By: Daina Sparling
When I had my son, Jacob, in 2011, I was blessed by my family and friends with multiple baby showers, special handmade items, and baby necessities that I didn’t even know existed before I was a parent. I had a freezer full of food, a perfectly put together nursery just waiting for my son’s arrival, and a house that was clean down to its foundation. I was well rested, well prepared, and mentally ready.
Fast forward to May of this year when I gave birth to my daughter, Audrey. I had been laid off three weeks prior to the beginning of my maternity leave, the day after we signed our lives away on the mortgage to a new house. Most of our belongings were in storage from staging our old house, and we barely managed to move into the new place two weeks prior to Audrey’s arrival.
Take into consideration the fact we wrote off two vehicles the month prior and that our lives were in transition in every possible way and you can imagine I was a wreck. Throw in a toddler who is not only dealing with the addition of a sibling, but the loss of the only home he’d ever known, and you get complete chaos. When Audrey arrived, there was no food in my freezer, piles of unlabeled boxes in every possible corner, and an unassembled crib in the “nursery”.
I had been told that transitioning to two children would be difficult, but I had no idea how difficult it was actually going to be. The only thing that saved me was the support of family and friends who knew better than I did what I needed the second time around. Here’s what they gave me:
- Time. Although you can’t wrap it in paper and put a bow on it, this is the number one thing you can give new parents the second time around. Come over and clean their bathroom or vacuum their floors. Do a load of laundry, or just take their older child to the park for a couple hours so they can take a nap or bond with the new baby alone for a while. I know it’s tempting to just sit on the couch and steal baby snuggles (that’s okay in moderation) but if you truly want to gift new parents with something, give of your time. And when they say that they don’t need the help, don’t believe them. They’re lying.
- Food. There is nothing more depressing than looking in your pantry at 3 AM after you’ve finished breastfeeding for an hour only to find a stale box of cereal (and no milk), canned olives, and some sketchy looking potatoes. When you come to visit the new bundle of joy, try to bring over a meal. Or some muffins. Or a bag of chips. Being able to delay hauling a newborn and a toddler to the grocery store for food (that doesn’t fit in the cart because of the giant bucket seat) when you’ve had three hours sleep is a lovely present.
- Support. I had expected a birth similar to my Jacob’s when I had Audrey. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If my first delivery was a page taken out of a textbook, the second was taken out of a thriller. In addition to having to abandon breastfeeding a few weeks in, my previously easygoing toddler developed attachment issues and became fearful after Audrey’s arrival. Having friends and family to tell me that I was making the right decisions for my family, even though it wasn’t what I had planned, was a godsend – I couldn’t hear it enough. It’s difficult giving up on how you planned you would parent the second time around. When the voice in the back of your mind is telling you you’ve failed, getting a hug and a bit of affirmation is one of the best things there is for a new mom. Don’t underestimate the power of a kind word and the offer of a shoulder to cry on. Hearing similar experiences from other moms made me feel like I wasn’t alone in a time of transition.
So while a beautiful outfit or gift is surely appreciated, be reminded that sometimes the best gifts don’t come in bags or boxes. Instead, they may come in the form of investment in a relationship and meeting a new family’s needs.
Daina is a wife to Darryl, mother to Jacob (2 years) and Audrey (3 weeks) who lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and looks forward to the day where she can once again have more than 3 hours consecutive sleep.