How to be useful during a brief (post-birth) maternity ward visit
February 9, 2017 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: a very young first time mother you barely know (and her husband and newborn) are down the road during a huge snowstorm with no other family (immediate or distant) within hundreds of miles except for YOU. (New mom and dad are also snowed in at the hospital about 30 minutes from their home but had advance notice.)

New mom's own mom (who can't get to her yet) checked in and asked you to stop by. The new mom told her mom she'd welcome a visit from you as well but is a shy type who may fear imposing on a near-stranger if you ask her if she needs anything.

So: assuming a scenario where new mom says, "Oh, no, that's OK, I don't need anything" after she green-lights a visit, is there any token gift that might be brought--a snack treat, magazine, cozy socks, greeting card, portable phone charger, the real camera if she and/or dad and baby are feeling photo ready, etc.--that either she or guest might not be thinking of? (Nothing like do flowers etc. that might load down new mom and new dad with anything extra to take home with them.) Any logistical support that can be offered at the hospital end? For those who have been pregnant and given birth, any other suggestions of what might be helpful beyond the most obvious guidelines/boundaries in this situation (respecting the visit may need to be very short, mom and dad are going to be exhausted and not at their finest and should not be expected to carry any emotional labor load, etc.).
posted by these are my travel socks to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bring food, especially anything fresh and easy to eat. Call ahead and ask if they have any need for perishables - milk, diapers, etc - and pick those up. Don't ask to hold the baby though if they offer make sure to wash your hands first. Scoot out as soon as you can. Two days later, repeat.
posted by procrastination at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2017 [14 favorites]

The mom and baby are at the hospital? Definitely some good food, hospital food is usually not good and they are probably hungry, new moms are always hungry. Do they have warm gear for themselves or the baby? When will they be discharged? If they are the hospital, immediate needs are probably mostly fine, I'm sure the hospital has enough food and diapers! IF they are home, though, calling to say you are at the store, what do they need, is a good bet.

Socks are nice. Camera for baby pics is nice. She probably won't have time to read a magazine.

If they are going home tomorrow, making sure their walk/driveway is shoveled (if they have one, if you can get there), and that there is food in the house, would be awesome.
posted by john_snow at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2017 [11 favorites]

If at home: Bring a pizza and a bunch of groceries without asking (bananas, clementines, other hand fruit, pita and hummus, nuts, other on-handed snacks).
When you get there, immediately say "hi! I'm just going to wash my hands first before I touch anything" then go do that.
Offer to run errands for them, take out their trash/recycling.

If still in the hospital: Bring a few snacks and a trashy magazine and maybe some shea butter lotion for the mom.
Bring a multi-outlet extension cord so they can plug in all their stuff.
Ask if they need errands or more food or anything.

In either case, stay <1 hour.
posted by rmless at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would bring some cut up fruit in a disposable container and a couple of muffins. You can do it yourself if you have fruit and baking mixes at home or any grocery store should have containers of fruit salad and muffins.

I would totally ask if she needs any of the stuff on your list but even if the answer is no I would still bring some food.
posted by MadMadam at 10:56 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do they have a dog that needs to be walked? That was the biggest point of guilt for me as a new mom was not being able to give the dog as much attention as she deserved.
posted by jillithd at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Food. Take out food. Hospital food is gross and I was starving ALL THE TIME after I gave birth. Dry shampoo or face wipes since it is likely she hasn't showered in a while. Extra hair ties if she has longer hair.

Do they have pets that need looking after? A dog that needs somewhere to stay - cats that need to be fed? Offer to take care of animals in case they are snowed in longer than expected.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:57 AM on February 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

They are still at the hospital and will be snowed in all day today (and have been since last night--visitor is on foot and will likely be their first, and perhaps their only until at least tomorrow morning due to road closures etc.). Getting out to their house is not an option due to weather and other transportation and scheduling obstacles. Question concerns a hospital visit today under these circumstances. :)

Great answers so far--keep them coming!
posted by these are my travel socks at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2017

I don't understand; they are snowed in but you are not?

If not: FOOD. Fruit. Almonds; they are a portable non-perishable snack food, you can eat them one handed and they help milk supply. Bottled water. Lansinoh or shea butter, the straight stuff.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

oh - you can also pass on this helpful hint. If their hospital parking garage is not free - tell them to "lose" their parking ticket. Typically the "lost ticket fee" is much cheaper than several days of parking charges.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't understand; they are snowed in but you are not?

Unlike the roads, sidewalks are not closed and are still safe for an avid hiker in tall grippy boots and winter weather gear! Hospital is down the road. All their social contacts and neighbors live at least 30-45 minutes away (on a day when roads are clear and safe to drive, which they are currently absolutely not) and all other family relations are hundreds of miles away, at least until tomorrow night.
posted by these are my travel socks at 11:02 AM on February 9, 2017

Offer to take a family photo.
There is plenty of stuff that needs to go home, so an extra bag is nice (Hospitals usually have these). Just sitting with mom and baby, while she or dad can get out (or they may need to do steps to get ready to leave, like setting up a car seat).

Do they have the needed gear for taking themselves and baby home in this snowstorm? Do they need their car scraped of ice?

Expect them to be tired. You can bring food, or gift card for delivered food is easy and super helpful.
posted by nickggully at 11:11 AM on February 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh definitely go and being some good food and admire the baby. Such a bummer for them that family is missing out on celebrating with them. Can you bring a tablet for them to Skype relatives? Definitely be prepared to take some photos. Maybe bring mom a hair brush and some basic supplies to primp a bit if you think she'd want to - face wash, a cute head band or maybe some basic powder plus mascara. That's a personal call, I know some of my friends who did full make up for new baby pics and some who were ok with looking a bit bedgraggled! Also decent coffee in a thermos for dad, he probably needs it and hospital coffee is the pits.
posted by fshgrl at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

The best thing any visitor did for me was to help organize my room when they got there. The rooms are small and chaotic and when you're first handling a baby, it's hard to have an extra hand to get organized and there's so much stuff. At one point, a nurse helped do things like use hospital tape to keep my phone charger in place, and put a bunch of paperwork into a folder and set out clean things I needed, and got me fresh water.

If you have or can get cut up fresh fruit, maybe a vegetable-type side, that would probably be appreciated to some extent. Keep it small, though.

But, you know, everyone is different. Some people do crave adult company other than their partner (I did). Other people need you not to stay - and if she's shy, she may not tell you that she needs to breastfeed or sleep and may not want to do it in front of you. I think it's just being reasonably good at viewing a situation and seeing what is happening.

On preview - the extra bag idea is great, too; somehting that folds up small.
posted by vunder at 11:14 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I loved having visitors when I had both my kids. Good food and treats (I really like chocolate) would have been on the top of my list. If you have some quality tea bags you could bring those along in case she's a tea drinker- usually there's a packet of bog standard black tea with meals.

Definitely take a couple pictures if they agree and a Skype session with family would have been much appreciated by us in this situation.

Other than that, follow their cues. I would have let someone watch the baby while I clean up/take a shower after I had my second but maybe not with my first.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

If new mom's own mom is asking for the visit, is it possible new mom will tell her some things she needs if she's reluctant to ask a stranger? Then new mom's mom can pass the info on.

Also, when I had my kids a million years ago, you weren't supposed to have chocolate if you were breastfeeding, but I don't know if that's still the case.
posted by FencingGal at 11:26 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

In the hospital, the only need that's not getting taken care of is tasty food. I would bring something like a banana bread and a knife to cut it with, some nice washed grapes maybe. Maybe some chocolate.

Offer to take pics of the family together on their phones if they want.

Once they get home the situation will be different.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:27 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ask if they want specific clothing items for the kiddo - we managed to forget warm enough stuff for the trip home. Do ask if they'd like you to take photos. The hospital I was in had good food for me but nothing for my husband - take out would have been welcome.
A phone charger is an incredibly good idea.
Ask if she needs a bathrobe - I managed to remember one but it was kind of a last minute addition and turned out to be incredibly useful. Ditto slippers.
A nice big tote bag to carry things home from the hospital - it ain't pretty but I needed at least one ikea bag.

You're awesome for doing this.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:51 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if you offer to bring something and she declines, don't worry about it. Before my wife gave birth, I spent weeks reading every blog I could find about what to pack. I ended up bringing bags of stuff with us - snacks, reading material, numerous changes of clothes, etc. Total waste of time. I read one of the magazines and not even a chapter of any of the books (yes, plural) I brought (and I'm a voracious reader. We ate so little of the food that we actually ended up leaving some of the fruit and yogurt I brought at the hospital because we forgot it was there. And this was just stuff I brought myself. If the people who came to visit had brought stuff, that would have been even more overkill.

There is one thing I wish I would have had, and that's bottled water. The mother will get all the water she can drink from the hospital because she's a patient, but the father is not, so he's on his own. I ended up pretty dehydrated because I didn't want to pay $1.50 for vending machine water. So bring a bottle or two for him.

It wouldn't hurt to bring them dinner, maybe a pizza or something. We did that one night. And some chocolate or something sweet as a snack. But the biggest thing is just going to be being there. Express your joy that they are parents, pass along greetings from their relatives, and let them know that you're there for them if they do ever need anything.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:56 AM on February 9, 2017

I wanted all manner of food, especially tasty takeout and food that I could eat one-handed (while breastfeeding) in the middle of the night without waking anyone up. Dried apricots (have iron), pretzels, juice, snack mix, chocolate... If you want to be amazing, bake some lactation cookies.

And yes, bring a good camera.
posted by slidell at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2017

Oh, and the weird thing is, the hospital gives you a high-necked robe that opens in back, but to nurse, you need a stretchy v-neck and then a robe, zip-up sweatshirt, or cardigan that opens in the front. Clothing is awkward to bring, but that might be something to suggest.
posted by slidell at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's hilarious because it's true that so many have mentioned food. Good food was the only thing I missed after giving birth twice (and I snowed in the second time). Nice sandwiches, pizzas, home-made noodles, salads, fresh fruit. I suppose because of the snow you also have to improvise from what is in your freezer, but I can promise everything will be appreciated.
The hospitals do their best, but they are geared to sick people and a family with a newborn are not at all sick.

You might call in advance about clothes and other stuff, if they expected to be there for several days, they might have packed everything.
If they need better communications you should bring that as well, but I suppose most people have that.
posted by mumimor at 12:39 PM on February 9, 2017

Personally, the thing I needed most as a new mom was compliments, and confidence building.

- Stay 20 minutes max! Stick to your "no emotional labor" guns. They are a new family now. Let them be that new family and build their confidence as parents. This goes double if they are very young, as you say.

- In these very early hours, the person who gave birth's job is to look after the baby, the partner's job is to act as a sweeper and to look after the person who gave birth. Your job is to help the partner support the mom.

- Things you could say no matter if they are feeding the kid arsenic or the baby looks like a wet rat:

"You guys are doing such a great job!"
"That's the best baby I've ever met. No really, ever!"
"I am so excited for you both, this is crazy, right?!"
"His/her name is perfect - suits him/her so well, great choice"
"This snow is nuts - here's my number if you need me to walk you over anything. I love babies and being in the snow. It's no trouble"

Things that would not be helpful would be anything about how happy they should be feeling (it might be frightening and overwhelming!) or anything that undermines their confidence or makes them feel like they're doing something "wrong" (maybe she had a c-section when she didn't want to, maybe the baby has jaundice or something, who knows).

A practical thing you could do would be to take a little video of they baby with their permission. I have a billion newborn photos but I wish I had a video.
posted by bimbam at 12:43 PM on February 9, 2017 [19 favorites]

Food and drinks. Hospital food is often not that great and even if it is OK, a break from it is welcome. Bring a hot meal if you can and bring sturdy snacks and some drinks. A variety of things to nibble and sip on is great to have.

If you want to add something useful, a hand lotion and lip balm can always be used and easily brought home without fuss. Some extra tote bags can also be helpful as many hospitals send new parents home with all sorts of extra supplies (which new mom should ask for!) and sometimes the bags that they provide aren't sturdy.
posted by quince at 1:07 PM on February 9, 2017

Offer to hold her baby while she sleeps
Padsicles for post partum.
Food as others have said
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:24 PM on February 9, 2017

I agree that the hospital will provide what they need, but it is very difficult to get any sleep in the hospital. I was woken constantly for "one more blood pressure reading" and "one more blood draw" and each new nursing shift wanted to introduce themselves. I don't think I slept more than an hour or two at a stretch during the night, and my husband likely did not, either. So I second the idea that you could offer yourself as a baby holder while they BOTH nap, either in the room or take the baby for a ride around the hallways in the wheeled bassinet.
posted by Knowyournuts at 2:32 PM on February 9, 2017

Guinness, in a cheap cooler with ice. Nothing homemade; one's stomach is wobbly enough without having to navigate "WTF is in this and do these people seriously put cloves in their pizza sauce?" (In 2017 you can eat and drink whatever you damn please while nursing, modest quantities of low-alcohol beer included. If the hospital had an issue with it we didn't hear a peep, and there were definitely other parents popping corks in their rooms...)

The hospital will have the ice packs, the disposable underpants, all the medical whatnot, so I would avoid bringing those things as one's desires/needs there vary wildly, but: "I'll call you a day or two after you get home, and you can give me a shopping list and I can pick things up for you" would have been lovely to hear. Because then some new-baby/for-postpartum-moms thing you scoffed at as a dumb scam while pregnant is a thing that you NEED, RIGHT NOW, and also something stupid like cheese enchiladas is a thing you really have to have or else you might cry. Who would saddle you with all these new responsibilities and all this lovely overwhelm, and then deprive you of enchiladas? *sniff*
posted by kmennie at 3:29 PM on February 9, 2017

The greatest gift I ever got as a new mother was a gorgeous bowl of cut-up fresh fruit I could snack on with one hand while nursing. Nursing brings on an intense thirst, and the fruit was quenching and gave me some nutrients and sugar.

Second best was a tuna-on-wheat my husband made me when I got home from the hospital with my third.

A container of protein-rich soup that is nourishing and can be heated up easily and spooned in with one hand is also great. Here is a wonderful vegetarian recipe for Moroccan Harira.
posted by gateau at 3:50 PM on February 9, 2017

All I wanted after delivery was a bagel with smoked salmon and SUSHI. And then an Italian sub sandwich. Those are all unsafe during pregnancy but safe (as safe as cured meats and raw fish can be) once the baby is its own, separate entity. Can your friend ask the mother if the new mother would like any of those?
posted by defreckled at 3:57 PM on February 9, 2017

Lip gloss. Lovely lipgloss. Hospital air is DRY.
Tasty snacks, whatever you think they will like.
Something small to celebrate baby...even a little wee baby safe stuffed animal makes for a nice moment...maybe a snowman to celebrate being born on a snowed in day!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 7:24 PM on February 9, 2017

So I second the idea that you could offer yourself as a baby holder while they BOTH nap, either in the room or take the baby for a ride around the hallways in the wheeled bassinet.

Or offer to sit outside their door and guard it. I did this for a friend who talked about how hospital staff came in every half hour.
posted by slidell at 11:14 PM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Before I'd visit, I'd see if I could call them first to inquire about any sort of allergies, intolerances, preferences, customs, etc. in regards to food and drink. I'd hate for you to show up with a wonderful bottle of champagne, for instance, just to find out that they can't or don't drink it. Or at least be prepared that this is a possibility.

I think that a nice gift certificate to a local upscale grocery store would be a wonderful gift.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:25 AM on February 10, 2017

Obviously not universal but after both my childbirths I was desperate for milkshakes. I actually turned to my husband a few hours after my son was born and told him I would commit Actual Murder in exchange for a high quality chocolate milkshake. He took my subtle hint and obtained one for me.
posted by potrzebie at 12:27 AM on February 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Credit card quandry   |   Questionable river miles of the old Galena to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.