- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2008

When Nicole Crowley of Bethesda gave birth to her son four Decembers ago, her husband, John, surprised her with a gift just for her — a platinum necklace from Tiffany with a little heart on it.

“I cried,” says Mrs. Crowley, who blogs about parenting at BananaBlueberry.com and DC Metro Moms (http://svmomblog. typepad.com/dc_metro_ moms). “He said it was so whenever I look at it I will remember our Christmas present that changed our lives forever. I did not expect a gift, so for him to go out on his own and buy one … that means a lot to me. It was a lovely gesture.”

What Mrs. Crowley’s husband showed up with is called a “push present,” a growing trend among new parents. In some circles, a healthy baby is no longer the only reward for nine months of weight gain and discomfort, not to mention a grueling labor and delivery. A Movado watch can help dull the pain, as can a diamond tennis bracelet.

Really, a push present can be anything, but jewelry is most popular because it is a significant gift to mark a significant event. Some couples see it as an investment in their family and creating heirlooms with special meaning.

Jessica Ciosek of New York City received diamond rings after the birth of each of her children, now ages 9 and 7. She and her husband, Bob, prefer to call the gifts “baby baubles.”

“I think baby baubles add to the shared history of a family much like wedding rings, anniversary gifts and even photo albums,” Mrs. Ciosek says. “I wear both rings every day, and I have often talked with my kids about how they represent each of them. Sometimes they ask me which ring is ‘theirs’ and want to hear the story about how I came to have the ring.”

Kurt Rose, co-owner of Aspen Jewelry Designs in Herndon, says push presents are “absolutely a growing trend.” Mr. Rose presented his wife, Dianne, with a diamond bracelet when their son was born, and a diamond pendant to commemorate the birth of their daughter.

“In our store, many women will come in and start a wish list of three or four things when they are pregnant,” Mr. Rose says. “We’ll have the item ready for him to take to the hospital.”

Mr. Rose says one customer ordered a three-carat diamond ring to give to his wife. A typical customer, however, will spend about $1,000. Diamond stud earrings are a very popular push present, he says.

“Men don’t have to go through labor,” he says. “Women have to do the hard part; they deserve a gift. If your part of it is to just buy a gift, then you are getting off easy.”

Christina Vercelletto, senior editor at Parenting magazine, says the concept of push presents probably started gaining steam, as many trends do, because celebrities were doing it.

“I remember reading about Michael Douglas buying Catherine Zeta-Jones a necklace when their daughter was born,” Ms. Vercelletto says. “It has trickled down to the middle class. What happens is one mom gets a bracelet and she tells her friend, then the husband of that friend is doomed. Because your best friend got a push present, you are going to want one, too.”

Ms. Vercelletto says it will be interesting to see what will happen to push presents if the rocky economic climate continues. With babies come lots of bills - furniture for the nursery, a stroller and future day care expenses among the big-ticket items. Will families have room in their budget for diamonds?

“The advice we have been giving is that if you have a husband who is willing to help out, that is the best present,” Ms. Vercelletto says. “That kind of attitude will take you further than earrings.”

More practical families can mark the occasion with something that requires a smaller investment, Ms. Vercelletto says. A digital camera to record baby’s milestones makes a great gift, as do more creative ideas such as a future weekend getaway.

“It is technically not a push present, but it acknowledges the stress of what a new mom is going through,” Ms. Vercelletto says.

Actually, gifting the new mom is not a new concept, says theologian and cultural commentator Pia de Solenni. In many cultures, it is customary to offer the new mom a piece of jewelry that she can pass on to a future generation, she says.

“It is a visible symbol of an important tradition,” she says.

However, the tradition as we know it in the United States today is creeping into crass commercial territory, Ms. Solenni says.

“Everyone has a registry for everything these days,” she says. “Then it becomes one more example of excessive materialism in our culture. We can lose sight of how important things are.”

Linda Kerr of Reston didn’t register for “baby jewels,” as she calls them. In fact, her husband, Andrew, needed some convincing that a gift was in order when she was expecting her son, now age 4.

“I think I remember him asking why I needed jewelry for giving birth,” says Mrs. Kerr, who also blogs for DC Metro Moms. “Perhaps the idea now seems a bit silly, but nine months of pregnancy can be hard and limiting on what mom can do, eat or drink. I thought of the gift as more of a ‘Congrats on finishing up this pregnancy.’

“Pregnancy is hard on many women. It is a complete sacrifice for your unborn child. And while a child surely is the greatest gift and worth the sacrifice in every way, it was fun to get a little extra ‘token’ from my husband to commemorate the day.”

Mrs. Kerr was thrilled when her husband gave her an aquamarine ring (her son’s birthstone) and, less than two years later, a ruby pendant when her daughter was born.

“Perhaps now that I’ve had two children and realized it’s not the pregnancy and birth that’s the hardest on mom, but the first year, I would have asked for baby jewels on my kids’ first birthday,” she says.

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