When I decided to give birth in Paris, I resigned myself to the fact that there would be no baby shower. Baby showers are a North American tradition. In France, gifts are typically given at the time of birth; a baby shower would mean twice the gifts — a costly proposition for your nearest and dearest. (There’s some evidence that French mothers-to-be are adopting this tradition by making it more of a get-together rather than a gift-giving venture, but for now, there isn’t even a French translation for ‘baby shower.’)
My predicament was compounded by the fact that most of my friends live in Canada. At the very least, the event logistics were problematic, if not impossible. But my mother, intrepid as she is, contacted two of my friends and set the wheels in motion for a virtual baby shower.
There are various ways of doing a long-distance baby shower, but most invitees should have Internet access (or head to the local Starbucks). And a level of technological knowledge helps: without Skype, this event wouldn’t have happened.
Here are seven reasons why my virtual baby shower was a big success:
Designate two people to serve as organizers: When coordinating a long-distance baby shower, don’t underestimate the benefit of a second set of hands. When you’re dealing with different time zones and schedules, it really helps to have two people to coordinate the event.
Enlist a family member or close friend to help — preferably one that lives in the same city as the guest of honour: In my case, this was a no-brainer: My mother was not only the brainchild for the baby shower, but she was in the same city where I will be giving birth. Having her here was crucial to coordinating the event and the group gift, especially since she speaks French.
Forget online gift registries and focus on a group gift: Although I’m still in the dark regarding the baby shower gift, I do know that it’s a group gift. This makes sense for a couple of reasons: If an online gift registry had been set up in Canada, the shipping cost would have been exorbitant; and it made no sense to set one up on a Parisian website, given the fact that it would all be in French. By picking a group gift, my mother will be able to purchase the gift and coordinate payment between the organizers and the vendor.
Be available on the weekends: With the time zone difference, weekday calls would have been difficult for my busy, working friends. Subsequently, most calls took place on Friday evening or the weekend with one exception — it made sense for my Rogers colleagues to schedule a Friday morning call, because they’re all in the same office. (See photo above!).
If possible, try to keep the numbers small: In general, this is the type of logistic that works itself out. Most of my calls were grouped according to workplace, friendship circles or neighbourhoods and the numbers rarely exceeded four people. It can be difficult to talk to more than four people at once although you can mitigate this by conducting one-on-one chats while the other invitees remain in the room (but there is an element of public disclosure to it!).
Space out the calls: Rather than inviting everyone to one venue to conduct a group call, my organizers thought it would be better to space the calls out over two weeks. In that way, I was able to extend quality time with my friends.
Retain the element of surprise: One of the best things about this baby shower was that I was told when I would have a call, but not who I would be talking to. And I still have no idea what the baby shower gift will be. Of course, this event was less about the acquisition of stuff and more about connecting with my friends and having them be a part of my pregnancy.
I’ve said this again and again, but I’m truly fortunate to have family and friends who have found the loopholes in my overseas existence to help me celebrate this pregnancy.