Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Postpartum Visits Revisited: Yes I said yes I will yes.

My attention was drawn this morning to an excellent, straight-to-the-points post entitled "How to Be the Best Postpartum Visitor in 15 Minutes Or Less". It is spot-on. By way of introduction, she says:
This visit is NOT about you. It is not about the parents hosting you and putting on a cup of tea so you can sit and visit and hold the baby. Think about how you would feel if you had either had surgery or ran a triathlon. What would you want people to do for you? This visit is about blessing the parents and making their life a little bit easier. Your prize is getting a quick peek at the cute new human.
Quite. I can't tell you how many moms are expected to play hostess to their visitors while they're still undergoing major healing, and possibly even more significantly, adjusting to the seismic shift that has just taken place in their lives. Postpartum visits need to be made in loving service TO the mother and new family. Here's her list of criteria for the perfect visit:

1. Bring a healthy meal. Include a salad or fresh vegetables. Only use disposable dishes. There is nothing more annoying than
a) having to wash more dishes when you have a new baby
b) having to try to return dishes to all sorts of random people when you have a new baby
2. In addition to your meal, bring cut up veggies and fruit, unsalted trail mix or nuts, or other such healthy snacks for daytime munching for mom to eat while she's nursing.
3. Go into the kitchen and spend 5 minutes clearing off a counter, washing a sink-full of dishes, loading the dishwasher etc. Don't ask permission, just do it. Then set the table for their dinner.
4. Before you leave your house, put some paper towels and some powdered bathroom cleaner like Commet or Ajax in a baggie. Stick it in your purse. While you are at the house, go and use the washroom...and while in there do a three minute bathroom shine-up, using your paper towels and cleaner.
5. Coo over the baby, but wash your hands before touching it.
6. If they want to eat right then, heat the food up and put it on the table, give everybody kisses and then leave.
7. Take the garbage out when you go.

Awesome, right? Even if your visits are professional (as a doula or lactation consultant or some other solicited service) there's still wisdom in the core message.

This post reminded me of a post I did on the same a while back, "The Answer is Always Yes", from which I excise one final point to add to the basically perfect list above.

I have one final suggestion. This is something to tell her in response to the inquiries of other friends and relatives who will want to visit. Almost invariably, when people arrange to come calling on a new family, they ask "Is there anything I can bring you? Pick up at the store? Anything?" THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS "YES". ALWAYS! This goes back to the learning-to-ask-for-help thing. It is SO HARD for us to get this lesson, and stop trying to prove we are superwomen who can do everything all by ourselves immediately after delivering the placenta, but there's no time like the postpartum period to start feeling comfortable with it. Have her keep a notepad by the phone, or in a very handy place if she relies on her cell. This notepad would be a great inexpensive gift, especially if a pen is attached so she doesn't have to look for one over and over. She can then keep a running list of things that she and the household need, just jotting them down as she goes. Orange juice, witch hazel, baby wipes, red raspberry leaf tea, onions, sanitary pads, flax meal, Rescue Remedy, dark chocolate, burp cloths, fresh fruit, a new thermometer, WHATEVER. If the list is literally empty, and she can't think of *anything* else - ASK FOR TOILET PAPER. It can always be added to the household stash. Make her repeat it with you: "The answer is always 'Yes'!"
It's more of an exhortation to the new mother, but friends and loved ones who are aware of this idea can encourage her in their phone calls prior to the visit, and help her to say embrace the yes.

Confession: I myself have been guilty of not bringing food in disposable containers. Yes, they're less environmentally friendly, but using them once in a blue moon (of the babymoon variety) is pretty benign, and there are also disposable products made of recycled materials one can use - check out Whole Foods or other similar businesses. I hereby apologize to anyone I put in the position of chasing me down to return a casserole dish!


  1. Lovely!

    And if you can't bring a disposable dish, either take away the dirty one or better yet clean the kitchen.

    Love both your blog and the one you linked.

  2. Oh, man, I would have to go anonymous to write what I really want to right now, so I will just echo the YES. Also, Gloria Lemay wrote a great post about this that I shared all over the place a few months back.

  3. Elita, whisper it in my ear? I do like that particular LeMay post a lot (and *I* would have to go anonymous to comment further).

  4. I love this. BUT my house is a chemical free household. I would be pretty mad if someone came in and cleaned my house with anything but baking soda, vinegar, and soap with Hot water... But other than 4 I love this =D

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  6. I am actually uncomfortable with the disposable dish thing too, even though it's on my own list! I think I'm going to start picking up dishes at thrift stores/garage sales that the family can keep or donate as they wish. A little friendlier for the earth.

  7. Avital, that is a SPECTACULAR idea! I'm posting that on Facebook.


    And Carol, that's a good point. Maybe the best rule of thumb would be to either bring exactly what you suggested, or use the family's own products.

    And thanks to Mars and Thomasin for the thoughts, too!

  8. I've always taken food in cheap reusable containers and told the family to keep it. This is a great post about what's really important, and an especially good reminder for us, as mothers and fathers, to just ask.

  9. If I still spoke to my mother-in-law I would send this to her! My husband would ask her to stop at Taco Bell 2 minutes from our house and bring us something to eat and she always acted like it was an imposition even though SHE was the imposition! Great post!!

  10. I've heard lots of similar stories, Tracey! Whether it's a MIL or one's own immediate family . . .

  11. Love this! Especially 2 & 3. I would feel blessed if a visitor took it upon himself/herself to help out with snacks/quick cleaning. Sincerely. :-) Thank you for this post! It's inspired a post of my own, from the Mama's point of view.