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Helping Out

Babies seem to come in waves; you’ll see a community with none, and within a year or two there’ll be nine or ten infants babbling together happily.  I felt like I was at the end of the wave I was riding, but it seems to have no crest in sight!  Since Maddie arrived, three more babies have been born to friends, and I’ve got another three lined up: my high school girlfriend Jen was due the end of January (we’ve moved into the timeframe where you can’t email and say, “Had it yet?”  You just wait for the email or birth announcement.)  Angie’s in the exact same spot, awaiting her second, and my girlfriend Sandra is expecting her second the beginning of March.  Add to that Emily’s July due date, and the wave might just be endless.

Actually, it’s my girlfriend Sandra that’s on my mind right now.  Her family moved away the end of November, and she had to deal with a move to a new city with a toddler while pregnant.  I don’t know how she does it; I’d have been a nervous wreck, moving out of my support circle, my comfort zone.  Not to mention switching OBs mid-pregnancy!  If there’s one thing being a mom has taught me, it’s that I can’t do this thing alone.  The more people in my house doing my laundry and washing my dishes, the better. (By the way, mom – thanks for doing the dishes last night while you babysat.)
And I’m still close enough to Maddie’s newborn stage to be paralyzed with fear at the thought of going through that while tending a toddler.  Watching Abby struggle with round-the-clock feedings while getting up every morning and taking care of her three-year-old was enough to make me think that maybe being an only child isn’t such a bad thing for Maddie . . .
We’re going to visit Sandra and family in a couple weeks, returning some baby gear she lent us that Maddie’s outgrowing in the nick of time!  One of the exciting things about no longer being the new baby on the block is the opportunity to pay back all the friends who helped you out with your newborn.  Going through Maddie’s newborn clothes, washing them in Dreft and putting my initials in them, I’m nostalgic for how tiny she was, how new, and I’m excited these clothes will get a second life.  Matt and Sandra provided such support for us that it’s immensely satisfying to be able to loan back a bit.  Even making out the grocery list today made me think about her, since I’m making a few things to freeze and take down to stock up their fridge.
And with that, let me put in a plug for new mommies everywhere – we need your help.  Here’s a few tips for helping out those first few weeks.
Please don’t call and say, “Just give me a call if there’s anything you need.”  That puts the ball in our sleep-deprived and proud court.  Instead, call and say, “I’m coming over to clean your bathroom and mop your floors.  When would be a good time?”  We can always use meals, and I know on my part it’s handy to have them before the baby arrives.  That way I can organize and stack the freezer so food is easy to find post-delivery.  If you’re not a cook, $20 and a take-out menu are almost as good.  If you come to visit, please call ahead, and please bring food with you if it’s around a meal-time.  That way the mommy doesn’t have to worry about feeding you.  If you’re running to the grocery store, give the family a call and ask if there’s anything they need.  Understand if the family’s “gone quiet” for the first couple of weeks; they’re just trying to get through the day 10 minutes at a time.  And once the first flurry of visits dies down, try not to forget about them.  Lots of people help out the first few weeks, but for us the whole first six weeks were difficult and the stream of helpful (ie: working!) visitors was a lifesaver.  My dad and his wife spent four hours of their visit doing yard work, which had nothing to do with the baby but truly helped me rest easier.  Just remember: a little bit from a lot of people goes a long way.
There’s just nothing like the opportunity to give back.  So good news Sandra – you haven’t lost your circle!  It’s just a bit wider now.  Make room in the freezer.


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