Wednesday, March 7, 2018

5 Lovely Things You Can Do For a New Mama (and Papa!)

I'm slowly adjusting to my new role as a mother (so surreal to write!) and, because our newborn spent time in the hospital and because my own recovery has been a slow (and hard) slog, I've quickly realized how invaluable it is to ask for - and receive - help.

Even in the tiniest ways.

The day our newborn was discharged from hospital, my mother-in-law arrived from her interrupted holiday in Spain to help, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Like, in tears grateful. She always knew exactly what to do - not only with the baby (it helps that she's a retired midwife and health visitor), but with simple household chores. Her help around the house meant that I had a few extra minutes to catch some sleep whenever I could, and John wasn't run ragged trying to hold everything together.

So, if you know a new parent, here are 5 things you can do for them that will be guaranteed to be helpful.

Bring food. Always bring food - especially food that can be frozen and reheated quickly. Soups, pasta sauces, casseroles, and snacks will be gratefully received, especially if the parents were totally caught off-guard by a baby who arrived 4 weeks early (that's us!). I WhatsApped my NCT group to let them know our baby came early and received a separate message from a couple asking if they could bring around some food for us they had prepared. I'd envisioned cooking in batches to freeze during my maternity leave, but wasn't afforded that time with our premature baby, and the thought of cooking when we were just beginning to find our feet at home felt overwhelming (and we didn't want to depend on unhealthy takeout). I nearly wept when I got home: eggs, milk, a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, homemade muesli bars, frozen homemade apple cake, moussaka had been left on our doorstep. Our fridge and freezer were stuffed to the gills for days by their generosity.

If you don't bring food, offer to cook. It's a little extreme, but nearly every day, my mother-in-law would walk to our favorite grocery store and buy ingredients to make nourishing meals for us, which she would prepare and present to us right after I'd fed the baby. From pork loin steaks with baked potatoes and sour cream to steaks with steamed spinach (crucial for my iron levels as I lost nearly 2 litres of blood during delivery), it felt amazing to eat home-cooked meals after weeks of microwaved meals and hospital food. It doesn't have to be complicated - when I was pregnant, my friend Sophia came over and made the most amazing roasted cauliflower, capers, and parmesan linguine. I'm salivating at the thought of it!

Ask if there's anything you can get to make the mom or dad more comfortable. When my best friend called me while I was in hospital anxiously awaiting test results for our baby, I sobbed to her that I didn't have any clean clothes that were nursing friendly or that fit my postnatal body. John was driving back and forth to our house to get me stuff, but nothing fit. I still had a bit of a bump and very swollen legs and ankles. She arrived two hours later with a bag full of maternity and nursing clothes from H&M ... I tore the tags off and changed right in front of her! It made all the difference when I was stuck in hospital, already feeling emotional and stressed about our little one's progress - having clothes that fit and worked well while I was nursing him made me feel not only more comfortable, but also more human.

Bring distractions. I vividly remember scrolling through Facebook during our second stint in hospital with our baby and watching a 2-minute clip of an Olympic figure-skating routine (which was on at the time) - those two minutes gave me the most heavenly respite from the exhaustion and stress I'd been experiencing. So, along with the clothes she brought me, my friend also stuffed the newest issue of Hello! magazine in the bag for me to read. I laughed, but it worked! Reading about Meghan Markle's upcoming nuptials provided an excellent distraction for me and helped me cope with the anxiety I had over our little one's well-being.

Offer to hold the baby or do chores around the house. Our friend Nick crashed at our place last night and, in the morning, he offered to make me breakfast, hold the baby while I had a shower, and deposit the bed linen he used in our laundry bin. Granted, we're good friends, but I didn't feel shy about asking. My mother-in-law would always ask me, "Is there anything I can get you?" while I was nursing, and she'd helpfully pass me my water bottle or stuff an extra pillow behind my back - it's those little things that make the world of difference to a new mama.

Are you a new parent, a parent-to-be, or a new auntie/uncle, perhaps? I hope these suggestions are helpful!

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