All my life, and I do mean even as a small child, I thought a baby shower was thrown for the purpose of "showering" the mother-to-be with love as she approached the day she would meet her baby and her life would be forever changed. At some point shortly before or after my first child was born, I got into a heated discussion online about the appropriateness of baby showers for subsequent pregnancies. Someone told me that I was wrong; baby showers are to shower gifts on the mother-to-be. Yes, it makes sense. It also explains the graphics on many baby shower cards I've seen throughout my life. Still, I didn't believe it. I started to ask around. The response was unanimous: she was exactly right.
Semantics aside, I stand by my point. I believe that EVERY baby should be honored, if the mother wishes it. In some parts of our country, it is customary to have a full-blown shower for every pregnancy. They're often big events with lots of food and lots of people and lots of celebration. In other parts of our country, it is considered completely inappropriate to have any sort of baby-related party before the baby comes. In these parts, it is usually customary to have a baby open house for people to come see the baby, or at least that is seen as the only acceptable baby party in these situations.
Etiquette gives two conditions, at least one of which must be met, for having a baby shower for a subsequent pregnancy. The first is that the new baby and the next oldest child will be at least five years apart. The second is that the new sibling is a different sex than the other child or children (e.g. this is the first girl for this mother).
Jumping back to what "shower" means for a minute, I don't like that ANY baby shower is focused on the gifts. Sure, a new mom probably needs a lot of stuff. (The "probably" is another discussion for another day.) I think it's great to use the opportunity to supply her with that. But isn't the party about her becoming a mother? Isn't it the time to really get excited about the baby who is about to enter this world? For this reason, I don't like the term "sprinkle," either, which is the compromise often made in our society for second pregnancies (though not usually third, fourth and so on). Changing the name from "baby shower" to "baby sprinkle" just emphasizes that the party is about the presents.
I have no argument against a first baby being a totally unique life-changing event that should be celebrated. But I have a question for those who do not believe in having baby parties beyond the first pregnancy: Is the first baby the only miracle? Furthermore, is the mother not going to be changed by EVERY life she brings into this world or into her home (in the case of adoption)? What happened to the women of the tribe coming together to support the mother-to-be in whatever way she needs?