Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How To Help The New Mom

We've been blessed with help and support during this tough time of healing and recovery. I've been filled with both gratitude and a little frustration, so this post is going to be the explanation and remedy to that.

My parents both came, and my dad extended his stay so that he could be with us over a week. He was our emergency room chauffeur, cook, errand runner, and night duty nurse with a little boy so the mama could sleep. My mom will have stayed a full month with me by the time she leaves, and her willingness to extend her stay has also been a huge blessing. She is my errand runner, cook, cleaning lady, baby burper with the magic touch, nurse for both mama and baby, and all around personal assistant. I'd be lost without her. Having family come and generously serve you in whatever way you need cannot be underestimated in terms of value. It is a most priceless gift.

The health unit here has been faithful to call to check on us, offer visits, and they've given encouragement and praise regarding how I'm functioning as a mama despite rather large challenges in the delivery complications department. I'm grateful for them, especially for the last reason, for it's kept me going during some pretty emotional times.

We've been blessed with gifts out the wazoo for this little guy. From my husband's boss to the mom of one of my husband's friends, and from my creative cousin in the States to one of my husband's cousins, our little boy has been loved on in tangible ways.

Cards and emails have come, and those have been even more appreciated than phone calls because this redhead can read them at her convenience. They've been the tangible reminder in her inbox that she may be stuck at home, but she is remembered and loved. (This is something I'm not always good about doing, and this time has taught me how much a card means to a person.)

A friend of mine who is a midwife in Ontario is back in BC visiting family, and she has also been a huge blessing to me. From ordering me some special tea for the bath to bringing me an extremely generous gift of special juice (4 bottles!), she and her mom have gone above and beyond just being neighbors. And what's even better is that they gave us a meal that totally fit who we are in terms of menu items and disposability.

People have also brought us meals, and that has been so appreciated. And that's what motivated this post today. I wanted to include a few pointers that I'm discovering are not exactly natural to everyone even though they are incredibly kind to provide meals. So if these pointers can help someone else, this post will be worth it.....

~ Call at least a day ahead to let someone know you'd like to bring a meal. That way, they won't have already taken something out of the freezer. If you can let them know even earlier, that is awesome.

~ I cannot stress this one enough: Bring your gift of a meal in entirely disposable dishes or items you do not want returned. This not only means you don't risk losing a dish, but it makes perfect sense. If the recipient is getting a meal because they cannot cook for themselves, it follows that they may not have the energy or capability to take your dish back to you. And, if they have been given meals from multiple folks, it gets tricky remembering the owner of each dish. Plus, if they need meals because of an illness or injury or other similar need, they really don't need one more task added to their plate. Washing and returning your dish is one task they could live without. So invest in some foil pans, some Ziploc bags, some glass jars from the thrift store, and some cheap plastic containers (or even ones formerly used for yogurt or sour cream). Not only will they remember your meal, but they will remember your thoughtfulness and wisdom, which will make them appreciate you all the more.

~ I know it's a gift and all, but it will be even more appreciated if you ask the recipient what types of food they appreciate most. Are they into brown rice, veggies, and whole wheat? Then you might want to stay away from minute rice, white bread, and include a something green. Do they have any allergies or tolerance issues? That is great to know, because you'd be sad to find out they had to throw out your generous offering because they could not eat it.

~ Are there any instructions for heating or storing your meal items? If so, write them down and attach them to the specific item.

~ If you are hoping for a visit when you drop off your meal, ask first. If a new baby is involved and you are hoping to hold the wee one, wash your hands after you've been invited to stay for a few minutes. And the few minutes thing? That's a really important thing to remember. Few means exactly that. Keep your stay under 15 minutes, unless the person you are visiting clearly lets you know they hope you extend your visit. While I'm sure they love having time to be social, especially if they've been stuck at home in bed for weeks, a simple visit can actually be pretty tiring. Besides, if you brought dinner at dinner time, you can imagine they are hungry and ready to eat. So be sensitive about not staying too long, and make a mental note to see about visiting them at a more welcome time.

~ Ask first if you want to bring your children. And if you do bring them, keep them with you at all times, even if they have previously had free run of the kid friendly bookshelves. After all, this visit is being made because your friend is recovering from something, and they don't have their usual energy. And to be honest, they probably aren't in the state of mind to focus on someone else's child right now.

~ If you are bringing children and there is a new baby involved, don't even consider bringing a kiddo with the remains of a cold. And make sure your kids know that we don't touch a baby's hands or face, and that the baby's mama will invite them to touch or hold the baby if she's comfortable with that. If she doesn't offer, don't ask. Just give her time.

~ Finally, meals are awesome and practical gifts that make the recipient glow with gratitude and feel relieved beyond words. But if you call and say, "I'd like to bring three meals tonight," don't be surprised if they turn you down. Three meals means freezer space has to be reserved, and they might not have that available. If you have three meals you want to offer, consider investing the extra time and effort to bring them at three different times. Yes, that takes more out of you, but it also means you'll be that much more appreciated.

***As a new mom who is having a long and arduous road to recovery, I can say that this post is from my heart. At this point, I can say that I'm finally on the road to recovery, after three weeks of setbacks. The challenges are still looming large, and it will be a long time before I'm back to doing every day tasks most people take for granted. So that's why offers of practical help matter to me all the more. I truly could not keep on going without them. If it were not for my parents, I would have to hire someone to help out with basic needs. So if there was one more thing I could say about helping a new mom, it would be this......if it's in your power to help out a friend in need, make room in your schedule and do just that. And even if it requires an investment of time, money, or a sacrifice on your part (giving up vacation time, finding sitters for your kids, etc.), your gift of service will be the most valuable thing you could ever give to your friend. They may not be able to repay you for your generosity, but I'm pretty sure God will keep that in mind and you'll be blessed someday down the road. In the meantime, there's no greater gift than being a practical blessing to a new mom in real physical need.


Kimberly said...

Great advice! So glad you're seeing all the blessings in your situation. Praying for you daily. ~hugs~

Katrina said...

Hi, Inkling! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm glad that post helped. This post of yours has some fabulous advice. I hope you are healing up well and that little guy of yours is doing ok. You've probably heard this before, but even with all the hard stuff, don't forget to enjoy the quiet moments with your baby. He'll be tiny for so short a time. I can't believe how big my little guy is already!

Kork said...

Isn't it funny how folks can forget such details as the ramifications of being "recovering" can bring?

I'm with you on this Inkling, but am SO glad to know that there are folks around who are willing and able to take care of you and yours...

MamaVee said...

You're a strong Mama! So sorry to hear that things have been difficult and SO glad to hear that you have good support.

Aimee said...

This is a great suggestion list! Thanks for posting. I may link to it some time. :-)

Scribbit said...

I so hope you're well--hope the baby is well too! Good thoughts and prayers are being sent your way as you heal.