Clueless about how to help? Here you go.
After months on “modified bedrest” with a high-risk twin pregnancy and a 2-year-old, then almost dying during birth, and then spending a month learning to walk again and get my strength back, I learned a thing or two about service. Other people took over my life for me. They cared for my bodily needs, the needs of my toddler, the needs of my home, and the needs of my new babies. My husband cared for me with the strength of an army, but it wasn’t enough, between working full-time and going to grad school. So another army came. Several people have asked me for a list of things that would be helpful for a new mom, and, dang, I should know!
19 Things That Help a New Mom – Don’t ask! Just do!
1) Come over, but call first. Call the husband if you have to. Ask them to tell you honestly if they are overwhelmed with visitors.
2) If they are too tired for visitors, ask if you can take the older child away for a lunch date or a playground date for an hour or two. I guarantee he hasn’t had enough attention or exercise lately.
3) Arrive in your jammies, with no makeup, and your hair in a scrunchi, so momma won’t feel like such a slob.
4) Bring food. Preferably:
- Fresh veggies or fruit that are already washed and cut, or
- A dinner that can go in the freezer if someone already brought dinner
5) If there is an older child, pay attention to him first. Maybe bring him a trinket. Nothing fancy. A crazy straw. A cool leaf. A matchbox car.
6) Take out the trash.
7) Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a nap. Insist again.
8) Take the baby in your arms and insist that mom go upstairs and take a shower. Insist again.
9) Ask her how her pain is. Let her cry.
10) If she’s feeling down, or doesn’t want to talk, just sit with her. Maybe just watch TV together.
11) Load or unload the dishwasher. Wash the dishes. Don’t ask. Just do it.
12) ASK if you can throw in a load of laundry. Unlike dishes, laundry is a little personal and momma may not want you to wash her afterbirth-y undies.
13) Fold any laundry you can possibly find.
15) Quietly wipe down the bathroom counter and toilet seat when you’re in there. Use a baby wipe if you have to. Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just do it.
16) Bring in the trash can and the mail.
17) If they have a (nice) dog, ask if you can take her for a walk. I guarantee she hasn’t had enough exercise lately.
18) If the mom has recovered enough, ask if she’d like you to help take her and the baby on a walk. I can guarantee that she and the baby haven’t had enough fresh air. The sunshine will help her mood improve and help the baby sleep better at night.
19) Don’t ask “Do you need anything?” Instead, when you are on your way to the grocery store or Target, call and say, “I am on my way to the grocery store or Target. What can I bring you? Diapers? Wipes? Dog food? Hemorrhoid cream?” Ask again. Insist that you are going anyway. Be specific.
Someone did each of these things for me at some point. No one has to do ALL these things- just pick something! Each person has her own strengths. My mother-in-law always brought fresh fruit – and washed and cut it and fed it to my toddler. She always sent me upstairs for a nap. My mother always did my dishes and my laundry. She would bring ingredients for a meal, and then make it here, while enlisting the help of my son. My father-in-law always took my son to the playground or out to lunch. He also always brought in the trash can and the mail and fixed anything he could find. My church friends always brought dinner – in an orderly fashion, on a schedule, for five weeks. When nursing was slow-going at first, they poked and prodded my boobs, checked my latch, and brought fenugreek pills and tea. (Also, during the bedrest, my church sisters made a schedule of who cared for my son each day.) My cousin Emily redirected my toddler’s tantrums with fun and laughter. She also cut all 60 of my childrens’ nails while I was in the shower once! My Aunt Susan cleaned all my bathrooms, vacuumed, mopped, and even washed my kitchen trash can! My Aunt Cindi provided me the valuable service of letting me cry. She also just sat and watched TV with me while we held babies and laughed until my stitches almost burst. Each of those things was exactly what I needed at that time.
I never expected (or wanted) any one person to act like any other person when providing service to me. All together, they covered everything. The list of people who helped me is enormous, and I can’t name them all. I am indebted to every one of them. They volunteered their time – including, in some cases, time off work without pay, time away from a dying husband, and time away from their own children – to help me literally get on my feet again. I cannot express the love I have for them all. They have taught me how to help others in the future.