The vast majority of the posts I write are about food, but every once in awhile I feel like doing something a little different. Our baby boy turned one month old on Sunday, and I’ve been reflecting on the many ways our neighbors have helped us, particularly in the days right after his birth.
(We were also fortunate to also get a lot — LOT — of help from our parents and a bunch of our siblings, who flew in from the U.S. and Canada to be with us. But that’s for another time.)
Based on my experience as a first-time Imma of four entire weeks, I present 10 ways to help new parents. Have something of your own to add to the list? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
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1. Ask for a spare key so you can clean up the house before the new parents come home with their bundle. Both of our sinks were stacked with dirty dishes the night I went into labor, but by the time we came home, everything had been washed and dried. The guy responsible for our clean dishes also washed our floor. Can’t wait to return that favor!
2. If the parents don’t have a car (hello, over here, that would be us), offer to pick them up from the hospital to bring them home. We took an ambulance to the hospital but kind of assumed we’d rely on Egged to get back. Instead, an awesome friend drove to Jerusalem for the express purpose of bringing us home. And he was thoughtful enough to bring along a water bottle and Nature Valley bar for me.
3. First-time parents will almost certainly need to borrow baby equipment of some sort, even if they bought things during the pregnancy. Our friends loaned us everything from baby blankets and a snowsuit to a car seat and an authentic British pram. The pram especially has been a lifesaver, since we didn’t get our stroller until last week. (City Mini! On Janglo! Score!)
4. Organize their meals for the first week or two, depending on the norm in your community. An incredible friend actually arranged three full Shabboses for us and our visiting relatives, as well as several meals during the week (based on when we said we needed them). I made a list of everyone who cooked something for us, and there are 24 women on it. 24! That’s a lot of phone calls.
5. If the job of organizing the meals has already been taken, offer to cook. Weeknight meals, Shabbos dishes, or food for the simcha (shalom zachar/bris/kiddush) are all needed and sure to be appreciated. Make sure to ask about food restrictions and the number of people at the meal (it might be more than just the new parents). And if you’re feeling super helpful, cook something that freezes well — and deliver it in a disposable container that won’t need to be returned.
6. Help plan, set up, or clean up for the simchas being held. Between the shalom zachar, bris, and possibly a pidyon haben, there’s obviously a lot more to do (simcha-wise) after the birth of a boy, but even if the “only” thing the new parents are doing is making a kiddush for their baby girl, an extra pair of hands is totally needed. Our incredible friend who you met above in #4 sat down with me the night we got home from the hospital to go over every detail of the bris (which I had been thinking about since the minute we found out we were having a boy). Seriously, I don’t think that bris would have come together without her.
7. Offer to host out-of-town guests, especially over Shabbos when extra sleeping accommodations are likely to be needed. There may also be other ways you can help with visitors. One of my good friends offered to come over the Shabbos morning after the bris to set the table for me. We were having my mother, sister, in-laws, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law for the meals, and knowing that everything would be ready when they walked in after shul made me so relaxed.
8. Offer to watch the little one for an hour or two to give the new parents a break (or just a chance to nap). Two days before the bris, a neighbor knocked on our door and offered to take the baby for a little while. I was asleep, and only found out later that her help had allowed my nap to stretch an hour further (it also allowed my husband to go to mincha and maariv without waking me).
9. If you have medical training that could come in handy, offer to answer questions or provide treatment in the event of an emergency. We have a clinic on the yishuv, but it isn’t open 24/7. I’m glad I know which of our friends can answer late-night medical questions (and which of my far-more-experienced-mother friends will answer a gchat at any hour).
10. Moral support is important for both the new mom and dad. But try to provide it in a low-key way, and be understanding if they aren’t able to reply to emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. If you’ve been through a birth yourself, you can probably give the new mother tips to get through the physical discomforts in the days following her birth. But even if you haven’t, you can share in her excitement and just let her talk. Friends of a new father have an important role, too. When my husband got home at the end of the very happy but very, very exhausting day of our son’s birth, two friends came over with a hot (fleish!) meal to hang out and give him a chance to unwind.
Phew. Was that long enough? I’ll be back soon with a recipe…promise.
One year ago: Mushroom barley pie