So….maybe you’re convinced enough in our need to up the support of postpartum families, and ready to start putting it into action. Because, obviously, the only way to put belief into action is to start blessing others…well, and self-prepare. ;-)
Wondering where to start? Here’s a list of what I would love to see happen or at least be considered for every postpartum mama. Much of the inspiration comes from friends, too, who shared what they would love in the ideal postpartum recovery. I was almost surprised at how similar everyone’s ideal lists were to each others and to mine. So while bearing in mind that every mama needs personal tailoring, I’d dare say a lot of this pretty well would bless most postpartum moms.
- Meals. And not just for a week, but a full 6 weeks. I think a pretty good balance/ideal would be daily for 2 weeks, and 3-4 times a week for the following 4 (but obviously, every mama would have her own preference- and nearly daily for 6 weeks would be awesome, too). That’s approximately 28 meals total- which sounds like a lot as one person, but if a whole community banded together, is probably very doable with minimal effort from each person. I really love Take Them A Meal for coordinating. There's also Meal Baby, amongst others. It does all the work for everyone, plus allows givers to make sure their meal is unique!
a) Make sure you check on dietary needs as well as personal preferences, especially of children. Picky kids really annoy me (just sayin’!), but setting personal prejudice aside, meals aren’t as helpful if the parents still have to make a separate meal for their kids. Also, definitely check for allergies! If you have the time to do so, consider too catering to their general health-level lifestyle.
b) On the other hand, though, don’t let that intimidate you. And unless there are actual dietary needs/restrictions (i.e. needing to stay on a GAPS diet or dealing with major side effects), even a typical healthy family would thoroughly enjoy Pizza Hut.
c) Check on what the family prefers as far as drop-off time and visitors. Is mom really tired and does she want to be mostly left alone so she can feel free to sleep when baby does? Or is she lonely and desperate for a friend to come hang out for a while? Either may be equally true, so know your mama or just ask.
d) Obviously, be considerate and don’t take germs over. If you have sick kids and still want to do a meal, consider dropping it on the porch. It might not be as fun for you, but the new mama will be infinitely grateful!
e) Remember that dinners aren’t the only meal people eat. If you can invest the time, consider bringing some stuff for breakfasts or snacks….or lunch if you don’t think dinner will stretch into leftovers. And again, feel free to let it just be a box of crackers and block of cheese, provided allergies/strict dietary needs aren’t an issue.
- Offer to pick up groceries, especially if you’re already going to the store. Ask if you can get anything and drop it off. It’s really nice to not have to shop for a while, and not sending dad means more time he’s available. A few family members got me a couple things a time or two, and it was really nice! Especially for fresh produce, our main need that I couldn’t preplan for/pre-buy.
- Cleaning help. For many women, I think this one needs some cultural expectations changed in order for it to be comfortable. Nonetheless, it would be a pretty huge thing! And while the house really can just wait for a while….sometimes it can be a stress-point. I know it was for me, although Ben did a great job with it. But when too much clutter piled up (going under Ben’s radar, since it doesn’t bother him), it would be so stressful for me to sit there staring at it, physically incapable of getting up and dealing with it myself. I always felt bad asking for help with it, too. If I didn’t have a helpful husband, it would’ve been an even bigger issue, since dishes and what-not wouldn’t have gotten done, either. Also, with other children in the picture the 2nd time around, it became a lot harder for him to take care of everything. He was trying to meet my needs since I was immobile, care for and spend time with Vivi, work, go to school (from home) and keep up with the house. He’s awesome, but it was a lot! So- I think it would be awesome if people offered to come do some basic cleaning once or twice a week. Clean the bathroom, vacuum, perk the kitchen up, clean up toys, put away gifts, etc. It could easily be divided between a few people. If each person who came to visit spent 5-10 minutes helping with something, you could probably even maintain. To get there, mamas need to be made to feel that it’s okay for you, the visitor, to walk into a messy house!
- Laundry. There’s no way around the fact that it has to get done…or that it piles up really fast with a newborn. (Remember changing outfits at every diaper change, which occurred every 1-1.5 hours around the clock?) Offer to come over for a folding party. Or to start/switch a load while you’re there dropping off a meal. Or to take their laundry home with you and bring it back clean and folded. After both kiddos, it was at least a few weeks before I could bend or kneel to switch laundry without causing severe pain plus backsliding in the recovery department. Not to mention, it’s one of those few tasks that actually is difficult with a baby in front. I would’ve been lost without Ben’s willingness to start and switch laundry for me, and bring it out by the couch where I could fold it. Next time around, when he’s working outside the home, it’s definitely a department I might love more help in. I remember a friend folding a basket of laundry that was sitting there when she came with a meal after Vivi. After getting over the mortification (my house isn’t perfect!!!), it was really nice that she so sweetly just picked stuff up and folded it while we were chatting. As a mama of 10, I guess she knew that sometimes it’s the little things.
- Some mamas voiced a desire for a live-in helper. If you’re in a season of life that you could offer that, it could be a huge blessing. I’m not sure I’d like having someone around all the time….but I know in the future (Ben working away) it probably will be almost-needed for help with toddler-lifting, etc., the first couple weeks. Or at least to have someone come a few hours a day. And some mamas would absolutely love having company around all the time, especially if they’re used to a highly-social pre-baby life. J
- Other moms mentioned how nice it would be to have someone come hold the baby so they could take a shower, fix their hair, or whatever. Or help provide the motivation to get out for a walk. Self-care is important! Especially if you’re parenting a “high-needs” (or is it just normal?!) baby or believe in giving your little one as much hands-on time as possible. Awesome as it is, it does burn you out, too…especially if your baby is fussy inspite of your best efforts. A shower can be your sanity-saver. I know it was for me with Vivi! It also would’ve been impossible without Ben around to hold Vivi as a shower while she screamed by herself was not a valid (or relaxing) option for me. A well-cared-for mama is much more nurturing and less stressed! So remember- as a mama, and as someone helping a mama- care of the mother benefits everyone.
- If she has older kids, consider doing something fun with them- bringing over a fun new toy (playdough, coloring stuff, or other economical things that would keep them occupied with minimal mess would be great!), take them out to a park or back to your house for a while, or play a game with them while you’re there. I really loved the fact that every time my mother-in-law came over after Timothy’s birth, she made a point to play with Vivi. Not only does it free mama up for a bit to enjoy her baby, it makes life extra-fun for the older kids to get some extra-special attention. Their lives have been thrown out of whack, too…not in a bad way, but like everyone else, they could use some help adjusting, too!
For a list of 100 creative ways to bless a new mom, visit Lisa Jo and check out one of her most popular posts! Not only does she discuss the basics, she delves into tons of creative ideas- many of them easy to fit into your schedule.
*As a side note, I just have to say that although meals for 6 weeks didn’t happen ;-), I was blessed with very supportive people and more help than many women get. My mom sent multiple meals my way (even if it was just leftovers, which were always yummy!), and one of my sisters-in-law also stopped in multiple times when she was in the neighborhood with extras from a dinner she’d made for her family, burritos and waffles for the freezer, etc. My mother-in-law stopped over several times, and in addition to bringing dinner would also spruce up the kitchen if necessary or play with Vivi. I loved that when she came over she’d always make a point of playing with Vivi. She even took her to the park once so Ben, Timothy and I could nap! Another SIL brought a meal and picked up some produce for me once. My sister stayed with me overnight when Ben went on a family celebration trip while I still couldn’t lift Vivi…she treated me like a queen and scampered around keeping up with everything. And additionally, we got a few (much appreciated and quickly devoured) meals from friends. Postpartum season makes me starving, so hearty meals from others always tasted SO yummy! Anyway- just have to throw that in for the awesome people in our lives!*