On Caring for Families With a New Addition

My big little sister told me I needed to write another blog because she wants something to read, but this one will probably be boring to her anyway.  So!  Sorry, Peeky.

This one we can file under “Advice”.

When my oldest sister, “…”, Hey, I just realized I don’t have a nickname for her.  We’ll call her, “Hortense”, just kidding.  We’ll call her, “Maggie”, had her oldest daughter, there were a slew of us in the waiting room at the hospital as she labored.  We drank coffee from Ruby’s and ate cinnamon rolls and talked and laughed nervously waiting for her to deliver our first niece, blissfully unaware of the trauma happening to her body.  At 19, I knew child birth hurt in theory, but I thought once you pushed the baby out, everything is all clean and happy and lovely.  When she asked us not to come to the hospital til after Daughter #2 was born, I was bummed that we didn’t get to wait in the waiting room, but respected her wishes.  By Daughters #3 and #4, we were basically told, “You can meet the baby once we are home.”  I didn’t understand because I hadn’t gone through childbirth, but when I was preparing to have Captain, I remember Maggie telling me that the exhaustion and mess that comes after childbirth is simply not conducive to having a room full of visitors.

So, I broke the news to Milk Man a couple months before Captain came that I would not be receiving visitors in the hospital, because I thought I’d be too exhausted.  Granted, Milk Man was disappointed as his family has always been present at each birth of their 10 nieces and nephews, but he respected my wishes.  Captain came and OH. MY. GOSH.  I got it.  BOY, did I ever get what my sister was talking about.  It wasn’t just exhaustion from a 34 hour back labor and not having slept in 3 days.  It was pain, and things leaking out of your body (that’s putting it in a gentle way), and stitches and pain.  It was learning to nurse, which is virtually impossible to do modestly when you are first starting out, and feeling so emotionally whacked out that you cry at everything and make a fool of yourself.  We made a concession and allowed our parents to come visit us in the hospital, but even that was hard for me.  I felt like I was not myself and it was difficult for me to have anyone in the room and then worse yet, LEAVE.  Because I was such an emotional wreck, when my parents left I cried for even longer.

The day we left the hospital, 31 hours after Captain was born, I was itching to get back home.  We got home, and I immediately scrubbed the bathroom, top to bottom, changed Captain’s diaper, during which he choked and stopped breathing, and then I had a giant meltdown.  Thankfully both my sisters Peeky and Maggie came, bearing groceries, Vitamin B, and a giant iced, blended coffee.  My sisters were my solace.  Peeky is my ultimate calming force.  She didn’t tell me not to cry or that its okay, she simply loved on me, prayed for me, and washed my dishes.  Maggie was the same, and since she has 4 of her own, she was non-assuming and understanding.  She told me what I was feeling was normal, and didn’t try to fix anything.  They both listened as I recounted my very long and intense labor.  No judgement, no unsolicited advice, just caring and listening ears.  Consequently, they were the only people besides my mother and Milk Man that I felt comfortable holding my new baby for at least the first 2 months.

Our small group at church was AMAZING.  They brought dinner for a full week after we had Captain.  Our group leaders told people to bring food, say hi, and leave.  That was amazing.  We felt loved and cared for, and frankly, I was not in any state to be cooking.

Other people who I am very close with visited and were helpful as well.  My best friend Nanner came over and brought us a bag of bold roasted coffee, breakfast foods and tortellini soup, along with popcorn and chocolate (which turned out to be my favorite snacks those first few weeks!)  Perhaps one of the most eye opening visits came from my dear friend Ashley, who came a few weeks after we had Captain.  By this point, ready made meals from visitors had stopped, but she came with EASY PREPARE INGREDIENTS.  This was AMAZING.  She brought us healthy frozen ingredients, dry goods, and all the ingredients to make SEVERAL meals worth of easy, healthy meals without having to go to the store, and with only using one pan or pot each, along with the recipes on how to assemble.  This was one of the most invaluable gifts we received, because it was great to be able to thaw out some frozen brown rice in the microwave along with orange chicken and frozen stir fry, all in 15 minutes and have a meal ready that I didn’t have to be creative with or go to the store for.  She has 2 kids of her own, (and another due any day!) and I was really touched and helped by that generosity.

So, there’s my experience, here is my advice:

On Visiting:

A lot of people thought I was odd for not wanting visitors in the hospital.  Out of the 90 or so women on my current birth group, a SUBSTANTIAL amount of them have expressed that they don’t want a bunch of people interrupting that first week of bonding with long visits.  Many women are afraid to express this for fear of sounding rude, so I’ll be blunt for them: Don’t expect that you are welcome to visit in the hospital or in the home for at least a week, unless you have been told otherwise.  It doesn’t mean you aren’t loved or that the new mom is evil, it means she is probably sore, tired, weak, and not wanting you to be present while she spends a week on the couch in a nursing bra and pajama pants with a new baby.

-Come visit when you are invited to visit, and be sensitive.  If mom seems tired and baby seems fussy, cut your visit short.

-When you enter the house, IMMEDIATELY wash hands.  Do not hold baby with dirty hands, it will drive the new mama insane, even if she doesn’t say it, she’s thinking about germs non-stop!

-Follow mom’s cues.  If she looks antsy or nervous while you are holding baby, she may feel the need to hold her baby, offer to give the baby back to her.

-Tell the family you do not need to be entertained, and once again, be sensitive to the family.  If it seems like they are weary, it’s probably time to leave!  Newborn babies often nurse every hour!  New mom may not be comfortable nursing in front of you and baby may be hungry!

-Leave something useful and inexpensive for mom or baby (some fruit, a bag of bagels, box of cereal diapers, Starbucks gift card, some onesies, etc.)

On Helping:

Some moms want help, and others don’t.  I was in the latter category.  When people did want to help, some thought that “helping” meant holding the baby.  No, no, no, give me my baby.  Especially if the new mom is breastfeeding, she will want to be close to the baby.  Better ways to help:

-Offer to wash dishes

-Offer to throw in a load of laundry

-Offer to run an errand or 2 for mom

-Offer to fix lunch

-Offer to scrub the bathroom

In fact, when it comes to the dishes, don’t even offer, just go wash them. haha!

On Food:

-If you are bringing a meal, bring the meal, say hello, and leave if you aren’t really close with the family.  We were SO appreciative of people respecting our privacy that first week.  When you stay, the family thinks they have to entertain you, rather than what you are actually there to do: serve them.

-Bring paper plates, disposable forks, etc.  Bring the meal in something that doesn’t need to be washed or returned.

-Bring enough to last for dinner and some leftovers!

-Bring fruit or something that can also be eaten with another meal.  Comfort food is amazing, but so is a little something fresh!

-If mom is breastfeeding, err on the side of caution and don’t bring spicy or gassy foods in case baby has a sensitivity to it.

-If you aren’t assigned to bring the family a meal, take the cue from my friend, and bring some easy prepare meals that are easy to throw together!  SUCH A LIFESAVER.

-Check out http://www.foodtidings.com/!  I found this via pinterest.  Really good way to organize meals between church/friends for the new family.

Overall, the big thing is to not presume that every new family wants company or a lot of people around.  I liked having my closest friends and family visit, because they were always helpful, but never presumptuous.  Be a blessing, not a burden and try not to get offended if new mama is a little crazy.  It’s the hormones, and she’ll be back to her old self soon enough, but those first few weeks are really difficult emotionally!


ADDENDUM: Not  all moms feel the same way I do about visiting right after baby, some love a houseful!  The important thing is to not assume EITHER way and to ask before, so that its clear for all parties involved! 🙂