I haven't read through every post so forgive me if I repeat, but I just had a shower last week (FWIW, this is baby #3 for me and the first shower I've ever had so it was a new experience for me). Initially when I was asked what I wanted/needed it felt strange asking for anything, but then the reality set in that there would be expenses/running around to get this and that and there were items that would be handy for us to have, especially because after 7 years, many items that we got for child #1 need yo be replaced for child #3. Likewise, people would be getting us something so it would be better to tell them what would be truly helpful rather than end up with another host of gender neutral 0-3 mo. outfits (sweet, but by #3 we have plenty). I made a registry at alternativegiftregistry.org because I really liked that it let me write however much text that I wanted about each item and to link to any internet link rather than be store specific if you know what I mean.
I think that it was a little more personal to be able to say, we could really use item X because of reason Y relating to our family, and here are some places where you might find it or something like it. It also allowed me to give a range of item prices for each type of item wanted, and to provide general examples/features of the type of item requested rather than YOU MUST BUY ME THIS (e.g. I requested BPA free bibs with sleeves or "catcher" pouches and gave some examples of different brands/styles).
I also was very clear throughout the registry about being more than happy to receive gently used/handmade items in cases where it was hygenic/safe to do so. In some cases, a friend might be able to give or loan me the infant car seat or stroller that I'd only need for a short while It would be no cost to them but a huge potential savings to me (and there are items like a car seat that I would not feel comfortable purchasing used for safety reasons but I would take from a trusted friend as a used item. I could even specify, "I'd love a gently used infant car seat or one to borrow, provided that it is within 6 years of the date of manufacture and has never been in a car during an accident. Please avoid any previously used car seats whose safety history is not 100% known to you. We would need the seat for approx. 6 months."). In other cases, the person themselves might not have a gently used version of the item, but maybe they'd find one in their price range on Craigslist, ebay, etc. when purchasing the item new would be cost prohibitive for them. Likewise, maybe someone has a talent, like they're a great seamstress/has a serger (or knows someone who is) and can bang out a bunch of cloth wipes at little cost to them if I let them know that I'd love them and give some specifics (e.g. I'd love 2-3 dz. 2-layer cloth wipes, around 8" square. Double velour would be great or velour/flannel-at least 80% cotton content for the velour, please. Examples can be seen here
, or here
, or here
In the end, many people at the shower went in on group gifts, buying us the 2 "big ticket" items that I had listed and I also have an infant car seat on loan as well as a gently used jogging stroller coming my way. For the other "want" items, DH and I participated in a big "mothers" baby item sale that goes on here twice a year. We spent $40 total on a used stroller that will work with an infant car seat (our old one was awful) and an infant vibrating bouncy seat (the two would have totaled around $200 new). Maybe some of your friends/family are familiar with similar sales or are garage sale freaks or something and they can source out bargains for you too to help minimize your expenses and use some of their "talents/connections/resources" to fill out your registry in a way that is more affordable for everyone, and allows for honest communication and personal freedom for the guests (I of course always preface the registry by saying something like, "here are some ideas of items that we could really use to make life a little easier for our growing family, but of course any gifts, good thoughts, and well wishes are much appreciated. Many of the items listed have examples provided but please feel free to deviate-important features if any will be mentioned in the item description."
Anyway, long and wordy but hopefully something in there is helpful. Good luck to you!