Our circle welcomed a sweet baby girl into the world a couple of weeks ago. Baby Avery made her way into her parents arms and, of course, the hearts of all her hanai (chosen, not biologically-related) aunties, uncles, honorary grandparents and cousins.
Those first days and weeks as a new parent are overwhelming. I actually don’t remember much from those days because I was too damn tired and emotional to add up the pieces into a cohesive and comprehensible experience. What I do remember was a my out-of-control body doing things that seemed unnatural (post-birth womanly functions are horrendously unpleasant and nursing isn’t natural for all mamas & babies), I was functioning on the dregs of adrenaline as sleep was not happening and coffee was still on my banned-from-life list. Hormones and emotional tidal waves made it difficult for me to find a still moment in which I didn’t feel incompetent or insane and ALL THESE PEOPLE were around me when I needed a moment to find a little slice of solitude.
On the other hand, thank god all those people were around – they wanted to help me and baby out, they were the ones who knew how to hold a newborn and change a diaper, they were the ones that handed me kleenex when my blubbery nose and eyes were being rubbed raw from the rumpled bed sheet that had become my default hanky. Those people were the ones who reached out their arms for baby and then pulled me from the couch nest that I had retreated to with marching orders to take a hot bath and find something clean to wear. Those people were the ones who forever changed the way I send welcome wishes to a family with a newborn because, without those people, I would never have made it through the first 14 days of being a new mama.
Baby Avery worked hard to get here and she will be cooed and aaahed over for days and months and years to come. As she should. And, don’t you worry, Aunty Lisa will get in that game pretty quickly (after she gains a few pounds and I, possibly, get over my fear of holding babies under 9 months old). But, for now, it’s mama and daddy that are on the receiving end of my attention. When we found out that Baby had arrived, I got to work and prepared a few gifts to take with us to the hospital for our visit with the family.
Gift Bag 1:
- Kleenex: the tissues in the hospital are horrible. They are scratchy and thin and you end up with chapped noses and red eyes (not only from the crying). Choose your favorite tissue brand (soft and moisturized is my my suggestion) and include a box or two. The new parent(s) will be crying at unexpected moments and its not unusual for visitors to leak a tear or two as well
- Lotion: FOR MAMA! Baby will have all the care products needed (and more!) but Mama will likely forget to put a little lotion on after all the hand washing/sanitizing or on her body as a little indulgence. I loved coco butter lotions after pregnancy but found that fragrances I used to love would make me nauseous so I typically choose fragrance-free or mildly-fragranced lotions for new mamas
- Lip Balm: FOR MAMA! Seriously – there is some sort of switch in the new mama brain that makes us forget to take the simplest self-care actions. After all the crying, kissing, talking, labor, sleeplessness and emotions, Mama’s going to need a little bit of lip moisturizer, I promise!
- Super soft PJ set with built-in bra: FOR MAMA! If you haven’t yet noticed the trend, let me point it out – yes! These goodies are for mama! She’s the one who pushed a person out of her body. And built-in bras … BRILLIANT! I would suggest that buying big is not insulting at all – unless Mama is the kind of woman who would be insulted by that. In my experience, most new mamas don’t want to wear anything fitting for a while anyhow, and the key here is comfort and ease
- Post-It notes and Sharpie pens (fine-tip and regular): New parents will be receiving A LOT in those first days – gifts, forms, information, memories … and having something at hand to make quick notes can be sanity-saver
- Feminine hygiene produces: Good quality personal cleansing wipes and pads – okay, here’s the deal … if you don’t feel that your level of friendship opens the door to gifts like this, just leave these items out. But, for those of you who are gifting to friends that are family, trust me – these items will not only be used, they will be appreciated. Again, hospitals provide them, but the quality isn’t always the greatest
Gift Bag 2: (for spouse/partner and support peeps)
*Recommendation: use a soft-sided insulated cooler bag that can be reused in the future
- Snacks: Hunger will inevitably strike when the cafeteria is closed, the remaining food is disgusting and vending machines are empty. Take into consideration your people’s personalities and likes/dislikes or lifestyle. I put a few healthy-ish snacks in the bag: popcorn, crackers and cookies
- Candy: Chocolate CAN heal what ails you … and sometimes all you need is a snack-sized chocolate candy or M&Ms to give a little sugar boost and a smile
- Drinks: Small bottles of water and juice boxes – again, any way to cut down the number of trips support people need to take out of the room, may be helpful. Also, it’s not always easy to find a vending machine in an unfamiliar hospital at 2:15 AM. As for the juice boxes – parents might as well start getting used to them
- Gum: New parents often forget that they have to go to the bathroom, so indulgences like teeth-brushing can be postponed a little longer with highly-effective gum-chewing
- FOOD!: We texted Daddy before heading to the hospital and asked what Mama and Daddy were craving for food. Acai bowl for Mama and burger combo for Daddy. After labor and delivery, something satisfying to eat is a simple reward
We got to meet and cuddle Baby during our hospital visit. Shortstack completely fell under Baby’s spell and is more than a little bit in love with her. We chatted for a bit, asked about the highs and lows, I watched my beautiful wife hold and sway with Baby and then we wrapped things up pretty quickly. In and out in 20 minutes or so. I don’t like to stay long during hospital visits; everyone is exhausted and strung out and I think those first days are precious and sacred. But the following weeks – those are fair game, to me.
A week after Baby was born, Shortstack and I visited the family at home. We came bearing gifts of food and help. After I had given birth, one of my people showed me just how much she loved me by coming over to the house, checked on me and baby, bundled us up in our couch nest and then sought out my broom and swiffer. She proceeded to sweep and clean the floors in the house, grouped and gathered all the STUFF that had collected over the week that I had been home, threw a load of laundry in and cleaned my kitchen. OH – MY – WORD! When I looked up and saw that the chaos and messiness had been reigned in, I leaked a whole ton of tears out of relief and pure gratitude. Lesson learned! Whenever I can, I try to visit new parents bearing a stash of ready-made food (this time: cooked pasta with marinara and pesto sauces, chicken adobo and individually-wrapped and frozen breakfast burritos) and time to tidy up the house a bit. Daddy had to head out to work and practice, Shortstack oohed over Baby for a few minutes before I settled him in with his homework, Mama and I chatted for a few and then they drifted off and I dove in. Sweeping, kitchen cleaning, straightening things up, watering and cleaning up the bouquets and plants gifted to them, taking out the trash. All those little, everyday things that new parents don’t have time for. Those are the little ways that I know I can help out – even if it’s only for a little bit.
Parenting is fucking hard. No matter how prepared you are, the transition into parenthood is overwhelming and scary. So there’s no reason that you have to do it alone. There’s a reason that the proverb exists, “… it takes a village to raise a child …” and I do my damnedest to take that to heart because I know, deep in my bones and etched in my foggy memories of the days and weeks after becoming a mama, it takes a village to raise the amazing boy that we have the honor of being mamas to.
Congratulations, Herman ‘Ohana! Welcome to this beautiful world, Baby Avery! xoxo