Gone are the days when etiquette was black and white. There is no formal code written on when it is most appropriate to hold a baby shower. There used to be so many rules on who could host, when it could be hosted, what gifts should be bought, food served, games played, etc. But times have changed, and so have the rules for adoption baby showers. There was a day and age where adoption itself was hush-hush, so adoption showers were unheard-of. If a shower was thrown for a mother via adoption, it was almost always small, indiscreet, and after placement. But why? Why should adoptions, which are so common, not be celebrated?

Some women wish to not have a shower for their adoption. They have their own reasons–maybe based on fears of the placement not occurring, of being disrespectful to the expectant mother they are matched with, or of not wanting to jinx their placement. While I don’t recommend flaunting a child-specific baby shower during an adoption match, I don’t discourage women from having a pre-placement shower either.

Some women crave the tradition and being treated like an expecting mom. Baby showers are a part of our society, and the infertile women can feel shunned when they are denied the opportunity to celebrate. Attending baby showers for others can be a trigger, and the fear of never getting the same experience can be hurtful. Should they be treated differently than any other expectant mother? Outsiders shouldn’t have the authority to tell her if she should or shouldn’t have a baby shower to celebrate because of their etiquette misconceptions.

A family that is growing through adoption has just as many needs as a family that is formed biologically. You are celebrating the family expanding and a new life joining the world. Women are often adopting because of infertility. When a woman is denied the ability to bear children, she already feels sub-par. She may desperately want to feel normal. She is excited about her family growing and fearful of not being prepared because adoptions can often happen at any moment. Whether she is matched with an expectant mom who has made an adoption plan or she is waiting to be selected, she too is expecting.

I have heard the argument that a shower should not be thrown because the adoption isn’t a sure thing. While this is true for a match that has formed prior to birth, it does not mean the family will never bring a baby home. The scary reality is that not all pregnancies or adoptions are always fruitful in the end. Just as a woman who is pregnant may miscarry, experience a still-birth, or other loss, nothing is a guarantee in adoption. We shouldn’t punish women based on infertility or adoption. All new life should be celebrated. The tradition of a baby shower celebrating an expanding family should not be so quickly dismissed just because that expansion is through adoption.

Some things to consider:

—Do the hopeful parents WANT a baby shower?
—Are the hopeful parents already matched?
—Is the expectant mother they are matched with urging them to have a shower?
—Is the family excited to welcome a new child?
—Can the baby shower be an opportunity to teach others about adoption?
—Are you treating the hopeful parents the same as you would someone who was pregnant?
—Does the couple have everything the baby will need if placement occurs tomorrow?

In situations where the family is open to either gender or is not already matched, why not just throw a gender-neutral baby shower to celebrate? Only register for items that will be necessary immediately when the baby is born so the mother can be prepared. You will need a crib, car seat, stroller, diapers, wipes, baby bath supplies, onesies, blankets, etc., regardless of gender. I actually recommend gender-neutral or at least non-baby-specific showers simply out of respect to the mother who has made an adoption plan for her unborn baby. A woman may be requesting to only adopt a girl. In that case, feel free to pink it up, but I would avoid it being match-specific. This way, it is about celebrating a new life and an expanding family without the assumption that the expectant mother will place her child with the family. Until the mother has given birth and signed the Termination of Parental Rights, the child is still hers. Respecting that goes a long way.

I think a big fear from many people is if the match falls through, they will have to return the gifts. If the shower is gender-neutral and not match-specific, and they have some knowledge about how adoption works, it will be perceived in a much better light.  A failed match is not like calling off the wedding the day of the event.

Some women may not want a baby shower prior to placement, but other women do. Try not to take your own insecurities as a friend or family member who is not experiencing the things this woman is, and allow her to tell you if she wants to participate in this rite of passage or not. It could be very hurtful to her if you decide for her that an adoption shower is not appropriate or she should wait until after placement. She may feel left out, forgotten, and dismissed. Those aren’t good feelings when all we want to feel is happy about our soon to be growing family!