A PhD Shower and a Call to Celebrate



It started as a conversation among our group of girlfriends.

A comment that: we throw baby showers and wedding showers, but we don’t really take the time to celebrate the women in our lives who aren’t married, or haven’t had children. When do they get to have a (insert life event here)-shower?

At the time, our friend was almost finished her PhD after a six-year process of researching sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The conversation went like this: It takes only nine months to make a baby; a PhD takes years. So where is the shower for women who complete their studies?

In the Netherlands, the celebrations around completing your PhD are on par with a wedding; historically, getting your doctorate was like marrying the university. So alongside an official ceremony, or thesis defence, there is often lunch, speeches, dinner, drinks, and dancing.

Thus what started as a joke, became a “Promovendouche,” or in English, a “PhD Shower.” Our friend had no idea we were actually throwing her a surprise shower. She arrived an hour late to meet with some friends for drinks, but was ambushed with gifts, cards, STI themed cupcakes, sparklers, and prayers of blessing for her coming defence and her future.

It was hilarious and special and not unlike many of the wedding and baby showers I have been to before. It was all about honouring her journey. Her accomplishments. The place God has brought her to. It was taking time to say, We celebrate you. We are proud of you. We love that you are making a difference in your field.

Of course I love throwing typical celebrations for my friends who get married, I love celebrating when they give birth to a baby, but I am inspired by the idea of celebrating the women in our lives whose circumstances look a little different.

We often know the things the women in our lives have been pouring their heart and souls into. Why let them miss out on all the goodness that comes with getting to have a wedding or baby shower? We can celebrate them where they are at.

Sometimes we can forget to create spaces for one another because a journey doesn’t fit a typical path, sometimes moments of celebration can be painful for those who have lost, or not received a longing of their heart. Baby showers and wedding showers can bring up a lot of sensitivity and even trigger pain. I know that. It’s hard. It has been circling my mind a lot over the last few months. The question of making space for one another even in that hurt and missing—giving permission not to celebrate if they can’t do it.

The posts this month at SheLoves, the stories in our link-ups, the incidences of othering and being othered, have been heart-breaking, powerful, convicting and inspiring. When I look around in my own world I see such a diverse and strong community of women. I see those who have overcome incredible obstacles, and those who walk their journeys with such faithfulness. And this month I have been asking for eyes to see even more than what I know on the surface—to see in myself and my own community where othering can happen. And I have desperately wanted to see the threads that connect us—where we can weave our stories into the hearts of one another. I want us to overcome moments of othering with presence and prayers and tears but also with rejoicing. I want to see goodness in our differences.

Let’s start finding ways to celebrate and honour more creatively. Let’s give people the opportunity to opt out of things that may bring too much grief, but also let’s see where we can bless and celebrate each other, even if it doesn’t fit a traditional mould. I truly believe that we can call up more life in those around us by acknowledging the big and beautiful moments of their journeys, even when they aren’t typical.

So tell us, Shelovelys, how have you un-traditionally celebrated the women around you? What thing can we celebrate about you right now in your life?


Image credit: Waqas Mustafeez