A push present is a gift given to a new mother shortly after she delivers a baby. Many people are not aware that gifts to newly delivered mothers are actually an ancient tradition, although the vulgar slang term “push present” is relatively new. These gifts are meant to commemorate the struggles of labor and delivery, and to celebrate the birthday of the new member of the family. They are typically given by the father.
Archaeological evidence suggests that men have been giving gifts to newly delivered mothers for thousands of years. Certainly such gifts were common in the Middle Ages, when mothers were given lying-in presents to commemorate the birth. These presents often took the form of jewelry, a tradition which has been retained to this day. In addition to jewelry, some mothers were given gifts of land and other useful presents, especially when they birthed an heir to the family name. Many of these historical lying in gifts were quite practical; they ensured that women had wealth of their own to support themselves if something happened to their spouses, since property in many cultures went directly to the oldest son, bypassing the wife altogether.
In Europe, the tradition of giving gifts to new mothers has persisted to the present day, but the popularity of such presents experienced a brief wane in American culture, except among very traditional families. In the 1990s, the lying-in gift was retooled, and turned into the push present, sometimes called the “baby bauble,” although the jewelry industry tends to prefer the more polite “birthing gift.”
The push present has been a topic of controversy in some circles. Many critics have noted that such gifts tend to be given primarily among wealthy families, and some people have suggested that there is an element of greed to the push present. In 2007, numerous publications featured scathing articles on the push present, criticizing women who “educated” their husbands and suggesting that the birth of a healthy child should be present enough.
There is a certain charm to this ancient tradition which has been overlooked by critics. The idea of thanking a woman for carrying and birthing a baby is not terribly scandalous, since it is, after all, a lot of work. Many women cherish their birthing gifts as heirlooms, and it is not uncommon to see them passed down between generations. A birthing gift also does not have to be jewelry; fathers with less expendable income can give presents like coupons for doing dishes, changing diapers, or babysitting for a girl's night out.