The new young couple who moved down the street last year recently had their first baby. You want to be a hospitable neighbor, and consider heading over with a basket of muffins and a pack of onesies to welcome their little bundle. Plus, it’s been a while since you’ve inhaled that delicious newborn smell, and you’re kinda itching to rock a baby for a few minutes.
But you’re a “been there, done that” mom, with a kid old enough to have one foot out the door, another behind the wheel, and two others well out of babyhood, so you know exactly what that new mom really needs, and it’s not a basket of muffins. Instead, when you head over there, give her a quick hug and tell her to lie down, and then take the hell over for a day. It will probably be the best come-see-the-new-baby visit she will ever have.
Yes, bring her food, but leave the 13-by-9 dish of lasagna at home. It will just sit in her fridge half-eaten for a month, the pan a huge burden for her to clean. Plus, you won’t see your casserole dish again for two years. Just assume after nine months of eating clean and healthy, she’s more than ready for a big ‘ol No. 1, supersized. With a side of strawberry shake and a big-ass bag of peanut M&Ms. All washed down with a Corona. Lime optional. When she answers the door and sees all that crappy goodness in your hands, be prepared for spontaneous weeping.
2. No Labor Stories or Small Talk
By now she has recounted her birth story ad nauseam, both in her own head and to all the visiting friends and family. And she has made tedious chitchat with well-meaning neighbors and her mother-in-law’s church group, while truly wishing everyone would just shut the hell up and let her go take a shower. So after quick hellos, take her baby, walk her to the bathtub, and tell her to take as long as she needs; you’ll be there when she’s done. Then vacuum, wipe down the counters, start dinner. Make a date to talk about how painful those contractions were in about six months. (By then they won’t be as painful.)
3. Empty Everything and Fill Up Everything
While she is emptying her breasts or that bottle, make your way around the house and empty everything else. The kitchen garbage, the dishwasher, the washing machine and dryer. The stinky diaper pail, the tiny bathroom cans overflowing with feminine protection product wrappers, and that bottle of Pinot somebody brought over last week. By all means, help her empty that too. Fill up the diaper stacker, the wet wipes warmer, the dishwasher and the washer. Refill her drink, her diaper bag, the fruit bowl on the counter. Offer to go fill up her car with gas. She will say “No, that’s OK.” Do it anyway, because who wants to stop for gas with a screaming newborn in an exploding diaper wailing in the backseat? (She doesn’t yet know that day is coming for her.)
4. Paint Her Toenails and Do Her Hair
Bonus! Both of these pampering luxuries can be done to her while she is feeding the baby, or half sleeping, and neither require conversation. Plus, that pedi she had at 37 weeks has completely chipped off, and there is no way in hell a trip to a nail salon is anywhere in her near future. After that shower she took earlier, prop her up in a recliner, grab a rolling brush and spend a good 45 minutes drying her hair and coating her piggies in bright red. This is better than any new baby gift on the planet. Again, spontaneous weeping may ensue.
5. Change Things
The baby’s diaper, the bed sheets, the crib sheets. The calendar, which is probably still displaying last month, the empty plug-in air fresheners, the TV channel. (Stuck in the feeding position for hours on end, she has probably been watching C-Span for days.) Most important (and if you can sense she may have the baby blues), help change her attitude. Don’t sugarcoat it. Go ahead and give her the “been there, done that” speech, but in a good way.
Tell her there is no shame in feeling down and not herself in the first few weeks after giving birth. Tell her she can call you anytime, day or night, if she just needs a few minutes of baby relief, needs to be alone, or yearns for someone to just sit with. Tell her the changes going on her body, her marriage, her entire life for that matter, can and will be good things, even if they seem rife with pressure and difficulty at this point. Tell her the baby will eventually sleep, she will have sex again, she will lose the weight, but probably still do many things wrong. But more than the things she second guesses about herself, or struggles with, will be all the things she will do right, all the ways she is going to be a wonderful mother. Even if she doubts it with all of her being, tell her she already is a great mom. Tell her you are just one of the members of her village now.
Then go home and rejoice in the fact that you get to sleep all night, and you’ve got both a new friend and a new baby to smell. Plan to bring the muffins and the onesies next week.
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