In the past eight years I have been to two baby showers. Two. Dos. Deux.
The first was for a friend who had twin boys at 28 weeks. I spent most of my time trying not to cry, refusing to play the ‘shove-your-nose-in-the-diaper-to-guess-what-kind-of-mushed-up-chocolate-is-inside’ game, and hiding in the back seat of a maroon Jeep, my back to the clothesline of precious white onesies strung across the lawn. Those twins turned five in May.
In January I attended the second. My friend had adopted after sixteen years of infertility. When she told me her church was throwing her a baby shower I knew I wanted to attend.
We were both a knot of nerves and excitement. We ate breakfast at Panera, drank too much coffee and tried to figure out how to do this thing called a baby shower when one of us actually had a baby. I slid my sweaty palms across the knees of my new jeans and mulled over the appropriateness of crying.
“You’ll hold him while I open the presents,” she said again. She checked the time on her iPhone, trying to decide how early was too early to arrive. Would we ruin something if we arrived early? Should we hide in the parking lot? The pastor’s office?
“I’ll hold him while you open presents,” I repeated. Nodded. My knees felt damp. The introvert in me was regretting the decision to drive three hours and spend a long morning with sixty strangers, holding my friend’s three month old while she opened three carloads worth of gifts.
Stretched across the booth between us were the questions we knew we’d face.
How do you know each other?
Where did you meet?
Do you have children?
We knew the answers were awkward. There’s no easy way to say we met online in a Christian community of infertile women. Try explain that to a young male customs officers at the US/Canadian border. Online community of who now? Believe me. Awkward.
An introvert has a single need when walking into a sea of strangers: to know who we are. Who we belong to. On The Len’s arm, I know I have an anchor. Across a bustling room I can latch onto him with a quick glance, quietly confident that I am known.
As we walked into the fellowship hall that morning and I extended a hand to greet the first stranger, I will never forget the swift and quiet click in my heart when she said, ‘This is my best friend, Thelma.’ An anchor. Belonging. The only thing I needed.
Through awkward questions and mounds of wrapping paper and ribbons and buttercream-frosted cupcakes and a fire-red tricycle with bells and whistles, I held the tiny body of a sweet boy that my dearest friend called ‘son’ and I cried. I do that a lot, actually. I’ve got the crying bit nailed down.
Community leads to belonging. Community anchors that part of us that longs to be known. And when, in moments and ways we least expect, someone claims us, knows us, we make each other stronger. Braver.
We need that. All of us.
When we find it? Heaven-sent.