"We had the baby! She's beautiful! We are set to go home in a few hours, I can't wait to be home!"
If you're like most people, there is one question that immediately floods your brain... When can I visit!? I used to be one of those people, as soon as the news came that my friend had welcomed her little one and would be headed home, I had to sit on my hands to avoid going right to her house to congratulate the new parents and snuggle the new little one. It wasn't until I became a doula that I understood just how important, overwhelming, and exhausting those first few days/weeks are for new families. I'm going to be a bit of a party pooper here and tell you that it's not a good idea to visit a new family right away. That's right, I said it! As much as you want to go to them, resist the urge to call and ask when you can visit. I know...babies are exciting. Their little bodies, soft tiny feet, and can we just take a minute to appreciate the intoxicating smell that lingers on their sweet little fuzzy heads? That scent needs to be bottled!
As a doula, I visit families after the birth of their child to check in, assist with any breastfeeding concerns, process their birth (if they need/want to), etc.. And normally this happens in the first week of the baby's birth so I can tell you that when I visit my clients, most of them are EXHAUSTED and drained. If you are headed to a family or friend's house after the birth of their baby, there are some things that you should know before you head over. With these simple tips, you'll feel helpful and the new parents will appreciate what a good friend you're being in this time of transition for them!
Yes, yes, I know...you want to go visit now. But it's best if you wait for them to invite you over. If you want them know that you're glad to help after the baby is born, let them know that you are available if they need anything after the baby comes and they shouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone. That way, they know that they have someone to is available to support them and is okay with coming over to help out. After the baby is born, if you want to remind them, don't call. Send a text message or an email but understand that they might not respond. As a doula, when I send messages to my postpartum clients, more often than not, they don't respond for days, if at all. But keep in mind that they might not call you for help, they might be just fine on their own. Don't let this upset you, if they are able to handle things and don't need you, be happy!
I tend to be punctual in general but for some people, it's impossible to be on time. I know what you might be thinking,
"It shouldn't matter because the people I'm visiting are family or friends."
While I would agree that sometimes being on time with family or friends is not all that important, In this situation, being on time is very important. If you agree to go over at 11am, you should make every effort to be there at the time that you agreed to. Normally, in the first few weeks of a babies life, the parents sleep when the baby sleeps and if not, they are taking that time to take care of themselves by eating or showering. Don't make them wait for you when they could be using that time to catch a nap, a shower, or a hot meal. It might be the only moment that they will get for several more hours. If you know that you're going to be late in advance, let them know. And while you're at it, see if you should reschedule for a different day. And here's something REALLY important to remember, when you get to their house, don't ring the doorbell or knock loudly. It's best if you send them a text message letting them know that you've arrived or (if you must) knock softly. If your knocking or the doorbell wakes the baby, not only will you feel bad but the parents might be frustrated.
I would hope that this is a no-brainer but you should NEVER visit a new family if you're sick! If you are getting over a cold, recently had a fever, coughing, sniffles, or an itch in your throat, please cancel or reschedule your visit. You don't want to risk getting the baby or the parents sick. Also, make sure that you're clean. Your clothes should be clean and you should, of course, be wearing deodorant. You should try to smell as neutral as possible. Which means NO cologne or perfume! I know you want to smell good when you meet the new baby but I promise you, he/she won't care! Perfumes and colognes can and do irritate the noses of new babies and can bother the sensitive nose of the new mother. Also, if you've recently cooked a meal in your clothes, odds are, they are saturated with the odor of whatever you cooked. If you smoke, you should make sure that your clothes and body don't smell like cigarette smoke as well. While not all of these odors are offensive, they can be harsh on the noses of the new family.
Odds are, this new family has not had the chance to go to the store since they have been home from the hospital or they are running low on something. I suggest that you call, text, or email before you head over to their house and
ask them if there is anything that you can pick up for them at a nearby store or if they would like you to bring over some food. Even better, if you make a macaroni and cheese that the parents LOVE, make it for them and bring it over in a disposable dish! If they have been begging you for your killer meatloaf recipe, make it for them with a couple of sides and bring it over! (Again, I can not stress enough the importance of disposable dishes! Don't give them ANOTHER chore by now having to carefully return your great grandmother's china baking dish that was handcrafted in Italy. Leave the heirlooms at home.) Food is always an excellent gift and having a newborn in your arms makes cooking and eating a real challenge. I don't like the idea of guests cooking in the families home UNLESS they've asked you to do so. But if you DO cook in their home, please make sure that you do the dishes. You don't want to leave a mess for them to clean up when they already have enough to do!
It's likely that if you ask the new parents if they need help with anything in the house, they will likely protest and tell you that they are fine and can handle it. Let them know that you really want to help and ask them to give you something to do. I have done dishes, wiped down bathrooms (and even scrubbed their toilet with the scrubby brush), folded a nearby basket of baby laundry, taken out the garbage, etc.. And I didn't even ask to do those things. I saw that it needed doing, so I did it. As I said, they will probably tell you not to do it because they don't want you to but because they're trying to be polite but once you start, they won't argue. They will appreciate the help.
I know that it's going to take some strong willpower but you must resist the urge to pick up the baby. The bad news is that you might not get the chance to hold the new baby. It's true. And you might not get to hold him/her for a couple visits. Some new moms often don't want to let anyone hold their new baby or they are practicing almost constant skin to skin. You should understand this going in and do your best to not show that you're upset if you don't get the chance to snuggle the new little one. The good news is that the parents might offer to have you hold the baby and then, you can gladly accept! If you're given the chance to hold the baby, be sure to ask if you should wash your hands. For some people, this isn't a problem, but some parents want to make sure that you have clean hands before you touch their baby. It's best if you check with them first.
Please do not make this visit about you and your troubles. Keep the conversation light hearted and focused on the family, unless they directly ask you something about yourself. If the family wants to talk about their birth, let them. It may have been a beautiful and happy experience for them that they want to share with you. It also could be that they might have experienced something unplanned or traumatic and they need to get it out, talk about it, and process with someone. Feel happy that they chose to share this with you. If you want to be helpful, you can offer to write it down for them to refer back to later. Also, I would suggest that you practice active listening. Don't spend your time formulating your response to what is being said because if you are, you're not REALLY listening. Take your time to listen to what it is that's being said. Be careful not to pry or offer advice. If the parents don't want to talk about something, let it be. The best idea is to let them lead the conversation. Don't offer advice about something unless you are asked directly. As new parents (especially if it is their first child), they are sensitive to criticism and may be lacking in confidence. If you tell them that they are doing something incorrectly, they might take it as that they are failing as parents and failing their baby.
As much as little Timmy and Tammy want to visit the new baby, it's not a very good idea. Young children can get very excited, very quickly and sending them in to a situation where they are asked to be quiet and calm can be a challenge for them. Often, they start off well but as their patience and attention fades, they can become hyper, tearful, and loud. They might venture off and get into stuff or even break things while you're not watching them. If you don't think that your child is going to be able to be quiet and keep to themselves, please do everyone a favor and leave them at home. When the baby is older, you will be able to bring the young ones over for a visit.
As exciting it is to see the parents and their new baby, please make it a point to stay no longer than an hour...TOPS. If you notice that the family is simply too tired for your visit, simply give your hugs to the new parents, leave whatever gifts, food, supplies that you brought, and let yourself out. Even if they only got to see you for a few minutes, they will appreciate you and your visit. If you've been there for about an hour and you are asked to stay longer, agree to stay for a bit longer but try to keep your visit short. New parents might not want you to leave because they may be feeling closed off from the world and need a bit of adult interaction. And that's okay. When it's time to go, you can quietly give hugs and let yourself out.
WHAT DID YOU FIND TO BE MOST HELPFUL WHEN YOU HAD A NEW BABY?
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER TIPS THAT I MAY HAVE FORGOTTEN?