When something good happens to a male — something exciting, something worth celebrating, something wonderful — we have a particular way of marking the occasion: we go out for drinks, eat food that probably would have gored us to death just a few days prior, and call each other names that would make George Carlin think we’d gone too far as a way of showing affection.
Women have showers.
Bridal showers, baby showers… I would not be remotely surprised if next week Buzzfeed posted an article proclaiming Menopause Showers the next big thing. Having never attended a shower myself until this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what the difference was between a “shower” and a “party.” Having joined Erin for a shower for our upcoming bundle of joy, it now seems obvious: showers require a terribly low ratio of Y to X chromosomes in order to officially qualify.
This shower has been in the works since mid-March. A few days before we made the official Facebook announcement of our pregnancy (without which our child would be unable to get a Social Security number and lose his eligibility to appear on The Price is Right someday) we went out to dinner with family and told them the joyous news. My sister Heather and sister-in-law Kayla were so joyous about the event they declared the shower their duty and began discussing prospective dates and themes before we even left the restaurant. As Erin and I had approximately 12 million things to figure out, we were more than happy to allow the two of them to handle this one.
Although Erin had a surprise wedding shower, we never entertained the idea of a surprise baby shower. For one thing, we needed to register for all of the things we needed (those registries are still active over at Babies R Us and Amazon, just saying), and for another thing, it seems unwise to startle a woman into premature labor. That said, while the party itself was planned ahead of time, that doesn’t mean there was NO room to surprise Erin that day. Her best friend Natalie, maid of honor at our wedding, lives in Pittsburgh. About two months before the wedding, she sent me a message telling me she was planning to come in for a visit, but she didn’t want Erin to know about it yet.
This was going to be fun.
I don’t often have secrets from Erin, and when I do I can usually grind the investigation to a halt by saying something like, “Don’t look in that box, that’s where I hid your Christmas present.” And she respects my request even as she proceeds to plead with me for the next month to tell her what it is. In this case, though, I had to hide messages from her. Some people might consider this far easier than hiding, for example, a coffeemaker, but when you suddenly snatch your phone from your wife’s hand because you’re afraid there may be a text message from her best friend on the notification screen, you need to be able to think fast.
Heather and Kayla joined the two of us in a conspiracy that easily could be the subject of a future Oliver Stone movie. Intrigue. Subterfuge. Accidentally going to the wrong Hilton. Natalie’s plan was to fly in on Friday for the Shower on Saturday, then stay with us for a couple of days. Fortunately, getting the house ready for a guest aroused little suspicion, as Erin assumed that people would be coming over after the Shower at Kayla’s house to help us carry in some of the larger gifts. “People” turned out to just be my father, but it was still no problem to get the house cleaner than it’s probably been since we moved in three years ago. In those three years, however, we’d never had a houseguest, so I was tasked with trying to figure out a way to get bedding for our futon without arousing Erin’s suspicion.
“Hey, these sheets are on clearance,” Erin said the next time we went to Walmart.
“Go ahead and put them in the cart,” I said.
I’m just saying, if the President hired me, a lot of those security problems would dry up immediately.
The biggest problem, as it turned out, came from Erin. She scheduled an ultrasound appointment for July 31, the last Monday before her teacher husband had to return to work for the new school year. Approximately twelve seconds later, I got a text from Natalie announcing that she’d booked a return flight on — and people who know how our luck with airlines has gone since Erin and I first met are already ahead of me on this one — July 31. Now I turned to the conspiracy to put our collective brains together and conjure a scheme that would trick Erin into rescheduling her appointment without arousing her suspicion.
“You’re a writer, you’ll think of something,” Natalie said.
I thought about just calling the medical center myself and requesting they change the appointment, but I wasn’t sure how to start the conversation. “Yes, I would like you to call my wife and tell her she needs to reschedule her ultrasound, but you can’t let her know the reason why.” It didn’t seem like a good approach. Even if I talked to someone sympathetic to my cause, I knew it would only take one person at the office who wasn’t in the loop or who didn’t understand what I was asking to call Erin up and blow the whole thing. If my experience with the Illuminati has taught me anything, it’s that the fewer people involved, the easier it is to keep a secret. (NOTE FROM THE ILLUSTRIOUS POTENTATE: Take that line out before you post this, you idiot.) No, I needed to think of a way to get her to do it herself.
The good news is that Erin prefers if I go to these appointments with her, so if I could conjure up my own excuse, she’d change it so I could still be there. I told her, then, that the English department at my school had requested a pre-school year curriculum meeting on the 31st, assuming that she wouldn’t be upset with me if I told her I had to do something for work.
Spoiler alert: I was wrong.
She got mad, asking me over and over why the other eight people in the department couldn’t change their schedules, going to her own job while still sore because I had to go to mine, and still having a thorn in her paw over the whole thing for the next few days. I kept my lips shut, knowing it would be worth it in the end.
On the day of the party, we walked into Kayla’s house while Natalie hid in my niece’s room, then snuck out behind Erin and said hello. Erin turned and casually said, “Hi,” taking about a beat and a half before she realized she was talking to someone she believed to be a thousand miles away and breaking into a gleeful hug. After Natalie cued her in to our shared deception I stood behind her, smiling, as she turned to me with regret and apology in her eyes.
“I’ll let it go this time, she said.
It’s the best I could have hoped for, honestly.
The shower itself — the first such I ever attended — was nice. Sure, the only other men there were my friend Jason, who came with his wife, and my cousin’s son Lucas, who didn’t have a babysitter available. Heather and Kayla chose a Star Wars theme for the shower, including invitations asking people to help welcome the “little Jedi,” a Yoda cake and Chewbacca cupcakes, and chocolates in the shape of Star Wars ships and aliens. Some of you, I know, may be frowning at me right now. “Blake,” you’re saying. “The Baby Shower should be your wife’s day. How can you take it over with such a nerdy theme?”
The people saying these naive things do not know my wife. My wife, who has already started making arrangements for Aunt Kayla to babysit the weekend The Last Jedi is released. My wife, who bought an Empire Strikes Back poster for our living room. My wife, who — and I swear to God this is NOT a joke — brought a little vial with some of her father’s ashes with us to see The Force Awakens.
I love Star Wars as much as the next American male, but the theme wasn’t for ME.
The food was great and the gifts were terribly thoughtful, including a few that were done specifically in memory of my mother. Mom’s cousin made a “daddy apron” for me, including pockets for a toy, snack, and spare diapers. My aunt crocheted an afghan using the same pattern Mom used for my sister’s son three years ago. A family friend gave us a book that my mom gave to her son when he was born. There were some damp eyes in the room as we read those cards, and I’m not ashamed to admit at least two of those were mine.
My dad got us the stroller/car seat combo we needed. There were pacifiers and diapers and baby supplies, blankets and gift cards and cash. We got a lot of books, because people know us. We got a lot of superhero outfits and toys, because people know us. A few family members put in and got us a baby walker that looks like the Batmobile, because people know us and are awesome. And the coup de grace came from Jason, who wasn’t only at the party so that Lucas and I would have someone to hang out with. He’d told us ahead of time that he and Andrea were going to make a toy chest for the kid, which we found very sweet, but we never expected what we saw when we unveiled it: a three-foot beauty on wheels. It was painted blue, decoupaged with comic book pages on all sides and stamped with a perfect Superman shield on the front. My eyes bugged out so far I thought they’d roll from my skull. Erin is going to have to remind me repeatedly that the chest is for the boy and not me.
When all was said and done, we had a great afternoon with people we care about and came home with a lot of things we really needed (although I feel I should point out once again, just for the sake of scientific completion, that the registries we made at Babies R Us and Amazon are still active and people are more than welcome to go and browse and buy things and stuff). It’s one of those moments in a pregnancy — particularly a first pregnancy — where you’re reminded that you aren’t in it alone.
At least, not until it’s time to change a diaper.
You may have heard, Blake and Erin have a baby on the way, so he hopes you’ll allow him to remind you he’s got a bunch of books and short stories for sale on Amazon, and suggest you follow his author’s page on Facebook.