Showered with Love

An adoption shower can be a fun way to prepare yourself for your impending parenthood. Here, tips for making it an event to remember.

Spending five months paper-chasing my way through various government offices was almost enough to dampen my enthusiasm for parenthood.

Fortunately, once my dossier was signed, sealed, and ready to send to China, my mother and sister thought of the perfect way to inject a little fun into the long wait for a referral — an adoption shower. As we soon discovered, planning it isn’t quite the same thing as planning a traditional baby shower. Yet, in many ways, it was much more rewarding.

The Big Date Decision

First off, finding the right time to celebrate your impending arrival can be tricky. Your friends and family members may be itching to pick out baby clothes and blankets the second you announce that you’re planning to adopt a child, but you may feel superstitious about having a fully decked-out nursery before your homestudy has even been finalized.

Work with your shower hosts to plan your party on a date that feels comfortable to you. I felt confident and ready to celebrate my mom-to-be status once the homestudy was successfully completed, but I know other adoptive parents who chose to wait until they received their referral — or even until after their child arrived — to give their shower hosts the green light.

Creating a Dream Theme

A traditional baby shower often features a very sweet, baby-centric motif: teddy bears, nursery rhymes, or Peter Rabbit. While I love a good nursery rhyme, I was happy that my mother thought of a more exotic route for a party theme — she opted to celebrate my future child’s heritage by incorporating elements of Chinese culture into the shower.

Red is considered a color of luck in China, so it was prominently featured in the party décor; the menu consisted of several popular Chinese dishes, ranging from egg rolls to shrimp with snow peas to almond cookies and fortune cookies for dessert.

You may want to get into the act and help your shower hosts research ideas for the menu, favors, and décor. For example: To celebrate a Russian adoption, serve blinis with caviar; as favors for a Chinese adoption, consider sets of chopsticks, tied with red ribbons; brightly colored Guatemalan fabrics can adorn the tables at a shower for the future parents of a Guatemalan baby.

If you’re adopting domestically, consider playing up the state in which your child will be born. Your friends and family can have some creative fun hosting a wine-tasting shower for the baby from California; Maryland crab cakes make an apropos entrée at a celebration in honor of a Baltimore-born baby.

An Inviting Proposition

Invitations to an adoption shower don’t have to be altogether different from those for a traditional baby shower. Simply have your hosts avoid the type that feature illustrated figures of pregnant women or wording that reflects a biological mother’s perspective.

If your hosts can’t find anything they like, they can follow the route my mother and sister took — they made their own. On pretty pink paper, they wrote: “Lisa and Mike have completed the paperwork for the adoption of their baby girl from China! Let’s help them get ready for the big day when Katharine Caroline will be on her way. Help fill the nursery with gifts for the little one. Be sure not to miss out on all the fun!”

If anyone’s into computers, they can design an invitation with publishing software. For more help with wording, go to www.verseit.com.

Playing (Shower) Games

If guests don’t know each other well, games can help break the ice. While some baby shower games aren’t suitable for an adoption shower (there was no way I was letting my family guess the size of my belly!), there are plenty of other activities that bring added fun to the celebration.

If your baby’s name hasn’t been made public, let guests try to guess what name you chose. (The person who guesses the correct name wins a prize.) Consider creating an adoption-themed trivia game. Give guests two minutes to list famous people who are/were adoptive parents or adopted children (like Angelina Jolie and Gerald Ford), or create a mix of questions involving both general adoption trivia and more personal information (“Name the agency Bob and Sue are using”). The person with the most correct guesses wins a prize. Or keep it simple. The game at my shower involved my mother setting a timer every few minutes during the gift-opening segment of the party — when the buzzer sounded, the person whose gift I was opening won a prize.

A Little Gift Guidance

Most people know what to buy for a newborn, but if you’re adopting an older baby or toddler, your guests may be uncertain about what you’ll need. Consider creating a registry, so adoption shower guests can choose gifts you’re sure to use. Or at the very least, give your hosts some suggestions that they can pass on to guests.

Your hosts may also ask guests to provide a second set of mini-gifts that fit a certain theme. If you’ll need to travel to get your baby, they may request that everyone bring trial-sized toiletries, travel games, pre-paid calling cards, and other on-the-road essentials. Our agency suggested that we bring items to contribute to our child’s orphanage, so my mother asked guests to bring things to include in our offering. We filled a large duffel bag with bottles, medication, blankets, and other things the orphanage needed.

Traditional with a Twist

An adoption shower is a chance for friends and family to share the joy of your new stage of life. Whether you favor the traditional tea-and-tarts variety or a co-ed, kid-friendly, backyard barbecue, your hosts will most likely be happy to work with your vision of the perfect party to commemorate your soon-to-be parenthood.

Finally, no matter how you celebrate, don’t forget to give thanks. Designate a close friend or relative to keep a list of what each guest gave you, so that you can send out thank-you notes after the party. And remember to choose a special gift for each of your thoughtful hosts to show your gratitude.

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When You Expect a Toddler or an Older Child

Baby stores provide long lists of must-haves for newborns. But if you’re selecting the essentials for an arriving toddler or young child, planning your wish list can be tricky. How to figure it out?

Ask Another Mother for Help.
If you know someone who has a child about the same age as yours will be, find out which items she finds indispensable, and which things her child has already outgrown. For instance, many new mothers request a swing to soothe the baby, but if your child will be 8 months old by the time he arrives home, he may be too big to use it.

Err on the Side of “Too Old.”
If your child could be within a range of ages, aim for things that will suit her at the upper age limits. That way, you can be sure that you’ll be able to make use of every gift at some point — even if it’s not right at the time of arrival. (It may not seem like it at the moment, but, eventually, that 8-month-old will be ready to try the training toilet.)

Be Careful with Clothing.
It’s hard to resist the temptation of adorable baby overalls or sneakers. But unless you know exactly what size your son or daughter will wear (or your friends are hosting a post-placement shower), you may want to limit the amount of clothing you get. If you just can’t stop that future grandmother from buying a cute little set of pajamas, ask that any gifts of clothing be as seasonless as possible (perhaps a pair of jeans or a lightweight sweater) and in the larger range of what might fit your child — preferably from a store with a liberal return policy. Better still, guests could be encouraged to purchase gift cards, instead, so that you’re all set to go on a fashion shopping spree when your child comes home.

Consider Themed Gifts.
If you’re unsure what age your child will be — or you know only that your child will be beyond crib-and-stroller age — your hosts may want to create a themed gift shower: A book shower will stock your shelves with all the picture books and parenting texts you need to get you through the early years; an education-themed shower for an older child can feature educational toys, essential school gear — or even contributions toward his college tuition. Now that’s a gift every parent will love!

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