Baby ShowerIt’s finally spring, which means… it’s baby shower season. I’m up to my ears in showers; I have four friends who are so pregnant they’re about to pop, and one who just adopted.

Though I’m not a fan of most over-commercialized holidays, I love the ritual of honoring someone on the brink of parenthood. And it’s often the last chance to have uninterrupted adult time with them (of either the coffee klatsch or XXX variety) for… oh, eighteen years or so.

But though I love the spirit of the baby shower, I don’t embrace its commercialism (and underlying assumptions about gender, parenthood, and all the rest). So no, I’m not a fan of pink or blue onesies, prefab baby books, puerile joke gifts, or cookie cutter “you’re special, new mom!” sentiments. I strive to make my shower gifts memorable, meaningful, eco-conscious… and cheap.

So in that spirit, here are some suggestions for shower gifts that I hope are inventive, inexpensive, individualistic, and appropriate for queer/progressive parents-to-be.

1) Home-made Baby Book
I started making these because I found the commercial baby books unbearably tacky.All that pink, blue, clichéd sentimentality… yuck. It’s a great idea: a book documenting baby’s firsts. But instead of the predictable ‘baby’s first step, word, etc.’ pages, make up your own: baby’s first pizza, curse word, spit up, crayon masterpiece… Just buy a blank book and decorate it however you like, creating pages to document the momentous and absurd events in a baby or child’s life.

2) Heirloom Books and Toys
This is my hands-down favorite shower gift to give or get: high-quality, classic or antique books and toys that belonged to another child. If you have a child, see if she or he wants to choose a favorite (but no longer age-appropriate) toy or book to give to the baby-to-be. If you don’t have kids, you can use a book or toy that you treasured, or buy a replica.Ebay is a good source for vintage toys, but I prefer digging through Goodwill stores, yard sales, and antique shops. Your child (and/or you!) can also make a card addressed to the future baby, telling him or her about your own experiences with the toy or book.

3) DIY Onesies
This is for the mildly crafty/ambitious. But fear not! It’s easy. Buy or recycle some neutral-colored organic cotton onesies, and stencil them with baby-related graphics (clothes pins, alphabet blocks, bottles, etc.) or, if you prefer, something totally unconventional (I’ve made Elvis, Fat Elvis, Fat Albert, and Edith Piaf-imprinted onesies!) All it takes is some stencil paper from an art store, and non-toxic inks in whatever colors you’d like to use. Or you can do an iron-on, by printing an image on iron-on paper (available from craft stores). If the baby’s name has been chosen, you could even monogram it! One of my favorites was a onesie that a friend made with my daughter’s name silkscreened in a Rolling Stones-style font. Quel rock star! The main expense is your time, but this is a true-blue keepsake that the parents will treasure. Or at least get a good laugh out of it.

4) Queer Parenting Books
The end of a pregnancy (or final stage of an adoption process) is the best time to read these; once the baby arrives, the new parents will be too exhausted to think about the meta-issues as they drown in sleeplessness, diapers, and joy. So choose the books that were most useful to you, if you’re already a parent.

If you’re not, here are a few suggestions: These are all in paperback, and are relatively inexpensive:

The Queer Parent’s Primer
The Lesbian and Gay Parenting Handbook
The Complete Lesbian and Gay Parenting Guide

5) DIY Books
All it takes to make your own children’s book is a notebook, a computer printer, and some imagination. I use those hard-cover notebooks you can get for a buck at a drugstore, and then print out my stories and paste them in, along with illustrations and other decorations. I make the baby-to-be the protagonist, and turn him or her into a superhero with magic powers, fighting ridiculous demons. The sillier the better!

Or, if you’re not feeling that creative, you can retell a myth or familiar children’s story, making the baby-to-be the protagonist. My friends LOVE these one-of-a-kind books. The cost is minimal, but they’re priceless, truly unique ways to honor a new baby.

So those are a few of my favorite queertacular, eco-sensitive, mildly-to-extremely creative, cheapy cheapy cheap shower gifts. The truth is, I love babies, and the wonder of a new person coming into the world. And I love making gifts to honor them.

Have you given (or received) any unusual, inexpensive, ecologically-sound baby gifts? What baby shower gifts were the most meaningful to you? How do you feel about baby showers, anyway–love them? Hate them? Indifferent?