Becoming a new family heralds a world of change for all involved—for baby’s parents, yes, but also for the extended family, however that is defined. A huge evolution of roles occurs when a new baby comes home. While it can certainly be a joyful event, it can also bring challenges to circumstances that are already strained by sleepless nights or difficult births. What can you do to give real respite?
Prepare to Be Present
Ask ahead of time how you can be supportive during the postpartum period so that when the baby arrives, you don’t have to say, “How can I help?” New parents often don’t know the answer to that question when they’re in the thick of it, and may, in fact, be experiencing a barrage of similar inquiries from others. Try not to ratchet up the stress by chiming in. Instead, assess the situation on your own, and with their permission, be ready to dive right in.
If the dishes are piling up and the dust bunnies are getting to be too much, pick up the sponge or the broom and get to work. If their yard is covered in leaves, grab the rake. Take the older kids out. Easing the burden of daily tasks will allow for more time spent with the baby, or for a few winks of precious sleep.
Be Intentional in Your Gifting
Bring things that will serve a purpose and not add clutter to their already-chaotic new life, like healthy make-ahead meals (think sandwich fixings or a giant protein-rich salad), diapers, and grocery staples. Activity books and toys for the older kids will go over very well, as will baskets stuffed with feeding essentials for mom (water bottle, chapstick, kleenex, cooling-heating pads, books and magazines, lactation bars or cookies). For now, direct any gift-giving efforts towards the parents instead of the baby.
Be Their Village
Give new parents a wide berth and listen well to their requests. If they need to be alone, great! Drop some food by their door, and drive away. If they aren’t ready to have you hold their newborn, no problem! (And if they do offer you the baby, wash your hands first, without being asked.) Expect a delay in returning your calls or texts. Don’t offer commentary on their parenting choices, and don’t get upset if they ask you to change what you’re doing. Parenting knowledge is ever-evolving! Give them the respect they deserve during this challenging time, and keep any judgments you might have to yourself.
Ask if They Want to Talk About the Birth
Whether it went according to plan or didn’t, most new families want to talk it out, and all of them deserve a big, affirming round of applause. Tell them what a great job they’re doing. Avoid “I told you so” remarks and leave your own birth stories out for the time being. Celebrate this new life!
Families are Willow Midwives and Birth Center’s business. Call 612-345-5920 or visit willowmidwives.com for empowering, well-rounded care that combines your wisdom of self with our clinical expertise.