The Unexpected Shower Gift

by admin on February 11, 2013

My father’s cousin “Grace” was pregnant with her first child (a boy). Most of the younger women in her family were in their mid to late 20′s, and didn’t yet have children of their own. My mother, me (16 years old at the time) and my sisters (10 year old twins) were invited to her baby shower.

A couple weeks before the the shower, my mother and I went to the drug store to pick up our present. My mother explained to me that she had bought a nice blue laundry basket and we were going to fill it with special baby products because many new mothers didn’t realize all of the things babies might need (shampoos, creams, fragrance free laundry detergent, pack of diapers, etc.). She showed me the brand of products we were going to buy and told me that she had used these products on my siblings and I when we were babies so she knew they were good products. I’m sure she spend a considerable amount of money on that gift when all was said and done. My mum was really proud of her gift, I think she thought of it as an older woman passing a little piece of child-rearing advice to a younger woman. Even though I was a teenager at the time, I understood that these practical gifts would be more useful then a million cute outfits the baby would outgrow in a couple months.

We couldn’t find any gift wrap or bag large enough to cover the laundry basket, so we put a big bow on top instead. When we got to the shower we put the basket on the gift table, where it was shortly covered up by other presents when other guests began coming in.

Grace began opening her presents, helped by her cousin “Mary”. Eventually I could see our laundry basket peeking through the pile, and I couldn’t wait for Grace to see it and understand the work that had gone into getting the gift basket together. The laundry basket ended up being the last present on the table. Mary looked at it, picked it up and looked at it again. She asked the entire room (of at least 40 women) if “this was supposed to be a present?” in a confused voice. My mother, looking like she was about to melt into the floor, explained that it was from her and that it had useful baby products inside (this was an open-top laundry basket, so they could clearly see what was inside anyway). Mary hands the basket to Grace, who also looks incredibly confused about my mother’s gift and gives my mum a half-hearted thank you.

I don’t remember if there was a registry for the shower or not. If there was, I suppose getting an unexpected gift was the cause of the confusion. The only other explanation I have is that as Grace and Mary didn’t have any children yet, they did not understand how essential the items my mother had given Grace were and how much they could end up costing a new mommy.

That said, I don’t think there’s any excuse for making a guest EXPLAIN their present to you. If you don’t like your present, put on a nice smile, and be thankful that you have family and friends who are trying to celebrate your special occasion with you and want to help you out with a gift.

I should also note that other than this somewhat upsetting incident, Grace and Mary are great people overall and I like them both. You can’t choose your family so its best to put things behind you and move on.    0128-13

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Missy February 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm

My friend got a gift like that. One half of the laundry basket was useful things for baby: lotion, wipes, bathtoys, etc. The other half was useful things for her: hemorrhoid cream, ice packs, over-sized sanitary napkins, etc. Her face fell immediately on seeing it. She recovered quickly and said, “Oh, this is so handy to have exactly what I need right here. I’m just wishing I wasn’t going to need it!” We all laughed at that. And she made sure (in her post-partum misery) to tell the friend who gave it how thoughtful and useful that present was.

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Sarah February 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Ahhhh the basket. I’ve been to a lot of showers, and the reaction to the basket, especially by young first time mothers, always seems to be this weird mix of confusion and annoyance. The sad fact is that new mothers, in general, are clueless. They have no idea that babies need special…well, everything. So they think “I need diapers and a crib and lots of cute little clothes!”.

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Ann February 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

When I had my bridal shower, my SIL filled a laundry basket with cleaners, good Tupperware, dishtowels, laundry detergent, a manual can opener, and the makings for a spaghetti dinner. Sure, I’ll admit that the small appliances we received were fun, especially since I’d never buy them for myself, but nothing came in more handy or was more widely used than the laundry basket gift.

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lakey February 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

This is the kind of gift that used to be common at baby and wedding showers. The purpose of showers had been to “shower” the new wife or mother with the kind of items that she might not have yet. I’ve known people who would put together gift baskets for wedding showers that focused on cooking or baking, and baby shower baskets similar to OP’s. I can remember a bride at one shower joking that the rolling pin was a husband trainer. It had been understood that shower gifts weren’t expected to be expensive.

These gift baskets can turn out to be the best gifts. If anything, they take more thought and effort than other gifts. We used to do a gift exchange of inexpensive gifts at my job. The best I received was a big plastic popcorn bowl with things like microwave popcorn packets, those sprinkle on popcorn flavorings, cocoa packets, slipper socks, and a small gift certificate to Blockbuster.

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Calli Arcale February 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Good grief! I’m guessing it was only because it was not wrapped that she didn’t think of it as a gift. Maybe my circle is more pragmatic, but at baby showers I’ve been to, there have usually been several gifts of that ilk — to the point where some of us experienced mothers point out to the bride how wonderful it is get to duplicates, because you’re going to need the second one too, so she doesn’t go and return the extras only to later regret doing so. You never believe how many towels and washcloths and bottles of baby shampoo you’ll end up going through, until you’ve cared for a baby yourself. ;-)

But to just stare at the gift and make it so obvious you don’t understand is . . . wow. I remember when I graduated college. The best gift I got was from my aunt and uncle, both 3M employees, who bought a bucket and then raided the company store for cleaning and office products to fill it up with. I still use that bucket; best bucket I’ve ever owned. Sure, I got more expensive gifts, but that was the one that made the biggest difference, and I recognized that at the time. If even a wet-behind-the-ears never-lived-alone college grad could realize the value and thoughtfulness of such a gift, this new mom certainly could have. What cheek! As far as the gift “not looking like a gift” as some have pointed out, the OP said they put a bow on it. That’s all you need to mark that it’s a gift, honestly. That bucket I got had a bow (a 3M bow, naturally) tied to the handle; that was all the wrapping it got, and it was totally fine.

I suppose this could be a lesson learned, so the OP can anticipate that perhaps not all gift recipients know that gifts don’t have to be wrapped, and step in as soon as the gift is unearthed so she can make a fuss out of presenting it to the recipient. That avoids the awkwardness, and gives you a chance to covertly make sure the pile of gifts hasn’t dislodged some of the items in the basket.

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Asharah February 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

For those who thought OP’s mom should have made it look more “gift-like”, it says they put a big bow on the basket.

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Fragglerocker19 February 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Mary and Grace were definitely rude. Gifts like that are at every single baby shower I’ve ever attended and always well received. In fact, the only snarky comment I heard at a recent shower was after the Mom to Be opened a darling one piece outfit (not a onesie as it had sleeves and feet) with some pink ruffling resembling a tutu. Everyone “oohed” and “aahed” and then the mom next to me added, “Too bad it’s white.” (We all knew that adorable outfit would be worn once, stained, and never worn again.) At this particular shower, it was a baby bathtub filled with towels, shampoos, etc. that got the “creatively presented” award and everyone remarked how cute it was that the giver had put the items in the tub, wrapped it with cellophane & a bow, and everything could be seen without even opening it.

This is also why people do “diaper cakes”–it’s a cute way to present something practical, with just a bit of patience, effort, and ribbon.

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Bint February 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Hanna, you have totally missed the point. I can think of several reasons *why* Grace and Mary were confused or didn’t get the basket. I can totally see why you didn’t fancy the loo roll at your wedding shower (I still don’t understand that one). But I didn’t say they were rude to be confused, or wrong, so don’t attack a straw man.

The point is that Mary publicly embarrassed the OP’s mother then made no attempt to apologise or smooth it over, and Grace – having been told it is a present – can only muster a ‘half-hearted’ thank you. The ‘why’ doesn’t matter.

Your suggestion of writing a note explaining it wouldn’t help either. The OP’s mother does explain. It still doesn’t get her a decent thank you from the Graceless Grace.

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Margaret February 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I did the same kind of thing for my sister in laws — I put in a bunch of practical things, including things like the baby tylenol and pedialite (because not only are those things you freak out about in the middle of the night, we are in a small town and they are literally unavailable outside of normal business hours). I even include a bottle and a 6 pack of baby formula and tell them that it’s their emergency supply, so they don’t have to worry if something happens and they have to leave the baby with someone at the last second, the child will not starve.

I also did a similar thing for some nephews who graduated — laundry basket with a pot, 2 each of basic cutlery, table settings, beginner cookbook, one set of towels, hammer, multihead screwdriver, woodne spoons, measuring spoons & cups. That basic kind of stuff.

I ONLY do these kind of gifts for very close family, though, because they ARE much more expensive to put together.

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Ashley February 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

If they aren’t from a family that typically gives/gets practical gifts I can sort of understand the confusion. But you would think the big ol’ bow on top and the fact that it was on the gift table would have been a bit of a giveaway? In any event, once she realized it was a gift, she should have been just as gracious about it as she was about everything else.

My family is known for practical gifts. If there is a shower type event going on, SOMEONE is going to give a gift basket of some sort full of practical things. While they might not be as visually appealing as some other gifts that could be given, when something in the basket saves you ANOTHER trip to the store, you’ll be happy it was given to you.

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Lauren February 11, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I made a similar gift for my friend’s wedding shower. I knew she and her husband like to bike ride so I made a basket with a picnic knapsack, bug spray, food, sun block and a couple of books on local bike trails. This might not be as practical as the one in the story but I find baskets like these take so much more effort.

As an FYI, lately I’ve been seeing these practical baby items on registries (I.e. Lotions, no tears shampoos).

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kingsrings February 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I can see how Mary and Grace may have been confused. Perhaps in their minds, and also in the minds of others there, was that shower presents consist of only the cutesy items, such as one-sies and accessories. It would never enter their minds that practical gifts like this great basket could also be given. However, their reactions were totally inexcusable. It broke my heart to read that after all the time and work the guest had taken to give them this great present that was from the heart. They should have known by then the proper etiquette in accepting gifts graciously and politely. No matter what you feel about the present, you always act like it’s the best thing that you could have been given.
And on a side note regarding the comments about diapers being given at showers, I recently saw a baby shower invite that was a “diaper sprinkle”, where the guests were requested to bring only diapers, since this was the mom’s 4th child and she already had all the other needed baby items. I thought this was pretty clever.

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Pam February 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I agree with Surianne, it didn’t seem like it was an intentional dig. It sounds like she was confused about whether or not it was a present. It is unfortunate that it came out the way it did.

And while I like practical gifts, I do remember giving away:
a ton of “newborn” diapers because they were too small for my DD when she was born,
several bottles of creams or ointments because we didn’t use the type given
a few bottles of baby powder because it caused diaper rash for my DD and I don’t like the smell anyway
Pedialyte and baby tylenol was thrown away because it was never used before the expiration date.

Because of that, I’ve never given any new mother this type of consumable because I really don’t know if the product would be to her liking and they don’t lend themselves to items that are easily returnable. If she doesn’t like the onesie or bathtub I bought, it’s much easier to include a gift receipt for her to find something she will be able to use.

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Shannon February 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

In reading the comments, I can see a lot of people like to give practical gifts at baby showers. However, I think if I were the recipient, I would be embarrassed to open packages of hemorrhoid cream, maxi pads, or K-Y in front of my family and friends. It’s just too personal and not at all appropriate. If you absolutely must present a new mother with items meant to soothe her private parts, do so in private.

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momofeveryone February 11, 2013 at 4:04 pm

when i was pregnant with my first i received a basket from my great grandma and grandma. they were so certain i was having a boy, everything was blue! i didnt want to know the sex, so everyone at the shower kept asking if we had found out and didnt tell them. we all would laugh and say no the sicillians just know these things. great grandma was so sure, she even crocheted a blue blanket.
yes, the baby was a boy.
4 years later i still have and use alot of things in that basket. so does my daughter :)

i dont know how someone doesnt make the connection that something on the gift table might not be a gift….

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cathy February 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I think it was a fantastic gift, and the recipient was rude. I can understand a prospective mother not knowing how useful all those items would be, but to behave like that was unnecessary. That is exactly the type of gift I usually give at a baby shower, only I get a really nice diaper bag and fill it with stuff. New moms who think the only things they need for a baby are clothes and diapers will learn pretty fast…especially how quickly the baby outgrows those cute little clothes.

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Kate February 11, 2013 at 5:14 pm

This is an excellent idea for a present! I hope Grace and Mary realised the error of their comments, especially when it became evident how useful the items were.
I’m a uni student on a fairly tight budget and I usually do something like this for baby showers – a gift bag with face washers, a sippy cup, baby socks, etc. Sometimes I’ll throw in a onesie but I figure that everyone buys clothing, and babies often grow out of these items fairly quickly. A friend of mine told me that she received so many items of clothing for her son, he didn’t even get the chance to wear some of them before he grew too big to fit into them.

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JGM1764 February 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

This is what my mom usually does for expectant moms. I’ve never seen anyone receive it ungraciously, but I have a big family so they’ve probably learned well in advance how useful such a thing is. I know when my best friend finally calls me with the good news that’s what I’ll be doing when it comes time for her shower. I’m also planning on taking it one step further and adding some luxury skin care products, teas, and some other goodies specially made for pregnant women that she can enjoy for herself.

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RigaToni February 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I will get on the bandwagon and say I got a giant laundry hamper/basket as a gift from my sister’s (who raised me) married friend when I went away to college. BEST COLLEGE GIFT EVER. Laundry stuff is something new dorm students don’t think about till they’re dropping their only quarters in the slot to buy tiny packets of detergent. This gift I used until I got married and moved across the country, simply because it was inconvenient to ship. The detergent, towels, etc that she packed the basket with were used gratefully for quite some time.

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Marozia February 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I love the idea of a filled basket with handy supplies and some baby gifts. I always give these. Just before my grandson was born, my mother and I made a ‘baby ready’ basket for my daughter and she just loved it.
However, Cousin Mary had no right to ask ‘is this supposed to be a present’. It wasn’t her baby shower it was her cousin’s. Tactless vulgar heathen! If I was the mother I would’ve just looked at Mary squarely in the eye and said “Yes, it is” and held eye contact. That usually keeps them quiet.

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Brandi February 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm

When I graduated high school, my grandmother got me a gold chain that cost several hundred dollars.
My Aunt and Uncle got me a laundry bag, a portable ironingboard, a bottle of detergent, and a roll of quarters.

Guess which I used more ;-)

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Toni February 11, 2013 at 8:51 pm

At my baby shower, 31 years ago, someone gave me a huge supply of diapers. Although I was gracious, I thought it was an odd gift. Well those diapers lasted a long time and saved us a ton of money. Several times I have given diapers as gifts…especially if I know the parents to be are on a limited budget.

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NostalgicGal February 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

If my budget is tight, I will give a onesie but I give a 6-12 month or even a 12-18 month. Something for the kid to grow into instead of the ton of newborns that they will outgrow in a snap.

The basket, I’ve done that too, but. I will take some curling ribbon and a large crochet hook, and sort of go around the basket and weave some of the ribbon over the top and through some of the side holes in the basket. Making it look more festive and corralling the contents.

Grace and Mary could have handled it better. I just hope the OP’s mom got a note or call a few months after the baby came from Grace, with gratitude for that gift. …

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KTB February 12, 2013 at 7:21 am

Perhaps it’s just that I’ve never been much of a clothes person, but a basket filled with little …things, even if I didn’t know what all they were for, would probably be my favorite. :) That and rudeness aside, I don’t understand how a new mom wouldn’t realize that a baby needs more than diapers and clothes. I’ve been around exactly one baby in my life, and that one in a limited way when I was young, and it seems sort of obvious to me. Grown ups need more than clothes and a toilet, don’t they?

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spyderqueen February 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

I guess maybe I was raised by relentlessly practical gift givers (my dad’s standard housewarming/wedding gift is a laundry basket full of batteries, flashlights, extension cords and a few other household items you never think of until you need them), because even as a non-parent I give gifts like that at showers. The first friend of mine to have a kid got a really complete infant healthcare kit with firstaid stuff, baby nailclippers, and an aural thermometer. And then, because I saw them on a clearance rack at Target, I grabbed a set of bibs that were marked down to $2 for reasons I did not understand, because they were simple, terry cloth bibs with animals printed on them. So, I added them to the gift, because I figured extra bibs wouldn’t hurt. She told me later she had not known how fast someone could go through bibs in a day and appreciated the simple extra ones.

Similarly, when Mom was pregnant with me, one of Dad’s coworkers got them a prepaid month of diaper service, which Mom hadn’t seen herself using. Dad said it was easily the best gift ever and they kept up the service for a few months, and got it again for my sister because they were hooked.

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justme February 12, 2013 at 10:57 am

Years ago, before I was a mom, I was invited to a baby shower, barely knowing the mom.
Although I was an experienced babysitter, I was under the assumption that the shower was for non-practical stuff, cuz everyone gets that on their own, right?
(this was before I, or most of my crowd was married, and I was new in town so had no guidance)

So I went for the first time ever to giant baby store and bought some Winnie the Pooh musical toy.
No idea if she wanted that theme, but I was so overwhelmed that I grabbed the first thing.

Now that I have years of experience, I am grateful that the mom to be thanked me sweetly for my useless gift.

And now I sometimes do a collection basket, also!

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MidoriBird February 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

I did this. I filled a plastic container full of baby items for my sister when she was pregnant with her first child, and was crestfallen to realize I was the only one who had done so amidst all the colorful attractive stuff. I even thought about quietly removing it before it could be seen. I honestly thought I had done something wrong. (I was 20 at the time.)

Later my sister came to me and told me that she was glad at least one person had actually thought of what she and her baby might actually NEED. And later, all that stuff had gotten used, to great extent.

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June First February 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm

@Shannon– Yes, this. I can only imagine it would be like getting racy lingerie at a family wedding shower.

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Angel February 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Grace was pretty rude and a little ignorant for sure. If something is on a GIFT table and it has a BOW on it, then YES, it is a gift. At my shower I got more clothes, blankets and bibs than I knew what to do with, and my baby ended up growing out of stuff even before she got to wear it! I would have loved to have gotten a gift like this. I believe the OP when she says Grace is generally a nice person, but she absolutely owes the OP’s mom an apology for behaving like this. I hope that one was given and SOON after the shower. Her behavior and Mary’s(?) behavior was pretty disgraceful.

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Shelly the OP February 13, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi, I am the OP, I haven’t checked the site in a few days and I didn’t realize my submission had gone up. I agree with the posters who say that while Grace and Mary acted thoughtlessly and ungraciously, they were not intentionally subbing my mother, because I have never witnessed similar treatment from them before or since. I think the reason for the confusion was that most of the other guests had given Grace little blue outfits and other “cute” items, so she wasn’t expecting people to bring anything practical.

I also agree that we probably could have packaged the gift more clearly, but as I said in my post, the laundry basket was very wide and we could not find any cellophane, wrapping paper, etc. that fit. We did get a card as well, but I think it fell deeper into the basket, and so might not have been visible right away.

Thanks from my mom to everyone who said the basket was a good gift. My mom now sticks to the registry when she buys shower gifts, but I hope your responses will encourage her to go back to getting what she thinks the baby and mommy need instead cute things.

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penguin tummy February 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

These baskets are always a nice idea, or the nappy cakes/creations are good fun too (saw a great owl nappy creation at the last shower!). I guess the problem that some people have with these practical gifts is that they often don’t feel like gifts, more like we are supplying the parents with stuff they need anyway. I was very confused when some older people at my work told me to take a box of nappies as a gift to the first shower I had ever been to. It seemed like giving a friend milk and bread because they need them for everyday! I agree with some posters here, the mother may not like certain brands of creams or soaps, but you could still make a nice basket with wipes, cloths, bibs etc. A nice bottle of hand cream for mum never goes astray! My fail safe gift now is a children’s book, so the parents can spend time reading it with the child.

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Michelle C Young February 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I routinely give a package of diapers. While it’s fun shopping for, and going “Awwwwww” over cute outfits, the baby diapers fill a much more urgent need, and those things are EXPENSIVE.

For a few years my standard gift was a single hand-knitted baby bib. Cute, yet simple, and made from cotton so you could also use it as a washcloth.

Once, for a wedding gift, I gave a bucket, mop, broom, dust pan, and some Mr. Clean and sponges. The perfect bride thanked me profusely, saying, “We don’t have cleaning supplies for our new place, yet! Thanks! Now we don’t have to go out and buy them.”

I suppose, though, that practical gifts are for practical people. I like to receive practical gifts, myself. While I almost always go for practical gifts, if I know a person well enough to realize that he/she will simply not appreciate a practical gift, I’ll get something I know they will like, and let them spend their own money on the practical things.

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Sugaryfun February 17, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I have seen similar gifts given at baby showers several times so her puzzlement seems odd to me but I guess she must have been totally clueless about babies (as many new mums are these days, I know I was too with my first) and didn’t know what it all was. It doesn’t sound like any offence was intended.

With a gift like that I would be a bit careful though. I know people who are particularly conscious about the environment or very, well hippyish who just wouldn’t use most of the items that a more mainstream parent might consider essential (for example, I was given lots of disposable nappies when I intended to only use cloth ones, and nappy rash cream I wouldn’t use on my baby because the ingredients weren’t listed on the jar so just because the previous generation favoured the product doesn’t convince me it’s really safe since they also used baby bottles that leach toxic chemicals when heated and other similar nasty stuff). But if that were the case the recipient should still just say thankyou then quietly regift or donate the items later.

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Sugaryfun February 17, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Oh, and I meant to add that for baby showers personally I like to get a little something for the mum as well- a small luxury like a nice soap or some chocolate- so she can feel a bit pampered towards the end of her pregnancy. I do this because a dear friend did it for me (she bought me a really lovely “room perfume” to make my home smell like something other than baby vomit) and I appreciated it.

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Kathy February 17, 2013 at 11:27 pm

40 years ago when I was married, my cousin did one of those baskets for me for a wedding gift. The basket is long gone and many of the things that were in it are, too. But I’m still using the colander, the ladle, the pancake turner and the measuring spoons and measuring cups. But I think it was more common back then. I wasn’t surprised to get a basket like that — it was the kind of gift brides and new moms got a lot back in 1973.

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Abster February 21, 2013 at 8:44 pm

This site is new to me. I do have a comment though. The person that was thrilled that their parents, who were 3M employees, took stock from their employer and called it a gift blew my mind To me that is stealing. Did I miss something?

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otterpop February 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

i tend to not like getting gifts, because i am firmly in the ‘practical’ group – and my family is NOT. i’m pregnant with my first right now, and man – i wish there was a way to subtly suggest stuff like these baskets, because they sound AWESOME!
i mean, yes, i guess it’s nice to have some cute little outfits, but realistically, i will be using everyday items much more, and to me, the effort it takes to put together a basket like that makes me feel just as loved/cared about as a little onesie that i can have cub (our name for the baby, who is as of now still a mystery gender – i’m 12 weeks) wear once and then save.
i guess i don’t really understand people like the OP are writing about. they sound more clueless than deliberately malicious, but still…the fact that they are getting a pile – any size pile – of presents…isn’t that in and of itself enough?

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