Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Ways New Moms Like Help

Learning to ask for help is humbling, frustrating, and wonderful all at once. It's not something I yearn to do often, so here's hoping a bottom near me starts healing soon. =) I have been blessed, so I am indeed grateful. But I have also learned a thing or two, and want to chronicle them in hopes it helps keep another mother sane.

~ If you commit to come to a mom's home, arrive on time or call to let her know you'll be late. And when you commit to come, be up front about how long you plan to stay. In other words, don't spring the surprise that you are staying for lunch on her thirty minutes after you arrive and that you'll be happy to eat leftovers. If you want to stay for a meal, I suggest bringing and assembling the ingredients yourself.

~ Don't offer to come to do a project and then stand around like you expect her to offer you tea and cookies. Initiate getting the work begun. She probably already feels awkward asking you to do her chores, so don't make her ask twice.

~ When you offer to do a project, do the project. Don't go all ADD on her and flit from one thing to the next without finishing any one thing. If you say you'll do her laundry, chances are she is counting on you to do just that.

~ If she asks you to put together a recipe from her own archives, now is not the time to change it up by deciding to cut the salt in half or leave out the white sugar. And you might want to follow the directions in the order they are given. After all, cooking can involve scientific reactions, and it would really be a bummer for her to have to throw out an entire batch of something because directions weren't followed. But of course, you'll never know this, because she will be too shy to tell you that you made a fatal error with her much anticipated cookies.

~ If you bring a meal, make sure it isn't spoiled. And again, please include something green.

~ If you clean or wash dishes, be thorough. Oh, and ask which one is the hand soap and which one is the dish soap.

~ Study up on the Biblical character of Martha. See her capabilities, even if she did get a little too task oriented at times. She had a real gift. Who knows? Maybe the mom you are serving has that gift too, and maybe it's hard for her to accept help. And maybe it's even harder for her to be grateful for the help she accepted when it leaves her feeling like she has an even bigger mess on her hands.

~ And if you are the mom, maybe it would be better to just let the laundry pile up, buy frozen meals and paper plates for a couple of months, and order a boat load of movies to keep you company. There are just some days that idea will seem a heck of a lot easier, especially if you are a particular mother like me. I had no idea I was so particular, and it was a big surprise to find out that not every one does it the right way like me. =) (Please catch my humor and don't think I'm really that arrogant. I do like "my" way and think it works well, as the women who came before me in my family would also agree. But I'm learning that not everyone has a clue what hospital corners are, or that it's a good idea to wash hands before beginning a cooking project. While that drives me bonkers, this world would be really boring if everyone looked and acted like me.)

I'm low in the cheerful, laid-back attitude department at the moment. It could be because I'm still doing laundry, making a new batch of cookies, and figuring out what meals we'll make this week while dealing with a baby who has a sore tummy and takes cat naps. Oh, and that doesn't include the latest "guess which body part this is" game that is my life now that everything below my waist has been rearranged and changed. I see the OB in two weeks, and will find out from there what specialists I'll get to see in my future. Frankly, I just want to be able to leave my house for extended amounts of time without packing a diaper bag for two people, if you know what I mean. Repeat after me.....this will get better.....this too shall pass (and without stool softeners!).....this sense of humor is not a bad thing....this really will get better....and one day you really will be able to take all things bottom related for granted again....I just don't know when.

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.