Tuesday, December 8, 2015

An unexpected shower

An unexpected shower on afeathery*nest  |  http://afeatherynest.com

When my friend Johanna invited me over for a "Julbak och Julpyssel kväll" (Christmas baking and crafting evening) with her sister-in-law and their daughters I was thrilled. A whole Saturday afternoon and evening listening to cheery Christmas carols, crafting together with little girls, and rolling out and baking Swedish gingerbread cookies (pepparkakor) all while candles are twinkling and aromas of ginger and cinnamon waft about? That is exactly my cup of tea—or, glögg, as it so happens.

But when I walked in and began the 5-minute long process that is now required when I take off my coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots I noticed that she was quite dressed up for an evening of baking and it wasn't until I finally turned away from the coat rack and began waddling towards the living room that I realized there were people sitting there that I knew, but that she didn't. And instead of flashes of Christmassy red and white and gold and silver I saw blue and pink banners and balloons and realized it wasn't a Christmas baking and crafting evening at all, but a surprise baby shower!

(Which didn't stop me from turning back to her and saying, wait, so we're not baking?)

Since baby showers are still a relatively new thing in Sweden, and with so many of my female relatives and friends living in the U.S., I didn't even think about having a baby shower, so it was an even bigger surprise for me that she would throw me one.

And such a lovely and thoughtfully-put together one it was.

It began with us sitting at the dining table where my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I realized what was on the menu—remember that fantastic Kurdish biryani I talked about a year and a half ago, the one I couldn't get over when I first had it at Johanna's daughter's birthday party? Well, she knew how much I loved that crunchy, savory goodness and had her mom make a special one and bring it over for the baby shower.

While we ate I questioned everyone about their birth experiences—as all the ladies present, both Swedish and American, have given birth in Stockholm in the last few years and had a lot to share from when their labor began to their experiences at the hospital to their stay at the "hotel" and their first days home.

And the girls all had a good laugh when I specifically asked when their water broke (1 at home in the bathroom, all the rest at the hospital during active labor), and then revealed that R, at the suggestion of his (American) colleague, covered my spot on the sofa and the bed with satin shower curtains just in case my water broke on our newly-purchased, long sought after, non-IKEA furniture.

After dinner we moved to the coffee table where Johanna had set a deliciously-decadent walnut/hazelnut cake topped with bitter chocolate mousse, a plate of mini cupcakes and cake pops that nodded to my Americanness (Red velvet cake! S'mores! Banana nut!), and mugs of tea for us to snack on while we began the baby shower games.

To start, all the girls filled out a questionnaire where they answered questions like when they thought the baby would be born, its hair and eye color, whether it would be a boy or a girl, what letter they thought the name would begin with, and its weight and length.

Then each girl took a ball of yarn and cut off a length they felt would encompass my stomach—some were tragically large, but two, Johanna's and R's cousin's fiancee's were exactly the right circumference.

After that began the portion of the evening that separated the mamas (everyone else) from the non-mamas (me). The third activity involved a selection of baby foods in unmarked containers and the request that we guessed what they were. I seem to think pre-prepared baby food is a bit more gourmet and over-the-top then it actually is, as I came up with, "Sun-dried tomato pesto pasta" (it was spaghetti with meat sauce). I also had trouble identifying the different types of paps and cereals, calling what was a cornmeal and potato puree, "some kind of mash".

Next we were each blindfolded in turn and told to diaper a doll. I came in dead last at 38 seconds (the winning girl did it in 23), although I did get a point for style.

Finally, the true test of a mama vs. a non-mama. Johanna disappeared into the kitchen and came back with 3 "dirtied" diapers. I logically knew that they weren't actually dirtied by any baby and were smeared with some kind of food, but the color/texture (ugh) of the substances and seeing them inside diapers was too literal for me and I began to feel quite nauseous, something I haven't felt since back during my first trimester.

All the others quickly picked up the diapers, no qualms on their part, to inspect them closely and sniff at their contents to guess what had made the "mess", while I tried to keep my dessert down and couldn't even bring myself to place my nose anywhere near the diapers. Zero points for me that round.

(The correct answers were: Nutella, a melted Snickers bar (the very textured one), and a melted Mars bar).

Once those diapers were banished to the trash can we tallied up the points, anointed a winner and then finished the evening with a few gifts, which were a perfect mix of what we needed more of and what we hadn't even thought of (but needed).

First up: a few very cute, gender-neutral onesie sets (with matching hats!). Then, a beautiful book of Swedish fairytales, accompanied by a CD (an excellent addition for non-native Swedish speakers) with oral versions of the same stories, plus songs—something we really needed and wanted, but hadn't yet picked up for our bookshelf.

I was also gifted a sweet little "activity fox", and since we don't really have any toys (unless you count the mobile), that was a perfect gift, too. The fox's ears crinkle when you touch them, while his hands rattle when you shake them, and his little bandana is actually a teething toy, so something to entertain the baby with and provide some stimulation.

We didn't have a nightlight, but one of my gifts was a sweet little dove (who looks surprisingly like the birds in the mobile!) that sits prettily when not in use, and when needed, can be turned on which causes it to slowly change colors thanks to the LED bulb inside, morphing from white to blue to green to yellow to purple to red to orange, helping light up a dark room at night and entertain the baby.

Finally, a beautiful folding picture frame with one side ready to put a picture into and the other to contain a clay foot- and/or handprint of the baby (the kit comes with a mix to make the clay at home).

It was such a sweet, generous, and fun (and informational!) evening (even sans gingerbread baking!).

I went home grateful to know that I have a mini tribe of mamas I can turn to for help and encouragement once this little one arrives, something that's so very important—and something I didn't think possible when we first arrived in Sweden and began creating new lives for ourselves. No matter how much (amazing) help Sweden provides to parents, that's one thing they can't help you with—but looks like we'll be just fine.

Two years ago: Butter coffee & butter tea & The last stitch
Three years ago: Honduran holiday

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