Welcome to the world! Finally, the big day has arrived! Hopefully, you’ve communicated with both parents long before mom went into labor about how you might help during and after the birth and when you might visit the baby. Honor the wishes of the mom-to-be, whether she wants to have her baby delivered by a doctor or midwife, in the hospital or at home. It’s her body.
Clear the time in advance so you can be present if needed; certain circumstances might call for your help. For example, a young, unmarried mother might need a hand to hold. Even if the new mother doesn’t need your help, if you live close enough to the hospital, you might still go there to be with the new father and see the baby.
Long distance participation
If you live too far away, just tap into technology. As soon as the baby is born, I’ll bet the new father will have digital pictures to send via text and e-mail. You’ll be able to see birth pictures on the same day—no matter how far away you are.
These days, fathers typically play an important role during the birthing process. Many even stay in the hospital room to bond with the baby. So, if you plan to visit the new baby, you might offer to help at the couple’s house by taking care of a family pet, retrieving phone messages, and gathering mail. If the mother is having a Caesarean, she may need help as soon as she comes home—she’ll be prohibited from lifting anything other than the baby for several weeks.
The “Other” Grandparents
Coordinate your visit with the other grandparents, if possible, but don’t necessarily defer to them if the mother is your stepdaughter or daughter-in-law. After all, you may live closer than the other grandparents, be better able to take time off from work or activities, or be in better health.
When the baby—or babies (we’ll address multiple births in a moment)—comes home, be mindful of the needs of both the new parents and the baby. Ask how both parents are feeling—don’t forget dad—and what they need. Sleep deprivation is a major challenge for new parents.
Things you can do to help:
Offer to rock the baby and let mommy sleep; Change a diaper; prepare a bottle if the baby is not breast-feeding. Offer to cook or pick up meals, or contact a local restaurant or chef about having prepared meals delivered. Offer to clean the house and do laundry, send in your own cleaning person or call a reputable cleaning service if it’s agreeable to the parents. Visit or arrange a visit from someone close to take an older sibling for an outing or a family pet for a walk. Offer to shop for needed items; diapers always seem to run out in the middle of the night.
The birth of twins, triplets or more might mean hospital vigils if the little ones are in incubators and might require childcare for any siblings remaining at home. When the babies come home, their care might prove overwhelming for the parents. In this case, grandparents can be godsends in offering the extra hands necessary to tend to the new infants.
However good your intentions, be sure you have the new mother’s blessing in whatever you do. Don’t try to take over. Avoid “teaching” the new parents your “tried and true” methods unless asked. Somehow, all new parents eventually learn these “tricks” by themselves.
Probably, much has changed since you had your last child. So listen to the new parents to find out any new theories on infant care. For instance: Babies must sleep on their backs now.