of us, 6-12 at the time). My parents did not have a shower, bc they already had 3 kids, but I think there was a welcome party.

    I definitely second the idea of anything formal and large being AFTER the baby comes for a domestic adoption. Ours happened quite quickly — well, after we waited for months and months and months! All of a sudden we had a call and went in the next day. For a biological mom, a party after the baby comes isn’t practical, bc of physical recovery time needed — but I would think it would be fine for adoptive parents.

    We did international adoption the second time, because we had legal issues with the domestic one which were fairly traumatic for all concerned, and it is a different process. By the time you have pictures, you’re pretty guaranteed to end up with that baby. We were told about him when he was 3 months old and he came up at 5 months old. In that case, a baby shower would’ve been fine, because we were quite sure it would work out.

    Good luck & congratulations to you!

  13. When we were awarded custody of our nephew, our church threw a shower for us. It turned out to be the day he came home 🙂 It was great for us because we had nothing for bebes.

    I have always loved the idea of waiting till the baby was home to have the shower.

  14. My parents had several adoptions fall through before I came along. I believe the first one fell through in the midst of baby-shower planning, and my mother vowed to never let that happen again because it was so upsetting. I don’t remember which of us this happened with, but after another string of failed adoptions, she and my dad literally had NOTHING when they got the call to go to the hospital, which was also not ideal. She recommended a small inner-circle gathering for basics (diapers, bottles, formula if going 5hat route, a few blankies and onsies,and a good carseat) before birth, but all the fun stuff afterwards.

  15. Thank you so much for the advice! It means so very much — this whole Mama thing is very intimidating! I am definitely in agreement with the advice that a Welcome Home party seems like a better way to go, while sharing some of our experience with close family/friends.

    A special thanks to Alissa for responding – I started reading Not A Visitor during a short-but-awful run with fertility treatments. I read all your posts and laughed and cried and then called my partner and said I was ready to pursue adoption. There are not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for you opening your life and sharing your experiences for other mamas-to-be. Every time I hear “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, I think of Baby J and your happy family. So much love, lady!
    xo, Kate

  16. In our family… we have also had a mix of types of baby showers… and majority of them are non-traditional “Meet the baby” showers where EVERYONE is invited… even guys. Usually held once the baby is about 4 to 6 weeks old… everyone comes, meets and holds the new little wee one.
    I would just have all the things you will need in the first few weeks… which is actually a lot less than most people realize… and just make sure to inform people of what you have already purchased for the baby… or better yet… take duplicates back to the store and get something else you actually needed or wanted.
    Congratulations… I really hope everything works out for your family. 🙂

  17. I’m in Australia where adoption is quite different. It takes up to 5 years just to be approved and parental rights are terminated while the baby is in foster care so there’s no chance of a failed match, also legalisation takes one year from placements and while they’re almost never disrupted it is a time of legal limbo.

    Given all of that, I’m a big fan of celebrating approval. It’s a huge commitment and feels like a real achievement after so long. Celebrating with friends, family, your referees with a grown up dinner or a baby shower type party is all good with me. But I must say, I’d opt for people to choose their favourite childhood books to share, rather then setting up for a baby. That way it’s about setting your home for children rather than a specific child or even a specific age range.

    I also really like the post legalisation parties, though it’s something that may be more emotional and complicated with older kids coming from foster care. While going to court is a big deal, I love the idea of pairing it with a naming / Christening / celebration ceremony more informally welcoming the child into not only the family, but the community the child is going to grow up within.

    This is something I’ve obviously thought way too much about after many years of waiting. More than anything I wish you all the best for your new little family. 🙂

  18. I would totally do it after the baby is born. I think that’s a great idea even for the standard baby shower. With our second we thought about doing a meet the baby event that was gift-free–we never got around to it, but I think that is a great idea too!

  19. I am all for post-baby coming home celebrating and fully plan on doing this once we have gotten through our adoption process. This idea has been a part of my life and was something that I assumed I would do if I were to give birth myself (alas, not to be). It was always nice to attend “welcome the baby” parties where the dad and other men were also present (if there is a dad and other men in the lives of the baby).

    When my brother was adopted at 6 years old, we had a big dinner/celebration after the court date, and he had been in my family since he was two.

  20. To be contrary:
    Our friends are super excited about affirming our decision to be parents. They’ve been beside us every step of the adoption process and have put a lot of work into helping us get ready.

    So- they wanted a shower and we said “sure.”

    Best decision we made. Our shower = huge celebration of the fact that we are going to be mamas, a few gifts, and something that doesn’t happen with bio-parents . . . us mama’s got to drink!

    It was a great way for friends to say “we love you” and a perfect way for us to say “Thank you, we love you, and yes we’ll be really busy pretty soon and are super happy to have this chance to party with y’all before we commence mommying.”

    So, if your party is about gifts, etc.- maybe a shindig afterwards will work. But ours was a great way to celebrate pre-arrival.

    **also a note on gifts- our friends who wanted to give gifts were happy to give the essentials, things we know we’ll need even though we don’t know gender or age of our kiddos. This was stuff like- favorite kids books, cleaning supplies, sheets, cabinet locks, family pictures, and music

    • Oh, this reminds me that we did have a prenatal shin dig! My girlfriends threw a very informal cocktail party to celebrate the end of my partying for a bit:) The original idea was to go bar hopping, sort of bachelorette style, but I think I had a cold and another friend was pregnant and another friend was sick, so we ended up hanging out at a friend’s apartment sipping wine. It was a really fun girls’ night out type thing, and no gifts. My husband didn’t do anything as planned, but we both made sure to enjoy socializing and nightlife in ways that we knew would not be happening much once we became parents.

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