We are grateful, really grateful - we just had too much going on.
June 22, 2016 11:36 AM   Subscribe

My baby is four months old, and due to a plethora of reasons, we never ended up sending out thank you cards after the baby shower. I know there's a period of time after which you just don't... but is it too late to send out thank birth announcements? What is the best way to show our appreciation for the gifts we were given for the baby months later?

Somewhere towards the end of my second trimester, my pregnancy went horribly awry. I was hospitalized for an incompetent cervix for a month and a half, I was still dealing with nausea, I got a severe case of PUPPs, I was leaking amniotic fluid... it was lovely, on top of all the 'normal' pregnancy things like aches and pains and god knows what else. When I came home from the hospital, it was complete bed rest, and I basically got nothing done in preparation for the baby until two weeks before he was born. Even then, because of the PUPPs, I couldn't wear clothes to go out (it was nasty) and probably would have died (or something tragic) had it not been for Amazon Prime Now. On top of that, I had zero help, my husband was working full-time and as supportive as he was... things just didn't get done. We are in counseling now because the whole experience ripped our relationship to shreds - emotionally, we are exhausted and spent. Up until about a month ago, it felt like I was living in an intense fog of depression, physical discomfort, emotional numbness and isolation.

My close friends threw me a baby shower at 35 weeks. We were so surprised and happy when they did - and some of our guests drove hours to get to where we live! No one knew at that point what I was going through so it was even lovelier to know that they just wanted to show how much they cared. At 37 weeks, our perfect baby son was induced and things have gradually started to calm down.

So now, at 4 months, I'm finally beginning to feel like my old self although sleep-deprived and exhausted most of the time (still a million times better than what I went through.) I took a vacation for ten days by myself because I'd have a mental breakdown if I didn't get a break before transitioning back to working full-time - I started working a month ago, and hadn't physically been at work since October.

Most of my friends have no clue about everything that's happened. They have no clue of how emotionally wrenching, physically painful the past few months have been. It's possible some of my co-workers who didn't attend the shower but still sent a gift think I'm an ungrateful wretch. I know some of this sounds like I'm making excuses, especially since I went on vacation... but I really do want to send out thank you cards to show everyone that whatever they sent/ did is truly, sincerely appreciated. We'd like to use a recent picture of the little dude on a custom printed thank you card. Is this appropriate? What language could I use that won't sound trite and insincere? Should I not do anything?

Thanks in advance, MeFites!
posted by Everydayville to Society & Culture (42 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, it's not too late, and if you have the energy and desire to send the cards, I'm sure they would be appreciated. No need to go over the top with apologies and explanations; they're your friends, they'll understand!
posted by languagehat at 11:39 AM on June 22, 2016 [22 favorites]

Send 'em. Most people won't begrudge new parents forgetting to do things (and the ones who will aren't worth conisdering). Don't bother mentioning the time lag. Print "Thank you!" on the card and write "Thanks for the [insert gift here]! [He/I/we] love[s] it!" inside or on the back.
posted by Etrigan at 11:40 AM on June 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

A birth announcement card with a "Baby 'Ville was born on Whatever Day" and a cute photo montage is perfect. You can design it to leave a little blank space where you can write an appropriate thank you note to those who gave you gifts. "'Ville loves playing with the Freddie Firefly you gave us! Thanks so much!" "We've used those Dr. Brown's bottles so much already. Thanks so much!"
posted by Liesl at 11:40 AM on June 22, 2016 [23 favorites]

Never deny yourself a kind impulse. Send 'em!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2016 [23 favorites]

Not too late, no one is mad, Liesl nailed it if you can remember who gave you what.
posted by lafemma at 11:42 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If your baby were a year old, some explanation might be warranted. At four months, you're still perfectly within that sweet newborn window of drastically lowered social expectations. It only seems like forever to you; everyone else will be more than happy to coo over baby photos.
posted by teremala at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2016 [19 favorites]

I would not blink an eye at receiving a thank you card now from you - I think you're well within your time frame.
posted by needlegrrl at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, nthing it is still OK. I never got all mine out and I still cringe at the thought a little. I'd think as long as you get them out sometime this summer you'll be totally in the clear.
posted by typecloud at 11:50 AM on June 22, 2016

People totally forgive new parents. :) Send them out with a quickie thank you note on the picture.
posted by heathrowga at 11:57 AM on June 22, 2016

You can definitely send them now, but do write a personal handwritten thank-you note on the cards; it doesn't have to be long but it does need to be there. Congratulations!
posted by lalex at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's never to late to say 'thank you'!
posted by cecic at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2016

On the other hand, everyone that gave you a gift loves you and absolutely will not hold any grudge for lack of thank you cards.

I have frequently told my friends at baby showers, "Don't you dare spend time sending me a thank you! You have too much to do already. "

As someone that also had a horrific pregnancy experience, condolences. No one likes to admit pregnancy is horribly painful and often disabling for MONTHS. Welcome to the horrible secret club!
posted by littlewater at 12:05 PM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I know there's a period of time after which you just don't

There is really no statute of limitations on sending a thank you. You can always send them, even if they're ridiculously late.

And seriously, under the circumstances, people are going to understand.

"It was a difficult pregnancy, but the fact that our friends were so supportive made it easier to cope with. Your XYZ is helping make the early days better by XYZ."
posted by jacquilynne at 12:05 PM on June 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yay! This makes me feel so much better about my travesty of social etiquette. Thank you so much... I'm off to design our cards!
posted by Everydayville at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

Absolutely not too late. I'm sure that everyone understands and would be delighted by the card.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:07 PM on June 22, 2016

You're still good! And babies are honestly much cuter at 4 months than they are at birth, so I think a picture card would be great. But you've obviously reached the point where it's A Thing (for you, not necessarily for others) so I wouldn't faff around too much designing the perfect card, just get 'em done.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

For baby stuff, no time limit. In fact, if you send Thank Yous right away (like my sister did after the baby's birth), people will wonder if your priorities are in the right order!

Weddings, one year. (Not that you asked, but maybe that is where you got a "time limit" idea from.)

In reality? Just do whatever the heck you want. No one cares except advice columnists.
posted by TinWhistle at 12:13 PM on June 22, 2016

Oh my goodness, if I were one of your friends I would be DELIGHTED to receive a cute photo card of the baby with a little note on the back. And I emphasize LITTLE. One or two sentences, max. Really!

It's the photo that counts! :)
posted by cooker girl at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is this appropriate? What language could I use that won't sound trite and insincere? Should I not do anything?

It's totally fine and you might want to actually reach out, or at least mention what you've been through, to the really good friends among them. One of the hardest things about a lot of this stuff is how isolating it can be. You don't want to air your relationship laundry and you feel weird talking about an ongoing series of scary things (that worked out okay, but you didn't know it was going to and that is terrifying) and so sometimes you just don't and you could use some support, it sounds like.

So without making it seem like you're either saying "You weren't there when I needed you" or "Oh gosh I really need a lot of help right now" (I know you don't feel this way but sometimes we can think we're being a little more flat in affect than we might be when we've been through the ringer, I have a hard time with this so probably just projecting) just let them know "Hey we had a few challenges along the way but Baby Everyday is doing well and I'd love to get back in touch and thank you so much for the thoughtful gift...."

The best card is the one you send. I am glad you are okay.
posted by jessamyn at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2016 [8 favorites]

I definitely don't expect thank yous from new parents, it's always nice to receive (especially with photos!) but absolutely nothing I would be waiting on or consider rude if I didn't receive one (especially figuring in health problems/hospital stay!). I think it is lovely to send cards now if you want to, but if that feels overwhelming, also ok to just forgive yourself and move on.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:26 PM on June 22, 2016

It's definitely not too late and it's within the window where you don't have to apologize in your letter.
posted by Toddles at 12:36 PM on June 22, 2016

Oh gosh, go on ahead and send 'em. The people who matter will be happy to get a lovely piece of mail that isn't a bill or a political ad at this point in the year, and honestly 4 months is nothing given what's been going on in your life. I have friends with much older children who still send out their holiday cards in, like, March. Life just gets complicated, and most people will understand and be glad to know that you're doing okay. (Anyone who gets snippy about lateness can go jump up their own ass as far as I'm concerned, in this particular case.)

I'm glad you're doing better post-birth, and congrats on your sweet baby boy!
posted by palomar at 12:39 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gifts are given in person at baby showers, so it's enough that you thanked each giver in person at the time.

For those that didn't attend but still sent a gift, a photo combined with a brief handwritten note of thanks is a great idea. You could say something like "We are so delighted with the banana bender you sent little Kyle, and we use it often, as you have opened our eyes to the dangers of feeding straight bananas to infants! Wow! We never knew we needed that - it has been a lifesaver! It was a difficult birth and we're thankfully reaching the end of difficult few months getting my health back after complications, and your very practical gift as well as your good wishes have been a real support for us."

It's only too late to send a thank you note when the sender or recipient is dead. Follow your impulse, it's a good one!
posted by tel3path at 12:43 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thank you also for everyone's response to the pregnancy horror.

Much of this has been driven by the fact that we've shared baby and family pictures on social media, and people have been overwhelmingly responsive and congratulatory - "He is so cute! Can't wait to meet him!" - that I feel guilty for not acknowledging their gestures of good faith and love. Now that perhaps the lateness of the thank you isn't hugely offensive, I feel so much more comfortable sending a short, sweet handwritten thank you note with a picture and adding a sentiment like, "we can't wait for Baby to finally meet his Auntie Kate/ Uncle Zach and Cousin Miles, etc. Some of my guests I hardly even see any more (distance, different lives, whatever) so it's even more important to me that we let them know we are thinking of them!

P.S: Is there really such a thing as a banana bender? New parenting is quite the learning experience! :D
posted by Everydayville at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

It is literally never too late to say thank you for anything.
posted by phunniemee at 12:47 PM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I swear I heard that the "Miss Manners" standard is, like, a year after the fact, so you're well within rights.

And my cousin was more than a year after the fact sending me a card after her first daughter, and I didn't care because she was now taking care of a baby, yo.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on June 22, 2016

I swear I heard that the "Miss Manners" standard is, like, a year after the fact, so you're well within rights.

Miss Manners is really, really clear that this is not the case. Her standard is two weeks for a thank you note, barring illness (this is an illness situation). The one year is for sending the gift, not the thank you.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:07 PM on June 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

The Miss Manners standard is that it's never too late to send a thank you note.

The people who love you would NOT have wanted you to put this any higher in the list of priorities than it already has been: birth announcements come WAY after you and your child's mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

(Also, being able to give a gift was really thanks enough, in my case---I have never been upset at not getting a thank you note or birth announcement from a new parent, EVER. I want them to be happy, safe, comfortable and loved; that is why I went out of my way for them. A little piece of paper is nice, but it is just so besides the point.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:10 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

(They're "due" two weeks after a wedding, barring illness, but they're never too late to be sent! And this is not a wedding, with no illness...rather the opposite.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:12 PM on June 22, 2016

Miss Manners also expects baby shower thank-yous to be sent promptly.

(But yes, this is an "illness" situation; OP it's lovely that you're sending them)
posted by lalex at 1:15 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

From the sender's point of view, a thank-you note is sent as soon as physically possible.

From the receiver's point of view, you assume new parents can't really find the strength to wield a pen, and you expect nothing until their youngest child reaches the age of 21.
posted by tel3path at 1:16 PM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'll ruefully admit that my growing sense of guilt and horror at not getting these out was heightened by Google search results from Emily Post and Miss Manners. And then paralysis set in. However, I consider MeFites 'realer' than the guy behind the search box on Google, so...
posted by Everydayville at 1:27 PM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, Miss Manners is very real and will murder you in your bed if you don't write those notes now that you've reached a point where you actually feel like it.

Signed, a genuine MeFite
posted by tel3path at 1:30 PM on June 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

As the parent of a four month old kid: I haven't sent a bunch still. I've been doing a lot of taking a photo of the kid with the item (or wearing the item) and texting it to the person who gave the gift. I know that isn't a thank you note in the world of etiquette, but I hope that those receiving my texts (an emails for those relatives who don't text) are okay with that until I get my thank you notes in order.

I think that you get to be late with thank you notes for baby stuff. There will always be one person who will take offense that you didn't write the note immediately, but they're just going to go through life being disappointed frequently.

You had a tough pregnancy and then a newborn. These aren't easy things - if you feel comfortable letting people know that it was not an easy pregnancy, you should let them know. People are remarkably sympathetic about this kind of stuff.

Anyway, I'm sending you hugs while I look at the pile of thank you cards that is under the coffee table in front of me.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:32 PM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

Miss manners also says they're due the moment the gift is received. She's being a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Also, who gives a fuck whether they are two weeks or two months or six months. That is all nonsense. You went through a medical trauma. Anyone who legitimately cares is the kind of person who should be ticked off, because they are a bad person.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:58 PM on June 22, 2016

Oh, Miss Manners is very real and will murder you in your bed if you don't write those notes

The biggest trick Miss Manners ever pulled was convincing the world she was just a newspaper columnist. Miss Manners is out there! She can't be bargained with. She can't be reasoned with. She doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And she absolutely will not stop, ever, until you send those thank-you notes.

That said, you do get a lot of slack for being a new parent. My wife's shower is coming up this weekend, and we're due in August. But I'm thinking rather than a generic thank you card, people might actually prefer you wait and send them baby pics. That's what we're banking on...
posted by Naberius at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

Nobody is ever checking their mailbox waiting for a thank-you card. If they're worried you didn't get the gift, maybe, but really nobody is watching the clock as much as you are. It would be incredibly petty to care and honestly are those even the opinions you care about?

It will warm hearts to get a personal thank you note on the announcement and anyone who notices the time lag will probably chuckle some sort of sympathetic "oh, newborns, ha!" and not spend another second on it.
posted by R a c h e l at 2:08 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Chiming in late to say I was in a similar situation (wedding, followed by near catastrophic illness that people weren't really aware of) and I too was, as well as utterly destroyed by events, horribly paralysed by guilt on the thank you front. I squeaked in at almost a year after the wedding. And while some people may, I guess, have silently judged me, we also got lovely unexpected feedback along the lines of 'so impressed you still sent them - most people wouldn't have bothered'. And fwiw I can't imagine judging parents of any newborn for taking a bit of time to send a note. People know babies = sleep deprivation = chaos. Congrats on your little one and be gentle with yourself as you recover from a traumatic time in your life.
posted by t0astie at 4:31 PM on June 22, 2016

Oh jeez, not at all. If you'd managed to send them out before now I'd be kind of intimidated about your startling productivity and organisational skills and would secretly think you were a bit of a freak.

Besides, babies just get cuter - people will love an updated picture.
posted by kitten magic at 4:50 PM on June 22, 2016

I've been doing a lot of taking a photo of the kid with the item (or wearing the item) and texting it to the person who gave the gift. I know that isn't a thank you note in the world of etiquette

I think it's a thank-you note in the world of manners. Personalised to each recipient, including knowing how they communicate, and each gets their own baby picture - loving and attentive! It's mail-merge or blast thankyous that are dubious, I'd say.
posted by clew at 10:12 PM on June 22, 2016

Also, slightly off-topic, but if some of these folks traveled to come to the shower, give them a call (which I know sounds overwhelming much of the time) and just chat! There is no reason you can't share some of your (very difficult! very trying!) problems with your friends who will be supportive. There is no need to keep pregnancy complications a secret--you'll be surprised how many people have had similar experiences and may have some useful coping mechanisms if you start talking to them.
posted by eglenner at 9:19 AM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You guys sure know how to make a girl feel better... sleep-deprived as she is! Thank you!
posted by Everydayville at 12:53 PM on June 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

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