I have been to a few baby showers. OI nce upon a time, the idea would have filled me with a sense of dread and, well, cooties. Around the time my son was born, it became vogue to have dads and potential dads hang around the edge of the generally mom-centric activities. I became adept at sipping punch and lingering in the kitchen, luring other men into discussions of sports and manly things to keep the estrogen levels at acceptable levels. It's more of an endurance thing than a social one.
In my line of work, I have had my share of opportunities to practice this mild avoidance. Elementary education has provided me with a great many chances to attend baby showers. It seems like just about once a year, one of the women with whom I work has found themselves in a family way, causing the envelopes to appear in our mailboxes or e-mail invitations to be sent. It is a pretty close-knit community and when the call goes out, it would be difficult to decline. It would be difficult if not impossible if my wife was attached on the invite. She loves an occasion, just about any occasion, and baby showers are near the top of her list. Most of the people with whom I work know this, and understand that I will respond accordingly.
The thing is, just about every time one of my colleagues has left on pregnancy leave, they have not returned. It is a reality with which I am very familiar. We bring our traditional gift to the party, The Pussifier: a stuffed animal with a great many pacifiers sewn to its appendages for easy access. We participate in the ways we know how, playing the games or avoiding them. We share stories about children and childbirth with those who have seen it and those who soon will.
And sooner or later, we find ourselves avoiding the topic: When are you coming back? Six weeks is never enough. Nine weeks? A year? How long would it be before a new mother is ready to leave their baby to return to the halls full of someone else's babies? I have worked with a number of women who have found ways to bridge that gap, but of all the women who have left school to go on pregnancy leave while I have been a teacher, only one has come back to our school.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I should have spent less time in the kitchen and more time in the living room, guessing weights or lengths. Or maybe it's part of the natural scheme of things. There's still so much I don't understand.