I've been crafting this post in my head ever since I had Ford and am finally getting down to business and writing it. After I got married, there were so many little etiquette things I took note of when I went to weddings. You also realize how big not RSVPing, not showing up to the reception, etc. are after you get married. Mad respect for brides now that I am a Mrs. and I have to say I love going to weddings now knowing how much work it is to pull one off and that I don't have to do it again! Same goes for being a new parent. Nothing anyone can say can prepare you for being a new parent. Sure you can read What to Expect and take a breastfeeding class but your baby is still going to throw you a curveball and newsflash... breastfeeding hurts at the beginning! Something they warn you against in those classes.
Now I'm getting off topic because the meat of this post is to give you a few pointers when going to visit a new parent. Most first time moms assume they will give birth the old fashioned way and since that wasn't my story, I was completely unprepared for my recovery. I told all my friends to come visit (before I had Ford) and we even brought Yahtzee in our hospital bag...no wonder the nurses laughed when they saw it. Below are some key recommendations for visiting new parents that I wish I would have known before having a baby.
Wait until they are home to visit. Like I said above, my world was rocked when I woke up from surgery feeling like I had been run over by a truck. I didn't get out of bed for 24 hours and had a cathedar bag attached to my bed. Trying to sit up to nurse my brand new baby hurt like hell so you can imagine the pain I endured to sit up and entertain guests. We were so grateful for people bringing food, snacks, and loving on our brand new baby but next time I will ask that just my family comes to visit. Now I know some women who feel fabulous after pushing a baby out so I may be solo on that one but I think we can all agree that breastfeeding is tricky and it can get awkward with guests when you, your husband, your mom, your nurse, and your lactation consultant are all trying to help your tiny little baby latch.
If you do make a hospital visit, bring snacks/coffee/energy drinks for dad, tell mom she looks beautiful, snuggle the baby for 5 minutes then leave. If you are really close to mom, it's a whole different ball game. I wanted my mom and sisters up there as much as possible to hold Ford while I slept, help me feed him, make me eat, and give Jon a chance to go shower and sleep. I didn't mind being topless and attempting latching my baby in front of my family.
Be flexible. Those first 2 weeks home from the hospital are when most people want to visit yet they are the hardest 2 weeks of your life. Babies don't know the difference between day and night and often times new moms spend an hour every 2-3 hours breastfeeding. Ask the parents what time works for them, get a ballpark time, and tell them to text you beforehand in case of a schedule change. Baby could be having an epic meltdown at 7pm when they said you could comeover or mom may finally get the baby down and want to lay down herself. And if new mom says you kno what, this week isn't a good week, don't get offended. After 2 weeks of jam packed visitors I was ready for time alone as a family. I told Jon I wanted to take a hiatus from visitors and it was the best thing we did for our sanity.
Reschedule if you're sick. No ifs ands or buts. Period.
Bring food. I will never go visit a new mom and baby without food. Those first few weeks are such a blur and the last thing you have time for is preparing a meal. The most I made was a bowl of cereal but when I had live in help (mom the first week and sister the second), they made my cereal for me. New moms are also incredibly hungry. You thought pregnant women ate a lot? Breastfeeding burns so many calories and when you are doing it non stop, your body is drained. If the new parents decline dinner they are just being nice and don't want to inconvenience you. Bring something they can pop in the freezer for a later date or bring snacks (fruit, muffins, breads). Bring everything in disposable containers or containers they can keep. Trying to figure out which tupperware is which neighbors is not a task a new mom needs to spend time on. Also ask them if there are any grocery items you can pick up- coffee creamer, a pack of diapers, Tylenol.
Don't bring clothes. As cute as baby clothes are to buy, don't bring a new mom clothes. She probably got 3x the clothes she actually needed at her baby shower and still hasn't found the time to return doubles. Bringing a gift also requires a thank you note and even if you promise you don't need one, this will weigh on her mind and she will write you a thank you note at 2am when she could be sleeping.
Don't stay long. There is nothing cuter than a snuggly little baby that sleeps in your arms, am I right? As addicting as their smell is and as easy as it is to watch their chests move up and down as they breathe, make it quick. I remember the first 4 weeks of Ford's life in constant worry about when I was going to sleep next. The perfect guest knocks on your door, brings in a container of food, holds baby for 10 minutes and tells mom she looks beautiful, rested, skinny, and then leaves. Again, circumstances are many but I am talking about those first 2 weeks where mom may have been up from midnight to 5am and not had a shower in 4 days. I was still so sore from my C section, hobbling around protecting my incision and putting frozen peas on my sore boobs and sometimes it got to be very draining entertaining my guests. Watch for cues. If baby gets fussy and mom looks flustered, hit the road. Or if mom says something about baby needing to feed, go ahead and pack up your stuff so she can nurse comfortably. Nothing is more awkward than hosting adult men in your house and having to nurse your brand new baby. Like the hospital visit, if you are super close to new mom, everything changes. My sisters would come over and I was able to go lay down, take a shower, or get on my computer and not have to be "on". If you do plan on staying a while, be sure to offer new mom some time for herself. Let her grab a shower or offer to fold some adorable little baby clothes.
Wash your hands in front of new mom. Even if you used hand sanitizer in the car, it will give her peace of mind.
Love on that baby and don't forget to love on mama. Being a new mom is such a wonderful, weird, emotional roller coaster that nothing can prepare you for. The sleep deprivation wasn't hard for me, it was the C section recovery that rocked me. I felt like my body was failing me, never having ever been in so much pain, and I couldn't see the light at the end of the road. Those aches and pains are just a memory now and my incision is a reminder of my triumph as a mother and delivering my son. There is nothing greater than introducing your baby to your family and friends and being loved on, supported, and embraced in your new role. If new mom cries when you ask her how she is, it is 100% normal. Give her a hug, tell her she's glowing, and remind her she can drink wine now that she's not pregnant.
I remember it was about October when we dug into the last freezer meal we were given after Ford was born. 2 whole months of not having to cook, that is love right there. I don't know how I could have survived without the help of family and friends as we started the journey of parenthood, it does take a village to raise a child.
What are your tips/recommendations for visiting new parents?