Looking after a new baby is tiring work, and you’ll probably find that your friends in their fourth trimester don’t have a lot of brain power left to discuss highbrow topics.
‘Fourth trimester’ refers to the first three months of a baby’s life, following on from the three trimesters of pregnancy.
What about adoption?
If your friends have adopted a child, challenges are different – depending on the child’s age – but still overwhelming. I can’t claim any expertise, but I’d say you can’t go far wrong with these lines to any parent.
Don’t drop in unannounced to your pals with a new baby(/babies – this all applies to twins and more; just even more so). Wait until you’re invited. If you want to help, try texting and emailing messages of support – be clear that you don’t expect a reply. After the first couple of weeks, you can add that you’d love to see them at good time for them.
When you do go round, try the following lines:
1. Where do you keep your mugs?
Certainly don’t ask for a cup of tea (/coffee/whatever); they shouldn’t be getting up more than necessary. Make your own, and make them one too. But note, too, the careful wording:
- you aren’t asking them to make any kind of decision. Choice is overwhelming, and sometimes you need to be guided. They can of course choose whether to drink it.
- to the sleepy-eyed new parent, the idea of boiling water, waiting, brewing, finding mugs and spoons is overwhelming. If you ask them whether they want tea, they’re liable to think, ‘My god, what an effort. I wouldn’t put my friends to that kind of work.’ It’s as if you’ve asked them if they’d like you to trek the North Pole and tightrope over an ice pool to retrieve a penguin. (Yes, I know you don’t get penguins in the North Pole. Exactly.)
2. Here’s a pie.
Bring food. Bring all the food. Consider how hard making a cup of tea was described to be and then imagine what it must be like to make a sandwich. Eating is important and they’ve probably been eating the same boring food or surviving on ready meals and takeaways. Bringing nutritious, delicious food, with reheating instructions, is one of the nicest things you can do.
3. Would you like a nap? Or maybe a shower? A wee?
Along with eating, getting enough sleep is absolutely vital to surviving the first forays of parenthood with a smile on your face. Your friend really wants to see you (otherwise you wouldn’t be invited at all), and wants you to meet their baby, love of their life, but probably not quite as much as they want to shut their eyes for a minute or sixty. The chances are they also haven’t showered in a good while, and might not have had a poo by themselves for days.
Let them know that their baby is so lovely and captivating that you will happily cuddle, entertain and calm them while they sleep or shower, or pee in peace. These things cannot be delegated. Anything else, offer to do for them.
4. How can I help?
If you’ve exhausted other options, do try asking what other help you can give. Again note, it’s ‘How can I help?’ not ‘Can I help?’. It avoids the easiest answer being ‘No, I’m fine’ (they’re not) and opens up the opportunity for ‘Well, actually do you mind taking that bin out when you leave’ (a task taking you an extra ten seconds but saving them ten hard minutes) or even ‘Maybe just pass me that cloth?’ because that cloth is far and they’re under a feeding/sleeping baby.
If things are worse, let them know you’re there for them. They may be going through run of the mill tiredness and being-weirded-out-ness, but there’s a possibility they’re not coping, and may be suffering from depression. Make sure they know they can tell you – the sooner they get help, the better.
5. Well done.
Alongside the babble of “love love, oxytocin and happiness and goodness my child is beautiful what soft skin I’m so lucky I even love the smell of their poo” is a constant murmur/shout of ‘AAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How have I not killed the kid yet? I used to be good at things! Why don’t I know where my pants are? Am I a bad parent? Has everyone forgotten me? Is my every action scarring them for life?!’
Validation from you that they are doing an excellent job means a lot.