We’ve all been there, moms and childfree women alike. You get the text message, the announcement, the phone call: So-and-so just had their baby! You’re thrilled, of course, for your dear friend who is finally at the end of her pregnancy journey… And at the beginning of her lifetime one.
You want to celebrate with her, yet understand her need to withdraw temporarily from her public, to bond and care for this new human being. Yet you still want to express your sincerest congratulations, share in her joy, and give her something she can use.
So – what to give? More clothes for the baby? A swaddling blanket? Diapers?
Perhaps… Or perhaps something a bit more memorable. Following is a list of the most memorable congratulatory gifts I received (or heard about) after having each of my two children.
1. Dinner at a nice restaurant. With you, her friend. Oh – she will fight you. She will hem and haw, and lament at how she cannot possibly leave her infant yet for an adult meal away. I’ve been there. I had a friend who insisted that I shower, put on something other than sweats, and leave the house for a nice dinner away from my precious baby. I didn’t want to. I felt guilty about leaving. I REALLY didn’t want to. And as the hour drew nearer and nearer I began to panic about leaving my baby. But, it was too late to cancel and she was on her way. So I went. And we sat. And ordered a bottle of wine. And ate. And talked… A bit about the baby, but more about me and how I was doing. And it was one of the most memorable gifts I was given. I think we often neglect to remember the mother once the baby is born; the celebrated vessel of life is suddenly delegated to the role of a walking feeder/pooper-scooper. Add a good dose of post-partum hormones to that mix and it is a recipe for complete deflation. So giving your girl friend the gift of focus on her, the gift of your time, the gift of reminding her that she is an individual in addition to being a mom – is in my opinion one of the kindest things you can do.
2. A few hours away. Trust me, your girl friend is drowning. She is a walking zombie who has lost all track of day and time. She may or may not let you know this (for some reason, our society dictates that we must be cheerfully doing it all with a smile plastered across our exhausted faces). But know that she is temporarily lost in the abyss of insanity that occurs right after a new baby is born. She won’t ask for your help. But what if you just offered it? Not the vague “call me if you need anything”… But a real, tangible offer of help. Something along the lines of, “I am coming over this Wednesday at noon and will be staying with the baby until 5pm. I will not be talked out of it and you cannot keep me from this precious baby [play on her emotions, folks!] I encourage you to go out and do whatever it is you want to do. Go to the gym, take a walk, go to the spa, go the movies – heck, go to Target. That time is yours and whether you stay or go out, I will be there.” This type of an offer – the firmness and concrete-ness of it – will be something she never forgets.
3. A nap. Same as above, your assertiveness will be critical. But let your friend know that you will be coming over, taking the baby out (for a walk, to your house, etc). for, say, 2-4 hours so that she can simply sleep. Blissful, uninterrupted, deep sleep. Ask for the key so that you don’t have to disturb her when you return. Reassure her that you will call or text the absolute second you have any questions about the baby. Bring over a few of her favorite magazines, a few snacks, make her a cup of chamomile tea and honey, and send her to bed. If you are an amazing friend (and who isn’t??), give her the night off completely. Stay over, learn her feeding routine, and let her know that you will be the one to answer every cry, every diaper change, and every feed for an entire night. The key here is to actually DO it too – within a timely manner so Mommy doesn’t wake. Yes, I know, it is a night lost… But you will likely be rewarded with sobs of gratitude, and a rested and more rational girl friend.
4. Media gift certificate. For as busy as new moms are, there is a lot of down time too. By “down”, I mean a baby laying down on Mommy while she breastfeeds, formula feeds, and rocks her to sleep. And while a good portion of this time will be spent caressing the baby’s hair and gazing into her eyes, another portion will be spent not-scratching-that-itch, not-sneezing, and not-moving-a-muscle in a desperate attempt to not wake the baby. This is the perfect time for Mommy to NOT Google, but instead to watch, read, or listen to something entertaining. I highly recommend Amazon gift certificates here, folks. Let her pick her poison – a movie, a book, a show, or music – and have at it. Make sure you write clear instructions on the gift card, advising her that the gift must be used for some form of media entertainment for her and her alone.
5. A house cleaning/organizing. Chances are, your friend’s house looks like a tornado hit. Keeping the house tidy is likely at the bottom of her priority list. Even still, the mess is bothering her, contributing to her feelings of frazzle-ness, and just plain making it difficult to find anything. Help a girl out! Hire a housecleaning or organizing crew to come out and complete a one-time deep clean or organization. Allow her to clear her head with a fresh and clean house. Getting her to a point where it just needs to be maintained instead of deep cleaned will lighten her load and immediately eliminate some of her stress.
6. Food. You can never go wrong with food, but make it thoughtful. If she is breastfeeding, make her something to assist with lactation (several cultures have lactation soups or dishes to help with this). If she has a family of five, bring over a fully prepared meal for everyone. Heat it up, set it out buffet style, and for an added bonus – clean up afterwards. Bring a treat for the poor dog who likely hasn’t been fed in days. Bring a bottle of your girl friend’s favorite wine. Bring juice for the kids. Paper plates, cups, and utensils – all the better. If you’re not much of a chef, order your friend food. There are multiple restaurants that cater, or you can simply send a pizza and breadsticks to her home – she will be just as happy.
7. A personal item to mark the occasion. Find your girl friend something for her that is special. She will already be receiving flower arrangements, baby clothes, toys, rattles, and diapers. While helpful, these types of gifts tend to blur together. You’re looking to do something special, something that she will remember. So get her something to celebrate her. A pair of earrings (perhaps yielding the birthstone of her baby), an engraved locket, or a personalized bracelet. A nice wallet or handbag (NOT baby bag) that she has been eyeing. Steer away from clothing until her body has had the opportunity to get back to normal. Think perfume or candles. A nice robe. Slippers. A homemade quilt. Tickets to see a favorite band or sports team. A tablet if she is techie. Anything that is for her, her comfort, or her enjoyment.
I think the overall theme here is to focus on your girl friend as your friend first, finding her something that lets her know she is still an individual, that you still love her for her, and that she is important just by being her (in addition to now being a mom). Celebrate her. Listen to her. Support her. She will be more grateful than you can imagine.
Moms, what were some of your most memorable gifts received after having a baby?