When my friend Rachel told me (through gritted teeth) that she'd been invited to a baby shower, I felt her pain: yet another excuse for smug mums-to-be to revel in their pregnancies, be the centre of attention and expect a myriad of gifts for her and the baby.
But if I thought I was disproportionately enraged by the whole notion of baby showers, then Rachel was downright incandescent.
Rachel had particular cause to be scathing – her sister had spent months organising her own baby shower (a no-no in itself according to another pal – showers should be thrown 'for you' – not 'by you') when her waters suddenly broke on the morning of the event.
Desperate to still have her party, she welcomed her guests, received her gifts and held out before mother nature took over and one of her friends insisted on driving her to hospital.
"My niece had an infection when she was born and was hospitalised for a week because she insisted on staying at home for the shower, and for what? A bit of lacy rubbish and some bubble bath," seethed Rachel, visibly livid at the memory.
Presents, it seems, are one of the main causes of discord amongst baby shower critics, not to mention confusion amongst guests, in particular whether you should you be splashing the cash on mummy or baby, or both. And just what is deemed acceptable as a shower gift?
"I am always unsure if I should take a present to the shower and then give another a present when the baby is born," says mum of one and regular shower-goer, Mary, "If it is a reasonably good friend then it will be two presents, but before the days of showers, there would have only been one. Having said that, I do like the concept of a shower, as it's a good excuse for friends to get together before the baby arrives and everything changes."
Jane is a mum of one and baby shower sceptic. "At a shower I was at recently, most people brought posh things for the mother - pampering things in expensive looking bags with Christian Dior and Chanel on them, and nothing for the baby," she says "But I suspect more presents came when the baby was born. It all seemed very excessive, to be honest."
But pampering products and the subsequent giving of baby gifts are nothing compared to what was expected of mum of three Caroline, by her best friend, Zoe.
"Zoe was a really close friend," she says, "And I knew she liked, shall we say, the finer things in life. She was very successful in her job, and pretty much had it all. She was 40 when she found out she was pregnant, and decided to really go to town with the baby shower by having a champagne reception at the Ritz. I could have cried when I read the invite – it even specified cocktail dress, but worse than that, there was a note saying that everyone was to contribute £60 towards the night. Now, I'm hardly on the poverty line but by the time I'd paid out for a babysitter for my own three children, bought a present – which was from a gift register she'd set up in a flashy department store - plus the £60 'contribution' it was just far too much. To be honest, I felt it was rather an insult too. I never let on how upset I was, and just went along with it, but I did think it was totally out of order. She never had any idea though - in fact, she ended up making me godmother when her son was born, but I was fuming for ages over her demands for the baby shower."
So is a baby shower ever justified?
"No!" shrieks Rachel, "It's Americanised nonsense. Not to mention tempting fate, and unnecessary spending."
And weighing up the evidence, I'm inclined to agree.
More:Is It Just Me?
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