Postpartum Pointers: For Your Information

Soooooo… Even though the cynic in me thinks, “You know, I rarely get visitors now, why on earth would I think people would visit me after the birth?”, the optimist says “Maybe people will want to come! Because there’s a baby, and that’s exciting, and stuff!” And back and forth it goes. I honestly don’t expect any more people to come around once the baby is here, but I sure HOPE they will, because at least the baby is super portable while she’s still inside me, but when she’s out, the whole getting out and about thing is going to have a steep learning curve. (Which is a large part of why I am SO GLAD that we’re planning on two weeks of paternity leave so I’m not here by myself with the baby going even crazier than I am right now.)

On the other hand, I know that the vast majority of my friends don’t have any experience with visiting new parents, and certainly don’t have any experience with visiting me postpartum. I found some friendly suggestions and advice-type posts online that I think would be helpful for people to take into consideration when they visit. (If they visit. I hope they visit. Please visit.) I know a bunch of them are things I never would have thought of myself, but they make a lot of sense and I would be glad to incorporate them into my own behavior and attitude if/when I’m the one doing the visiting, so maybe they will prove useful to others as well.

I don’t want to come off as overly picky or demanding of people who are, in fact, taking time and effort out of their day to see me and therefore help prevent my turning into a raving lunatic due to what is essentially solitary confinement. However, I do want to point out a few things which, in my opinion, will help things run smoothly and make visits quite pleasant indeed. (Some of the tips will be edited to reflect our specific circumstances. These editions will not be noted here because that would make this a punctuation nightmare, but the blog titles link to the original article.)

Tips from There are no Ordinary Moments:

“Have a friend who had a baby and you’re on the roster to drop off a meal?  Here’s everything they want you to know and do, but are too shy and polite to say and ask.

They are tired.  Breastfeeding is still awkward and having people around makes it more awkward. The mother is recovering physically, either from a surgical birth, or from the equivalent of a triathlon where the prize was a grapefuit sized head flying out of her vagina.  Either of these things makes you sore and tired. They would like to see you, but don’t want to be tired out by a long visit.  You are not going to stay longer than 15 minutes, no matter how polite the parents are in saying you can stay  longer. If your visit/meal drop off scheduled for 5.30. BE ON TIME.   Make plans for 6:15 so that you HAVE to leave.

Before you walk in the door, put your game face on.  Set a timer, on your phone or watch for 15 minutes. When it goes off, get out of there! Remember that you are going to be a quiet, productive blessing.  This visit is NOT about you.  It is not about the parents hosting you and putting on a cup of tea so you can sit and visit and hold the baby. Think about how you would feel if you had either had surgery or ran a triathlon.  What would you want people to do for you?  This visit is about blessing the parents and making their life a little bit easier.  Your prize is getting a quick peek at the cute new human.”

1. Use only disposable dishes when bringing over a meal. There is nothing more annoying than
a) having to wash more dishes when you have a new baby and
b) having to try to return dishes to all sorts of random people when you have a new baby.

2.  In addition to your meal, bring cut up veggies and fruit, unsalted trail mix or nuts, or other such healthy snacks for daytime munching for mom to eat while she’s nursing.

3.  Go into the kitchen and spend 5 minutes clearing off a counter, washing a sink-full of dishes, loading the dishwasher etc.  Don’t ask permission, just do it.

5.  Coo over the baby, but wash your hands before touching it.

6.  If they want to eat right then, heat the food up and put it on the table, give everybody hugs and then leave.

7.  Take the garbage out when you go.

Very Important Extra Tip:

“Come back when the baby is a few weeks old for a longer visit and help where you are needed. A large number of people commented that they have a large influx of support in the first few weeks and then it totally dries up.  I have also found this to be very true, and now, when my friends have babies, I tell them I will bring them a meal and come visit after the other parent has returned to work and the other friends have stopped bringing meals.  Many mothers get quite lonely and feel very isolated after the first few weeks and all the visitors have stopped.

Tips from Gloria Lemay Birth Blog:

” ‘Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born.’ … ‘Just let me know if you need a hand.’ … ‘Anything I can do, just give me a call.’

Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and countertops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of ‘I’m fine, I’m doing great, new motherhood is wonderful, I can cope and my husband is the Rock of Gibraltar’ is pervasive in postpartum land. If you’re too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s wanted and needed…”

4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.

5. Come over at 10 a.m., make me eggs, toast, cheesy grits, yogurt with granola, or some other healthy, tasty breakfast. I will be occupied with breaking the baby’s fast.

7. Come over in your work clothes, tell me to take a nap or just hang out on the couch, and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.

9. Come over and give my husband a two hour break so he can get some r & r that will delight him (such as being able to go to a gaming session that he’s been missing for weeks… or bring some people and have a gaming session here!). Fold more laundry.

“These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above.”

Tips from The Pregnant Chicken:

“Do you feel special when you’re pregnant? Well, step aside, Lady, because a baby is here and people love babies.

The dilemma that comes with having this little rock star in your home now is that billions of people will want to come visit it. Some will be helpful some will not.

So here are a few handy tips I’ve picked up along the way so you’re able to show your magnificent little miracle off to the world like Simba in the Lion King.”

1. Make them bring food: As my friend’s Jamaican grandmother used to say, “Don’t come wid you two long han”. Which loosely translated to don’t be a jerk and show up empty handed.

Not only should you stagger these people, but try and get them to bring you food. I featured a brilliant website called MealBaby where people can pick a date where they bring you a meal. Not only do you get a dinner that you don’t have to cook, but you get to decide what dates are available so you can control the flow of people. Have them pop it over or sit down and share it with them, either way, they get a baby fix and you get some lasagna. I say win-win.

[Note: I do have a MealBaby “registry” set up and you can access it here: http://mealbaby.com/viewregistry/14190150 ]

Tips from Lisa-Jo Baker: Tales from a Gypsy Mama:

1. Bring chocolate

2. Don’t tell her to call if she needs anything, just drop by and help with everything

3. Cry with her

4. Laugh with her

5. Share details of what you love about her baby

6. Make sure she’s actually in 1 out of every 1,000 photos she’s taking

7. Take candid pictures of her in the new daily routine

8. Wash diapers when you visit [I will be happy to provide written instructions!]

9. Offer to drive her on errands and stay in the car with the baby

10. Be honest about how hard motherhood can be

11. Text her encouraging messages throughout the day

12. Come over and hold the baby so she can have her arms back for a while to do chores or cook or catch up on anything that’s driving her crazy

13. Don’t let her become isolated in the baby cocoon – invite her and the baby out so she can reconnect with friends

14. Never expect her to show up anywhere on time

15. Massage her neck and shoulders

16. Run her a hot bath

17. Don’t imply that breast feeding should be a breezy walk in the park; let her know it’s normal to struggle sometimes getting the hang of it

18. She is just discovering the hard world of mother guilt – please don’t do or say anything to add to that burden

19. Vacuum

20. Bring fresh flowers

21. Take out any dried up bouquets

22. Paint her toe nails

23. Tell her she’s beautiful

24. Don’t tell her by now your kids were all sleeping through the night

25. Especially if by “sleeping through the night” you mean from 1am to 5am.

26. Remember that your memories of new motherhood have the romantic haze of distance

27. Wash her dishes without being asked

28. If you come over for a meal, please bring the meal and then clean it all up afterwards

29. Let her know it’s normal to stand hunched over a sleeping baby just listening to them breathe

30. Anytime she is disappointed by her new figure remind her that she grew a human being – that’s a miracle and turns out miracles need room to grow

31. Ask her what the one chore is around the house she wishes she could get to and do it for her

32. Always bring your camera when you visit

33. Print and frame one of the zillion photos she emails of the baby; include baby’s name and birth date

34. Tell her it’s OK to feel like you want to quit motherhood some days

35. But tell her that Trace Adkins is right and she’s gonna miss this one day

36. Don’t just make a hand print of the baby – make one of mom and/or dad’s too for a fun comparison keepsake

37. Hold the baby so she can get a shower

38. Bring over great TV shows and movies for all those dinner {for the baby} and a movie {for her} months

39. Ask her which baby items she still needs – get her those instead of the cute clothes you have your eye on

40. Assure her you understand that while she might know that she’s walking on holy ground, that doesn’t mean she won’t still feel irritated how often that ground is strewn with cracker crumbs and yesterday’s socks

41. Admit motherhood is one of the hardest things you’ve ever done

42. Go ahead and quote that goodie-but-oldie, “It’s not brave if you’re not scared.” {Thank you Ben Affleck}

43. Warn her everyone will have an opinion on how she mothers but at the end of the day, hers is the only one that matters

44. Assure her motherhood is not graded; some days just surviving is victory enough

45. Keep a pack of Thank You Cards handy in case she freaks out late one night that she hasn’t thanked anyone for all the meals

46. Never expect a thank you card from a sleep deprived new mom

47. Tell her there is no such thing as “doing it all” and especially no such thing as “doing it all perfectly”

48. Reassure her that sometimes the love and happiness in a home is directly proportional to the mess.

49. Send a special prayer, encouragement or blessing addressed to the baby via snail mail

50. Turn the music up and dance with her and the baby

51. Take her (and the baby) for a walk

52. Stock her fridge with necessities anytime you come over – like milk, bread, eggs, yogurt, ice cream etc – in case she isn’t up for grocery shopping

53. Watch the baby for her while she goes grocery shopping

54. Tell her it’s normal to be be smitten with newborn love one minute and weeping with tired the next

55. Bring a goodie bag over for the new mom and not just the baby when you come to visit

56. If you’re too far to bring over a meal, tell her dinner from her favorite delivery place is on you

57. Make up midnight snacks for her to grab when she’s up feeding the baby

58. Tell her not every photo needs to be perfect – sometimes the closer to real life, the better

59. Encourage her to embrace PJ days – even if they last for weeks

60. Leave immediately when the baby falls asleep so she can nap

61. Remind her it’s the ordinary days that make the extraordinary memories

62. Promise her it will just keep getting better

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About kittenchan

I'm a Roman Catholic, conservative creative writing major with a penchant for cooking, crafting, and geek subcultures. View all posts by kittenchan

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