By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Adding a child to your family is a monumental life event. Once you welcome your child into your home, nothing ever goes back to the way it was. Your precious little one forever changes your life, home, marriage, and more!
Knowing this is the case, we do all we can to prepare and support each other as we anticipate the expansion of our families. Baby showers, meal trains, advice, and more come pouring in from our loved ones while we are expecting. This support is vital to navigating this season of growth and change. Yet, sometimes we find that these well-meaning gestures can bring extra stress rather than add to our joy. Advice can be frightening. Baby gifts can be unnecessary. Visits to meet your new bundle can feel overwhelming.
Everyone is different, so how we come alongside new parents will be unique in every situation. Mostly, we just need to be present and available to be with parents so they know they are not alone as they learn their new normal. Ask them what they need. Their answer should be your guide on how to be their tribe.
Here are some ideas of things you could ask if a new couple would like from you as they grow their family:
1. Assist in Providing Birth Support Services
For expectant moms, a lot of stress can come with childbirth and the post-partum season. Birth trauma is not only real but much more common than we tend to acknowledge in our culture. Research has shed light on the fact that mothers who have the help of a birth doula have better birth outcomes. Doulas are a huge asset, but they are an investment. Ask your new parents if they would be interested in adding the cost of receiving birth support to their registry and be a part of providing this invaluable service to the new couple. I know at 25, I was completely clueless about how to advocate for the birth I wanted, what statistics said about certain interventions, and generally what to expect once labor began. As a result, I had a very traumatic birth experience with my oldest son. With my two other biological kids, I chose to have a more supportive birth team, and the outcome was so much more peaceful. Birth support services are so helpful!
2. Meals and Babysitting
Food preparation falls to the back of the priority list when you are dead tired and adjusting as a parent. A meal train that helps take some of the worry about what we are having for the next meal is huge! Make sure you ask the parents about food allergies, preferences, drop-off times, and which meal would help them the most (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Ask if drop-off should be contactless or if they would like people to make sure they say hi before they leave. Also, ask who will be eating the meals. If the new parents already have kids in their home, offering babysitting is precious! Life goes on for those big kids, and they continue to need attention, love, and care. Stepping in to meet those needs so Mom and Dad can bond and rest with the new addition is such a gift.
3. Offer Emotional Support
New parents are going through a lot! No matter how your child joins your family, it's a huge life event. We often want to give advice as our way of supporting others when they are processing how to move forward, but often, that's not the most helpful thing we can offer. Instead, we can be a listening ear and encourage those uncertain parents. I still feel that now as we are continuing to adjust to a family of seven. We are eight months into this new dynamic, and I feel myself second-guessing how to parent my kids often. I thought I figured parenting out until we welcomed a two-year-old into our home with a trauma history. We are learning how to parent in a new way! I have read the books, listened to the podcasts, and followed all the helpful voices on Instagram when it comes to this kind of parenting. I have the knowledge, but what I lack is confidence. I just need my friends to tell my husband and me that we can do this and remind us that God put our family together so we can trust him for this crazy journey.
4. Provide the Necessities
Babies don't know anything about what is trending regarding gear. As a result, they often will never use the thing that someone told you was vital when they had their kiddo. Wait on buying the fancy stuff and focus on necessities. Offer gift cards or cash for incidentals once that new bundle joins the home and can show their parents what they prefer. Cash is great because parents can buy what they need second-hand and make that dollar go further. The only child that has had "new gear" of the five we are parenting is our oldest. Every subsequent child has thrived with second-hand items that saved us a ton of extra expense. Before the baby comes, focus on diapers, wipes, consumables (soaps, lotions, etc.), things for Mom to breastfeed, bottles, receiving blankets, clothing, car seat, sheets, boppy, and crib. Those are things every new parent will use.
5. Help Them Keep it Simple
If you are a co-worker, friend, parent, or other invested person in a new parent's life, you need to be there to help them remember that it's a season for simplicity. If they want to be social, invite them to you or bring the food to them! Don't expect them to host or entertain you if you are their parent. Be with them and help by asking what they need. Maybe you can sit with the baby for the afternoon so they can get a long afternoon nap. You could help cook meals, tidy up the house, or take another task off their plate. Just be sure you are making things simple, not adding another person to be cared for in this season of transition. Do what you can at work to allow new parents more space to be home. Our culture desperately needs better maternity and paternity leave policies. Remind them to take it slow; life will be waiting for them when they are ready to resume.
6. Offer Prayer for the New Family
When our lives feel so off balance, it's easy for the enemy to sneak in and bring turmoil. Welcoming a child into your home is a joyful event, but it's also terrifying. New moms often experience feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, self-doubt, and more. New dads are trying to help their changed wives and also learn how to care for a new tiny human. Marriage can feel tense. Mental health can easily begin to spiral. Babies often experience run-of-the-mill sickness more intensely, making every doctor's visit more stressful. Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, sleep training, or for older kids forming healthy attachments and navigating behaviors are all very stressful things to wade through as a parent. Cover this family with prayers. Ask God to protect them from the evil one. Keep their children healthy. Hold their marriages together. Keep their minds focused on the good and honorable things in this world. Ask God to be present with them in this new season of life.
Share Your Needs
If you are expecting, be willing to boldly share with your tribe what you need. Most likely, they are eager to come alongside you and help you as you grow your family. Be vocal and kind about the things that are not helping. Your tribe should be people who are willing to hear and see you!