Last Wednesday evening, I boarded a train to New Jersey, looking forward to a long weekend of relaxation and birthday festivities. My mother had arranged the trip a month earlier, just like she did every year. Since moving to DC, it has become tradition for Andrew and I to travel to New Jersey for the weekend either immediately before or after my birthday. So I didn’t think anything of it when my mom asked me what weekend I would be able to come visit. I checked my work schedule, consulted with Andrew and my mom, and booked a train to New Jersey and back. I wrote the travel information into my calendar, and then began counting down the days until my birthday trip.
In the weeks following the original conversation with my mother, I furiously began to make plans with friends back at home. I only had a short amount of time in New Jersey, and there were a lot of people that I wanted to see. Even when several of my girlfriends sadly informed me that they were busy the entire weekend, I didn’t give it much thought. I was only going to be in town for three days, so I knew that I shouldn’t be surprised that my friends were already booked solid. Instead I made lunch plans with one of my guy friends and with my sister, reserving all of Saturday for my birthday festivities.
My mom had already made plans for the family to go to lunch at the Grand Saloon, the usual family hang-out for events like birthdays and graduations. After lunch, she planned to have the family over to the house for dessert and coffee, another family tradition. I could detect nothing out of the ordinary about the plans, though I have to admit that I had very little reason to be suspicious. I assumed that my family and friends would throw a baby shower for me at some point, but I also assumed that November was too early. I wasn’t even in my third trimester at the time (I am now). In addition, Andrew and I had only just put together our registry two weekends before; there was no way that people could be expected to buy their gifts off the registry so quickly (in the end, several of my family members and friends did purchase their gifts off the registry, but the vast majority of attendees simply went to department stores looking for the cutest baby boy clothing that they could find). Though I momentarily wondered if I would find myself at a surprise baby shower, I immediately shot the idea down. Of course I was going home for my birthday party, and nothing more.
When I got to New Jersey, I quickly settled into my mini-vacation routine: walking and showering in the morning, lunch out with friends, afternoon spent in front of the TV watching Christmas movies until my parents got home from work (at which point they would join me). Andrew joined the rest of us on Friday night, and after a late night watching more Christmas movies, we spent most of Saturday morning asleep. We woke up with just enough time to have breakfast, shower, and get dressed before loading up in my mom’s car to head over to the restaurant for lunch. Even though my sister came down dressed in a skirt with a large backpack hanging from her shoulder, I still didn’t suspect anything.
We ended up parking about a block away from the restaurant because of construction, and when we entered the Grand Saloon, I was slightly surprised to see that the place was empty of patrons. The bartenders informed us that they were only seating downstairs because of the construction. It only occurred to me much later that his excuse didn’t really make sense, since I already knew that the downstairs room was generally reserved for parties. But his excuse slipped through my mind, and without a second thought, I followed my brother and sister down the steps.
When I looked up, the first face I saw belonged to my best friend, who happens to live in Maryland. I was immediately confused. She did not belong here. She was supposed to be in Maryland with her husband. What was she doing in New Jersey, and in my family’s favorite hang-out? It just didn’t make sense.
And then other faces began to register. My mother-in-law. My sister-in-law. My friends from high school. Family friends. My brain literally could not compute fast enough. Blame it on pregnancy brain or whatever, but I was completely shocked and totally confused. And then it finally clicked.
The fact that everyone suddenly yelled “Surprise!” might have helped as well (in my mind, there was about a solid minute between my getting to the bottom of the stairs and my friends and family welcoming me, but I imagine there was a considerably smaller gap- time just seemed to slow down as I struggled to comprehend the image in front of me).
Suddenly everything made sense. I understood why none of my girlfriends had been available- as one of my friends later informed me, she had been working on my shower gift at the time. I realized why my sister had chosen a skirt for what I had assumed was lunch with the family. I also figured out why she had a huge backpack (she was hiding my gift). And I understood why the bartenders had pointed us downstairs: I had arrived at my surprise baby shower.
So what was my first coherent thought after I could finally think again? To be honest, my first thought was that I was incredibly under-dressed for this event in my jeans and long-sleeved shirt. My second thought was that I didn’t really care- I wanted to be comfortable. My third was to wonder if Andrew had known. He had.
For the next four hours, I was able to split my time between family, family friends, and friends from school. I hopped from table to table, sharing pregnancy stories, enduring countless family members touching my stomach (I’m just kidding- it wasn’t that bad), and assuring family and friends that I was feeling great, despite occasional growing pains. I also repeatedly verified what everyone had already assumed: I had been surprised by my baby shower.
Pulling off a surprise baby shower might not seem too difficult, but I have always prided myself in my sleuthing skills. My bridal shower had not been a surprise (though in this case, my family and bridesmaids quickly realized how difficult it would be to get me to NJ without causing suspicion). Even the proposal had not been a total surprise (after a series of rather unfortunate events, I knew for certain that Andrew was going to propose before he actually did it). I had assumed that my family had abandoned all hope of surprising me since it had never worked out in the past. I was wrong.
My baby shower ended up being an incredible surprise, and I will always remember that first moment of shock and confusion fondly. It is not every day that people successfully surprise me after all. What had been masquerading as my birthday lunch ended up being a wonderful baby shower, and now JT (John Thomas, our son) has a whole assortment of clothing, as well as other baby necessities. As I was unwrapping his new clothing sets, I also became aware of just how predictable Andrew and I are. I just hope that our son loves dinosaurs and foxes as much as his parents do. Otherwise he’s going to get sick of wearing them all the time very quickly.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!