“How to Welcome a Baby,” column for May 31, 2016

How do you welcome a baby into the world? Do you send a card? A gift? A pizza? I’ve done all those things. Somehow it’s never enough.

Years ago, when I heard a friend had gone into premature labor and was being rushed into surgery for a cesarian delivery, I didn’t know what to do. I prayed, yes, but my fingers kept poking me to do something more. I hate it when they do that.

So I called another friend and we broke into her house (a key under the mat made it easier) and cleaned the whole place, top to bottom. Scrubbing a toilet is a lot more fun if it’s done as an act of love. My friend said it was the best gift she ever had and we could do it again anytime, with or without her giving birth.

Recently, my husband was scrolling through Facebook when he said, “Aww! You gotta see this!”

It was a photo posted by a friend who once worked with my husband. I first met him and his wife when they invited us to go bowling. We hadn’t bowled in years. It was a hoot until the next day when we couldn’t walk. Pain aside, the friendship flourished. When they moved out of state, we stayed in touch.

Imagine our delight to see the photo of their newborn son, barely five minutes old, with his tiny starfish hand wrapped around his daddy’s finger.

Few things in life give me more hope than the sight of a newborn who is wanted and loved and will be well cared for, just as every child ought to be. And few things are funnier (to veteran parents) than the look on the face of a new dad who’s suddenly realizing that, for the rest of his life, he’ll be held captive by a little boy’s hand.

The next day my husband found the perfect card. He’s good at that. I can’t recall what it said, but it was perfect. And then began the great debate: What to do for a gift?

My husband is a retired editor and a lifelong musician. He likes to give music. He chose two “baby” CDs by Justin Roberts: Lullabys to put the baby to sleep and funny songs to make the parents laugh as they try to recall what sleep was like. (His editor side also wanted to send “The Elements of Style,” but he agreed to wait until the boy starts preschool.)

I prefer to give experiences _ tickets to a game, or a gift card for dinner _ things that become memories rather than things that become trash. But a newborn’s experiences are somewhat limited to eating, sleeping and, well, you know.

For baby gifts, I’m practical. Forget the cute onesies that fit for five minutes, and the stuffed gorilla that will get buried in the toy box or flushed down the toilet. Instead, I give that most basic of all baby necessities. No, not diapers. Books.

Luckily, my husband and I tend to like the same “baby” books _ ones we read years ago to our own babes, my three and his two. We picked some old favorites: “Goodnight, Moon”; “Pat the Bunny”; “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”; “Where the Wild Things Are”; plus a new favorite of our grandkids, “Dragons Love Tacos.”

What are the books you loved as a child, or that you loved reading to your children? It’s fun to recall them, isn’t it? To me, it’s like a family reunion _ without the fist fights.

So we sent them (via amazon.com) a small gift of books and CDs, words and music, with a note that read, “Congratulations!” to the parents and “Welcome to the world, James Mark! We are so glad you were born!”

It wasn’t enough.

A baby is a gift to the world. His parents, bless them, will take care of him. But he brings life and hope and joy to us all. His arrival should be celebrated with fireworks and parades and choirs of angels. At the least, we should get to hold him.

We’ll hope to do that one day. Until then, what do you think? Maybe we’ll send them a pizza?


  1. Thank you so much Sharon, for the books, the music, and the support and friendship over the moves and miles and years. I’m going to cherish them all, and this column, which is making me cry into my coffee.

  2. Kay Berthold says

    What a blessing to read in my newspaper today! Babies bring blessings! Your article will be a treasure for years to come, tucked away in this little boy’s baby book!

  3. Loved this one! Eloquent and great ideas! Thanks for sharing your talents, Sharon!!!

  4. Thank you so much for gifting this lucky child and his parents with a set of books and CDs, which will be loved long after the toys are faded and worn out. Next time, though, please go down to your local bookstore (hopefully there is still is one near you) and shop there instead of amazon.com. Indie book vendors need our support.

  5. I love giving books as well. Some of my favorites are Corduroy, Goodnight Moon, And Guess How Much I Love You. Of course, pizza makes everything better, place that delivery order now!

  6. Meals for the family, books, gift cards to a store where I can buy anything I might still need.

    When it comes to favorite books, those you mentioned. . . plus _Llama, Llama Red Pajama_ and the Sandra Boynton books for this crew. As I look over my shoulder, I see a pile of picture books overflowing the bookshelf and carpeting the floor. We even have multiples of some favorites, and that’s okay. And _Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom_.

    And I so much wish I had somebody who would clean my house!

  7. My personal favorite is “Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.” “Why not!”

  8. Barbara Cornett says

    Pizza would be great!! Everyone has to eat and pizza delivered to your door that you didn’t have to prepare is a marvelous blessing! I’m partial to the books too. You can’t start reading to children too soon. Before they’re born is a good time!

  9. Susan Vordermark says

    Still have “George Shrinks” that you gave Adam 27 years ago?

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