My sister-in-law Katie is pregnant with the very first grandchild in our family, and every one of us is practically buzzing with anticipation for the little guy’s arrival (ONLY SIX MORE WEEKS WOOOOHOO!). We have a large and loving extended family, so throwing a baby shower should be simple, right? Well, yes, except they all live in Michigan–and my brother Tyler, Katie and I are in California. Flying the three of us out wasn’t really an option, and as much as the Michiganders wanted to escape their snowy weather, getting everyone out here would have been impossible. So we turned to technology for some help in bringing us into my parent’s home over two thousand miles away. And it worked!
As it turns out, a virtual baby shower is pretty much like a regular baby shower, except it requires a little more planning–not just for those throwing it, but for the guests. Shipping presents means you can’t pop into a Target the night before! We specified in the invitations that gifts were to be mailed to me, and I offered to take care of any wrapping that needed to be done. E-mails and phone calls flew back and forth between my sister, mom and I coordinating food, games, and favors.
Decorations were a little tricky; how would we make the two locations seem more connected? Jessie sewed up some incredibly cute buntings and mailed one out to me, so we not only had something unifying both locations, but they could be used in the baby’s room after the shower was over! I took a page from Martha and made a mobile from colored paper and an embroidery hoop– again, something that could be used after the party was over.
We weighed our video chatting options—Skype wouldn’t support three connections, which wouldn’t allow our aunt in Houston to join in on the fun too, so we opted for iChat. We ordered an adaptor that would allow my sister Jessie to hook her Macbook up to the TV– we already had one here, and both locations already had webcams. After testing our setups the night before, we were ready for the long-distance party to begin!
I won’t lie: we had a few technological glitches. But after overcoming some dropped/funky connections, we got everyone on screen together– and it was almost like being in the same room! Birth stories were exchanged, labor advice given, and tales of what my brother was like as a baby told. After we caught up a bit and played a couple of games (“Guess the circumference of Katie’s tummy!” was a favorite…), it was present time, and the family got to watch the mom-to-be ooh and ah over the gifts.
Taking the laptop and webcam through the house, we were even able to give those who’d never been there a tour, and show off the work that had been done on the nursery.
After spending a couple of fun-filled hours together and saying reluctant goodbyes, everyone logged off. The family in Michigan went to work making scrapbook pages with photos of each family member so mom and dad can show the baby who he’s related to– another great way to help long-distance relatives feel a little bit closer–and we went to work assembling all of the baby paraphernalia.
Of course nothing can be as good as being together, but when miles and expensive plane trips are separating you, there IS something you can do to help the expectant parents feel loved and the rest of the family feel like they’re part of the impending miracle! It just takes bit of planning, a smidge of technical know-how, and an open mind. Our family resolved to start doing the video chat thing more often, especially once the baby’s arrived. We might not have the flying cars that “The Jetsons” promised us, but the future is here … and it can bring scattered families together in such a new, fun way! If distance has made a bridal or baby shower seem impossible for you, I highly recommend breaking out the webcam and going virtual.