United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

July 7, 2014

In Their Own Words: A Community Baby Shower Story

Sarah Tremblay is an Americorps VISTA for United Way of the Greater Seacoast. She played a pivotal role in organizing the recent Community Baby Shower. This was her experience.

All is calm. I let out a sigh of relief. The event is going smoothly; families are eating at the various tables decorated with unbelievable diaper cakes, guests are attentively listening to Officer Speidel talk about car seat installation, the resource tables are inundated with people, and guests are gawking over the bursting baby basic baskets that each of them will take home.

And aside from all of this, the indicator of success: The Children’s Activities committee (composed of women from a local insurance company who are all super wonderful but who tend to think “worst case scenario”) was content and not so terrified of children escaping the confinement of the activity room. This was going to work.

Then I see him. The four year old who is going to shatter the fragile serenity. His very petite, very pregnant mother is registering for the event as he is running circles around her and ducking and weaving under the table. Ladies and gentlemen, fictional DC Comics superhero, The Flash, has just barreled into our midst, and I just know he’s headed straight for our activity room.

Challenge accepted.

The volunteers at registration eye him skeptically, glad he is no longer sprinting laps around the table and yet, his mother is the epitome of patience. I sign little Joey in and cover the ground rules with Angie, his mother. I encourage her to have a great evening as Joey bolts into the activity room. He buzzes around the room for less than sixty seconds and realizes that coloring is definitely not his style. Joey attempts to barge out of the room in order to escape the mundane two year old atmosphere. He halfheartedly allows me to hold his hand as we scour the gym for his mother.

I snip the neon bands on their wrists signifying that we no longer had responsibility over Joey and head back to the children’s room. I watch as she attempts to keep him occupied and receive information from a resource table. She politely dismisses herself from the conversation, turns her complete attention to her little boy, and gets on her phone in an attempt to find backup. Unfortunately her sister’s obligations did not free up, and she is left solo, heroically juggling it all.

A second attempt is made to bring him to the activity room. I follow closely on Joey’s heels and try to occupy him so Angie can focus on the evening’s events. It works for less than two minutes and he’s already jetting out of the room. As I grab his hand and walk around the gym searching for his mother (and prolonging it as much as possible), it dawns on me. I break the committee’s rules and veer to the second children’s activity room with the five to eight year-olds.

It works like a charm. Joey simply needed soda bottle bowling and Legos.

I hover around the room and quickly realize that he’s going to be totally entertained for the remainder of the evening. Next mission: find Angie. I scope out the room and just barely see her by Wentworth Douglas Hospital’s resource table. I wait for them to finish their conversation and finally catch her eye. Only a flicker of worry crosses her face, but it immediately disappears when I tell her that Joey is now in the second activity room.

A beaming smile spreads across her face and she thanks me for all of my help. Angie continues her conversation, and I make my way back to the children’s room and peek in the second activity room to see Joey putting his Master Builder Lego skills to the test.

And that, for me, was the complete picture of the Community Baby Shower on April 16th at the Works in Somersworth. It illustrated exactly what we were trying to accomplish, a night of celebration and education that would give these mothers and families some respite and relief from their every day trials. Angie’s story stuck with me. Here she was, attending the event with the most energetic four year old on the planet with another one on the way, and unable to catch anyone on the phone to help her focus on getting the most from the evening.

And despite this she was wholly composed and her patience was entirely intact. It illuminated only a portion of what her situation must be like on a daily basis. Now I don’t pretend to know exactly what her circumstances are, but let’s just hypothetically (and realistically) throw in rent, child care, putting food on the table, having a job, and needing transportation.

This event really put life into perspective and made me realize that everyone (low, middle, and high income) has hurdles to jump and peaks to reach, but we can all be in it together. The Community Baby Shower was altruism, understanding, and community in action–and it was truly incredible.