When I was pregnant with Toby, I initially didn’t want to have a baby shower…

Would it be self-indulgent to have a shower? I wondered. I didn’t want my friends to feel pressured to buy us gifts, and I felt shy about opening presents while everyone watched. My enormous belly and I didn’t need to be the center of attention, and I was sleepy all the time anyway. I figured we should just skip it.

But then.

My friends Nora and Abbey offered to throw a classic New York brunch at Nora’s apartment, complete with bagels, cream cheese and lox, and invite a handful of friends to celebrate the soon-to-arrive baby. My mom and sister even wanted to fly in from Michigan and California, and the idea started to sound kind of wonderful, after all.

The real surprise came during the shower itself. While I opened presents, surrounded by close female friends and relatives, everyone began sharing motherhood advice and stories. “Take the nipple cream to the hospital,” and “Swaddling helps your baby sleep,” and “I LOVED Good Night, Gorilla!” and “These are the only baby socks that don’t fall off.” My aunts told nostalgic stories about raising their children. We laughed about antiquated doctor advice from the 80s. A few friends even told their birth stories.

Overall, I was amazed by how tribal it felt. Up until then, my pregnancy had felt individual and a little isolating (after all, you’re on your own when you’re gripped with anxiety or lying awake at night with heartburn!), I suddenly felt bolstered and empowered by a community of supportive women who had been through all these stages before and were excited to meet my baby.

Have you heard that when a female elephant gives birth, the other female elephants gather in a circle around her? They protect her from all sides and taking turns trumpeting encouragement. Isn’t that amazing? (I think I read it in Great with Child.) The baby shower experience—being surrounded by this circle of women sending you all their maternal strength—reminded me of that.

Nowadays, when a friend will hem and haw about having a baby shower, I always say: Do it! It can be a powerful experience and a great step from pregnancy to motherhood. I now see why it has become such a time-honored tradition. Plus, you get cake :)

Did you have a baby shower? Did you like it?

P.S. Pregnancy survival guide, and what to register for your new baby.