Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Hate Push Presents

Parts of this post have been in draft form and swirling around in my brain for months, literally. Sarcastic and quippy wouldn’t cut it. The right jumping off point lest it sound too rant-y or judgmental slipped through my fingers over and over.

And then this: I recently heard about another devastating late-term loss. And it became so clear.

Life, survival, is a blessing, not a guarantee. Motherhood is a privilege.

And besides all the snarky, quippy reasons I absolutely, positively loathe the whole concept of “push presents” this is at the core. The privilege of delivering a live baby? That is the gift, no?

Let me break down my argument a bit. First off, on a semantic level I find the term itself extremely tacky, not to mention offensive. Perhaps I am being contrary me again, but from my perspective, it is exclusionary and implies that only women who have endured childbirth (you know, that process women have gone through since the dawn of humanity, usually without the benefit of pearls or diamonds?) warrant recognition or have sacrificed.

After all, there’s no “You-survived-the-emotional-heart-choke-known as adoption” present, right? Or “your-gestational-carrier-was-successful-in-delivering your child” luxe item?

And as for the mothers who must deliver babies far too soon, or babies who were on time but not okay, I truly have no words because my heart does choke and my stomach coils up involuntarily.

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s the attitude of expectation that is repugnant to me, not the presents themselves. This isn’t an indictment of people who get gifts for having babies. If someone’s partner or spouse wants to commemorate the miracle of birth with a gift, that’s great—and it’s also none of my business, or my place to judge.

No, it’s when it goes too far, it’s about the build-up around it, the speculation and prolonged discussion over the merits of some gifts over others, and the belief that a woman is “owed” something elaborate for having a baby that can sometimes occur that is problematic.

Again: the ability to conceive a baby, carry a baby past viability and into a safer range, and have both mother and child survive the birth process, that is a gift. And the ability to come home with a baby or child, regardless of what process made that happen, the ability to be a parent and help another human being develop into his or her own person? That is a gift.

And really? We must commercialize our lives so much that even birth has its own subset of recommended gifts? Not surprisingly, I feel much the same way about elaborate Mother’s Day gifts but I am sick of my own soapbox so I will leave you with some comments on Mother’s Day from the infertility trenches. Sprogblogger writes,

“This year, I’m feeling overwhelmed with appreciation – for my own mother and my grandmothers and all of the women who have ‘mothered’ me in one sense or another throughout the years. But do I feel like someone should be appreciating me, and the work I do? Not so much – because I feel like I’m the one who’s been given the gift of being allowed to mother, so wanting a pat on the back for essentially eating a cookie someone handed me just feels like the grossest kind of greediness –the cookie is reward enough, and thank you!”


britta said...

"push presents" far the weirdest thing I have heard in a long time....

Loretta said...

I haven't heard of push presents, but I have gone thru the loss of our four babies during pregnancy. I know the heartache, and I'm sorry that you had to go thru the heartache. But I am glad that you got blessed with your precious baby girl. Congratulations.

Laurie said...

Hi Britta,

I agree--weird! (And so many other things...)

Loretta, I am so very sorry for your losses. Lately I've heard and read about several losses and it was sort of the impetus to finally publish this.

Thank you for your congratulations--we are fortunate indeed.

phoenix chiropractor said...

Anytime there is a reason some people will send announcements and invitation to people or family they have not talked with in years, in hopes of getting gifts.

Kali said...

My sister gave birth to my nephew 3 years ago next month as a young single mother. My sister is...well, one of the most deeply self-centered people I have ever met. And I mean that in the sense that to her, the world really is centered around her feelings and her needs, to the point where she often cannot recognize the needs of others. I was pretty sure that some part of her was getting jealous about all of the things that were being given as gifts to the new baby.

So I made her a pair of earrings. I had made a pair like them for my mother the year before, for mother's day, and she admired them enough to say that if my mother didn't want them, she would happily steal them. She said she loved them.

I'll admit that I was rather peeved around a year later when she said that no one had gotten her anything when my nephew was born. Bad enough that she expected it, but it really felt like adding insult to injury that she didn't remember the gift I gave her.


LJM said...

I don't think they were around in the 90s when I was pushing out babies but I would have liked one. It is the thought that counts and I would have jewelry to mark the occasion. Expecting a gift is a bit much. Anyhoo, I stopped by to show you an article on chronic illnesses. My friend has MS and she commented to me one day that she doubts any man would want to marry her if he finds out she has MS. I thought about that for a long while but I never brought it up again. Here is the link. Please comment on the site. I think this issue should be given a little thought because we are all getting a little older, not younger. Nice blog btw!

Jeanne said...


I share your loathing of "push presents" for all the reasons you so eloquently gave (and perhaps even more).

With so many couples suffering infertility and pregnancy loss, I find this trend even more troubling. (Let's hope it's just a passing fad)!

Great post!


Anonymous said...

Wow, "push present" is a very tacky term - yuck! Having said that, I think giving a woman a non-Mom gift after having the baby is a great idea. Yes, motherhood is privilege and there's no better present than a healthy baby, I get that. But women shouldn't be afraid to speak up about what makes them happy.

And like the article said, dads are simply more aware of the difficulties of pregnancies and birth, and some of those sweetheart guys simply would like to acknowledge that. Nice. I didn't get any jewelry or anything when my son was born, and I don't feel deprived or anything. Still, I wouldn't have turned a pearl necklace down. I liked reading about the lady who received rings after each child.

Zanna said...

I only just recently heard the term, but I thought it had to do with presents that encourage one to do something that would be good for you - a scale, or art classes, or something. Who knew?

In any case, best wishes! I just discovered your site and have enjoyed reading it.

Jennifer said...

Yes! I so agree with this. Having given birth to two children and also lost an unborn child, a healthy baby (in whatever way it is delivered to the mother's arms) and the raising of a child is, indeed, the true gift.

Xan said...

I am literally nauseous after reading this post and the referenced article. Perhaps it's a matter of perspective--that 4 of my children were adopted, that 2 of them have/had significant medical needs, that 1 of them died at age 5--and that you're right, there's no 'jewelry to ease to the emotional hemmorhage caused by watching your child's life-force vanish as the monitors flash asystole'-present, but what on earth is the matter with people that it isn't enough just to have a beautiful, new baby? My partner gave birth to our youngest child and all I remember about that night was how beautiful he was, how the long wait to hold him was over, how blessed I felt to have a healthy child and that pang of guilt for the parents who weren't as lucky as we were that day. Materialism lives on and on and on...I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised, but still. Oy.

Anonymous said...

If you can read everything that I wrote below, and still think the ENTIRE concept of a gift in this situation is awful, then I’ll let you go.
The term: push present. This term is pretty much loathed by a lot of women, and I can definitely understand why. First of all, it’s a very raunchy way of describing a present. I mean, really, who came up with this? Secondly, it changes the meaning of it possibly being something surprising and innocent into something that is demanded and necessary. All of this being said, I am also a little put off by the term and I think I could have come up with 20,000 different names for it that would have been much more suitable.

In my head, this is where a “push present” is appropriate:

1. When your husband/partner/mother/father/sister/bff/whoever gives you something without you asking for it, just because they wanted to. Ladies, you can’t tell me that NONE of you have ever had someone bring flowers or wine to your house when visiting your new baby for the first time. Needless to say, you never asked anyone to bring flowers, they brought them because they wanted to congratulate you. That’s not outrageous, it’s actually a nice gesture.

2. When the gift that is being given, is more about the mother AND child than just the mother. Let’s just say, hypothetically, that there was a symbol out there that meant safeguarding and love for a new mother and baby. Then let’s also hypothetically say that this symbol was used in a picture, on a card, engraved into metal, whatever. Wouldn’t that given as a gift be meaningful and emotional? More of a commemoration for BOTH the mother and child?

3. When the gift is affordable and sensible, yet emotional and beautiful. I do not think that spending $100,000 on a gift when you can’t afford it is okay, especially when there’s a new baby in the picture. I do, however, think that you can get away with spending a conservative amount of money on something that will mean as much to the child when he/she gets older as it does immediately to the mother. If you’re going to give a gift to a woman who has just had a baby (which, by the way, LOTS of people do), it should be something that is not meant to replace or make up for the baby, but rather congratulate and commemorate the new little one. I think this is a major point of confusion in the “push present” idea. Many women are under the impression that this present is supposed to make up for the trauma that they just went through while being pregnant for nine months, and that is SO FAR from what this present should be. It should be a symbol of appreciation, love, and joy for the gift of life that has been given. It should be just as much about the baby as it is about the mother. Emotional, beautiful, grateful for the gift of life.

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