Readers, be warned. This is not a gear guide. Yes, a new mom needs all sorts of items, for the baby and herself. But after you have bought a mega-pack of maxi pads, seven types of magical swaddles to make your baby sleep longer, and every cream and tool that makes early breastfeeding hurt less, there will still be a secret list of wishes. Things that newbie moms pine for, but more often than not, don’t have the courage to pipe up and ask their friends for. You can’t register for them, but if you could, I’m sure these would all have been at the top of my list.
Many moms out there are lucky enough to have been offered some of these things, either from family or close friends. Others might get vague offers for some of these things with minimal follow-through (or they will be idiots like me who refuse to accept them when offered…that will not be the case if and when I have more kids).
1) A home-cooked meal… or any meal that they didn’t have to cook themselves. For the first few weeks of Little C’s life, I was proud of myself if I could manage to microwave and eat an entire veggie burger without some distraction. Cooking didn’t truly resume in our house for an embarrassing number of months, and that meant I too often ate over-processed foods or spent far more than I’d care to admit on take-out. I had several friends who were thoughtful enough to bring food along when they came to meet Little C, and it was the sweetest thing I could have ever hoped for. Whether it was a casserole, a chicken dinner or a box of Chewy bars, it was all thoroughly appreciated.
If you like to cook, make something simple that freezes well. If you don’t, pick up sandwiches or even some snack food that is healthy and easier consumed one-handed, since it’s rare for brand new moms to have both hands free. If you’re out of town, send a gift card to a fabulous local restaurant that you know delivers. Bring a large enough amount for dinner for 2 – either her hubby will eat the other half, or she’ll have leftovers for the next day as well.
If you want to go the extra mile, take the lead and establish an account on a site to help coordinate meal delivery (like Take Them a Meal or Care Calendar) and spread the word to all of the couple’s friends via email or Facebook.
2) A hot shower without the baby watching/a blaring monitor. Visiting a new mom and meeting the new peanut is always fun. Seeing and snuggling a new baby and catching up with a new mom pal is wonderful. The only thing that could make the visit better? If baby is sleeping when you get there, mention to his mama that since you just looooove babies, you would happily watch/hold him for as long as she needs to take a relaxing hot bath or shower.
Mention of course that you’re not saying this because she looks filthy, but because most of her showers are rushed and she has to be attuned to the baby’s needs. Send her off and let her know you’ll give three loud knocks to the bathroom door if there is an emergency, but otherwise, she should enjoy the time to relax with baby safely cared for in the next room.
3) An hour or two of free babysitting/mommy’s helper-ing from a trusted friend. When I was only a few weeks post-partum, I had a massive case of mastitis-turned-rotovirus that sent me to the doctor, which then sent me to the hospital for some truly non-glamorous tests. My husband was stuck in the office, so off I went to the hospital for tests that had my hands tied while my newborn wept in his stroller. I. Felt. Awful. There is nothing like an extra set of hands when you need them. I was so lucky that my best friend offered to come with me to the eye doctor to watch Little C while I sat in the doctor’s chair a week later. If you can, tell your new mom friend that you’d be happy to join her for her six-week follow up visit at the OB’s office, and you’ll hang in the waiting room with her tiny bundle of joy. Or offer to stay home with the baby for an hour while she gets a mani-pedi, gets a massage, or does anything that makes her feel relaxed or less stressed. If venturing out with the baby for errands are stressing her out, offer to tag along, watch the peanut at home, or even grab her grocery list and credit card and just do her grocery shopping for her.
4) A cleaning lady. This one is tricky because of course, a cleaning lady doesn’t come cheap. I spent the first eight months of Little C’s life making pathetic attempts to keep up with the housework. I couldn’t keep up with the never-ending laundry pile, the bathrooms were a fright and our floors were in constant need of a good sweep and mop. What I would have killed for (ok, maybe not killed for) was someone to come in and just do it. Finally, we gave in and hired someone to come every six weeks for a deep cleaning, but in the early days, I would have loved it if our group of friends had chipped in and gotten us a visit from a cleaning person. Or offered to clean. Or to watch the baby while I cleaned so I didn’t waste precious nap time cleaning instead of resting.
5) A dog walker. Or dog sitter. Or dog entertainer. Getting out of the house with a baby involves quite the learning curve for new moms. Add a leash with a hyped-up puppy at the end of it, and the first few weeks were truly just tough. We had a dog walker for the first couple weeks to help with the mid-day walk, but the most amazing thing one of my friends did to help was to take our dog out for a few play dates to give her some much-needed exercise that our short strolls around the block weren’t adequately covering. Eventually, she started taking Kenzie for slumber parties every now and then so we could have a bit of rest from the walking and the pup got a huge dose of love and affection.
While this is not remotely the same, I can only imagine that if I were writing about a second child instead of a first, this would read “someone to take my older child(ren) for a fun adventure that is extra special for the big sibling(s).” Since I have no expertise in that department, I will just say that if my dog could notice the decrease in attention with a new baby, I’m sure that older siblings need that extra special time even more!
6) A beautiful picture of their child not taken with an iPhone. I was so sad looking back at our photos from the first two months of Little C’s life to realize that 95% of them were blurry, grainy, poorly focused shots that my groggy self snapped carelessly. If you have any photo skills, bring your camera along when you visit a new baby, and if mom approves, take some cute photos of the little one that you can send along later via email. Oh, and while I would never insist that mom stays in the picture, offer to take one of them together that you promise to share with no one but her, in case she hasn’t been able to take many pictures of herself with the baby. This is one of my only photos of me and Little C from our first couple weeks home. Sadly, not the best quality.
New and expectant mamas – if you covet any of the following things and are afraid to ask, I wrote this to give you an out. Just casually share this link, and maybe your friends will catch the hint and surprise you with one of the incredibly helpful things listed.
Veteran moms out there — what do you wish you had received when you had your little one?