Our stomachs were full, sure, with cheesy bread, cake, washed down and around with cups of tea, but when the last guest left and we put our feet up, it was our hearts that felt wrung out, stuffed and overflowing. My sister placed her hands on her basketball tummy, growing bigger each day as that little boy inside stretches and fills up the space.
The house had been full, seats had been warmed, with people we have known almost since the time our own mother had us. They watched my sister grow up, let her babysit their own children, clapped and cheered as she became a wife, and now sat again, in our living room, welcoming her into motherhood with gifts, laughter, and gentle advice. Friends who had stood up in her wedding now held out hands to balance her as she sits in this waiting— already a mother but not quite yet.
Each of them came and stuffed her arms full with rattles, onesies, blankets and creams, tied together with anecdotes and stories of their own wakings in the night, their own aches and joys, their own sweet bundle. I was reminded again that we are a linked people, that these experiences and milestones are not made to separate or distinguish us, but to make us all into one. This shower was about Laura, in a way, but it was more about what we are all made for: to nourish, restore, and encourage life.
Where would we be, without that solid foundation? Without a community who could bring us their gifts and their stories, their prayers and their love? Where would any child be, had they no village to raise them?
We stacked the picture books up high, and I watched as my parents began to flip through the pages. Slowly, they read Click Clack Moo and Things That Type, Goodnight Moon, Chicken Licken as though trying them on, swirling the words around in their mouths, practicing for the time soon coming when they will read to a little boy, obliging each time as he claps his hand and says, “Again!” It’s a new kind of vulnerability, watching a parent prepare to become a grandparent. For them, I guess, it’s another way of letting go.
We make room in the living room for a new family member to arrive. We shuffle around furniture, adding cribs, pack and plays, room for a carseat, money for baby toys in the budget. We also move things around inside of us, pushing them around as we watch our sister and brother in law become parents. We make room to swell with love for the baby we haven’t met yet, the baby we already care for so much.
They are given things and tools as they make room to grow, for the first time. We, the village, throw showers and give gifts to free up space in our own hearts, to stretch out again, to say, little child, you are so welcome here.
Rachael is an MFA Student and Writer in Pittsburgh. She blogs at Steeped in Thought.