'Push Presents' Expected From Expectant Fathers

Men who thought their lavish-jewelry duties were over after they purchased the engagement ring might get a shock when their babies are born. That's when it's time to shop for the "push present (search)."

But a bouquet of flowers won't usually cut it. Nowadays, many husbands are expected to buy expensive presents to thank their wives for dealing with pregnancy and "pushing" through labor.

The latest gift-giving occasion is just one more for men to add to their list -- along with Valentine's Day (search), birthdays, holidays and the all-important anniversary.

"My husband does not believe in jewelry, so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to cash in on the whole societal pressure thing," laughed Seattle mom Julie Leitner, 32, who got a white gold and diamond bracelet in the $800-$1,500 price range when her daughter was born.

Push presents, which are usually jewelry but don't have to be, have gained popularity in the last few years. Once one new mother gets such a gift, her friends embrace the trend and pass the word on to their hubbies.

"I'd been told by so many people that you're supposed to get one that I just assumed it was the norm," said Leitner.

But many men are clueless about the concept. Some aren't even very involved in buying the actual present.

"I wouldn't necessarily say the gift was from me," said Bruce Owen, 35, of Oakland, Calif. "[My wife] picked it out. She bought it. It was more as if I didn't have a choice."

Owen said he didn't mind saying yes to the "baby bauble" -- a pair of diamond-cluster earrings that cost a couple of thousand dollars -- when his 2 1/2-year-old daughter was born.

"I recognized the incredible sacrifice and difficulty of carrying a baby for nine months," said the real estate professional.

The tradition of husbands giving their wives gifts to commemorate the birth of a baby has some longstanding cultural roots. In England (search), the man is expected to buy the woman an elegant ring. In India (search), a husband bestows a set of gold jewelry upon his wife -- offering more elaborate baubles for boy babies than girls. And recently, some of those customs have made their way over to the U.S.

The British husband of Philadelphia mom Miryam Roddy was the one to introduce her to the idea of birth jewelry after she had their 1-year-old daughter.

"That's the way things are done in England," said Roddy, 37, who got a gold and diamond ring. "First he got me a rose with a little note. A day or two later, he brought me the ring. It was such a surprise. I didn't expect anything else."

Roddy balked at the notion of spending big money on baby baubles, and even told her husband she hoped he hadn't dropped a bundle.

"To spend thousands of dollars on something is ridiculous," she said. "In my mind, that's money better saved for the child's education."

Etiquette expert Pamela Holland said that unlike other gift-giving situations, this one shouldn't have set guidelines.

"The standard is that there is no standard," she said. "It does make sense to have etiquette around wedding or baby shower gifts because you're inviting other people into it. But this is far too intimate to have a rule."

In that vein, the push-present practice is passed along mainly by word-of-mouth.

"There isn't a book or rule guide considered universal on the issue of gift-giving at the birth of a child," said Holland. "It's like any trend -- you hear of it, a wife mentions it to a husband and then it gets spread down to generations."

Owen's wife, for instance, learned of the custom from her female friends.

"It was a peer build-up with all the other ladies talking about this," said Owen. "It became, 'What did you get?' so obviously something had to be done."

But the peer pressure isn't confined to groups of women. Men have also been known to rib each other about push presents.

One New York City mom said that's what happened to her hedge-fund analyst husband after their son was born.

"He was kind of hazed at work for not getting me anything," said the 32-year-old investment banker. "So he said, 'Do you want diamond earrings or a weekend away?' I've never been a big jewelry person. I picked a weekend away."

Not surprisingly, a couple's financial situation is a big factor in deciding how to handle the push present. But budget aside, it's often just a simple gesture of appreciation that really counts.

"My sister suggested [expensive jewelry], and I told her she was nuts," said UPS driver Mike Compierchio, 36, of Verona, N.J., who has a 7-month-old baby girl. "We didn't have the money to spend on some extravagant gift. [My wife] thought it was a silly idea too. So I got her flowers when she was in the hospital."