Visiting a New Mum
I have to start this post simply linking to the blog I read and frequently referred back to when I was pregnant, and in the early days of postpartum life, and that is...'Pulling Up The Drawbridge' by Steph who is better known as the creator of Don't Buy Her Flowers (a GREAT place to buy a new Mum a gift from because believe me she needs some treats and doesn't need flowers as they're yet another thing to try and keep alive!). Now I recommend everyone expecting reads this, and probably best to just send it to loved ones too. It's a goodun' so I won't paraphrase it here as you really just need to read it yourself!
So I read Stephs brilliantly written blog post while I was pregnant and it made my husband and I have important conversations with each other and our loved ones in the lead up to our son arriving. It meant that when he did arrive everyone understood that we weren't going to be out and about lots, that we were going to have limited people visiting at the very beginning and those that did visit would be for a limited time too. AND those that did visit would ideally help out in some way. For the first week I stayed in bed and those that visited just had to come and visit me there and for the second week I moved to the sofa. And for me that was the best course of action possible. Only those really close to you should be visiting anyway so they won't care what you look like or whether you're still in your pyjamas!
In terms of visitors I have to say I am very lucky to have an amazing network of incredible friends and family around me and my Mum and Mother-in-Law were both particularly fantastic and helped us so much. When they would come over, yes of course they'd want a cuddle with their new grandson, but they more than happily cracked on with any outstanding washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning...you name it they were happy to do it to help us and they never overstayed. It meant that my husband and I could start to try and get to grips with life as a new family of three. Because whilst help is amazing, and obviously hugely appreciated, we did also recognise that we needed to settle into a routine the three of us too. We managed to strike a really good balance between having visitors, accepting help and managing ourselves. However my Community Midwife told me at the time, and I do agree, that really the ideal ratio for caring for a newborn is probably 3 adults to every 1 newborn. It sounds like utter madness but having lived through it I can agree with that statement. Parents of multiples I salute you. You are utter heroes.
Anyway...having those conversations with family and friends in advance felt awkward in the lead up to having them as we were worried as to how some people might take it, but it was absolutely fine when we spoke to people and everybody was fully understanding and in agreement. Well they were to our faces at least!
Going back to Don't Buy Her Flowers this is a great way of sending a new Mum, or new parents, a gift that, to put it frankly, isn't going to inconvenience them. That big beautiful bouquet of flowers might seem like the perfect thing in your eyes but, as I said before, it is literally just another thing they have to try and keep alive whilst newly trying to keep alive a human. I think you can see where their priorities might lie in the hierarchy of what to keep alive! Also, in general, never underestimate the value of bringing food, snacks, anything to keep those new parents going is always going to be hugely appreciated. If you are lucky enough to be invited round in those precious first few weeks or months, ask the parents what they need and turn up with that plus more food. Just always bring food. And when you get there even if they tell you nothing needs doing around the house, find something you can do. Put a load of washing on, unload the dishwasher, run the hoover round, take the dog for a walk, whatever it is just do it. I cannot explain how much it will be appreciated by your loved ones if you just do something. Oh and don't sit down and expect to be offered a cup of tea. Offer them a cup of tea. Or coffee. Or wine. You might be a guest visiting but just help out how you can.
You might even get lucky and get to hold that baby while the parents have a shower! But don't ask to hold the baby. That might sound like a strange thing to say because of course that's why you're there. We all know that. But not every Mum, or parent, is going to be comfortable or ready for their new precious baby to be passed around, and you need to respect that. I find the best bet is to simply wait and see if it's offered. If it's not don't be offended, be understanding. You'll get a cuddle but it doesn't have to be when they're two days old. If you are offered the chance to have a cuddle please, for the love of God, wash your hands first and don't kiss the baby on the face. Even in our pre-COVID world this was the advice for interacting with newborns that are not your own. This is because they don't have very strong immune systems at all so you just need to be extra careful and thoughtful about these things. I mean in the world we live in now I would blooming hope you are washing your hands anyway!
That's it really. It's not over-complicated - don't show up unless you're invited and if you are, turn up with food, do something helpful, have a cuddle if it's offered and don't stay too long. Simple! Also try and take a picture of the new parents, particularly the Mum, with their baby. Even if they say they don't like it at the time because, like me I couldn't see past the additional chin, engorged boobs and the dark eye bags I had in a picture a friend took, but now I love that photo. If you're not asked to visit early on, don't take it personally. You'll get your time, and in the meantime, just send them food in the post! There's plenty of companies out there to send cookies, cakes, whole ready-made meals...if it seems like it'd be convenient, easy and tasty you're probably on to a winner.