I haven’t been a new mom for several years (and will never be one ever again). But recently, a few friends of mine had babies, so I’ve been able to cull from my past experiences to ensure that what I gift them postpartum will be more appreciated than, say, a pair of Spanx. (Praise be to Spanx, of course, although just not when the purpose is to shove 43 lbs. of stubborn post-baby weight into a piece of Lycra that even most pinky toes would find offensively tight.)
There are an endless amount of lovely keepsakes out there for new moms to cherish — stuff like picture frames, maternity jewelry, and scrapbooks. But the reality is, many new moms are already given all of that, and lots of it. Some of the loot really is intended for them (like spa gift certificates), while others are actually meant for the baby (like that mountain of embroidered blankets). Then there are some gifts that are seriously not gifts, but functional items that, like Voldemort, must never be named, let alone gift wrapped. For example, ahem, adult diapers. Are they a postpartum necessity? Yes. Are they wanted as a gift? Sure, like a hole in the head.
Want your new mom friend to become your best friend? Get her one of these:
1. A sense of humor.
When she’s not crying from a mixture of exhaustion, diaper pail changes, and forgetting — again — which way is up, well, she’s probably still crying. That’s where a sense of humor comes in. Your friend will likely find nothing funny her husband or partner says — in fact, it’ll probably only make her cry harder. Go visit her and point out the absurdity of the situation: She just gave birth to a human being whom she is now charged with keeping alive and feeding three times a day (plus snacks) for at least the next 18 years. At some point she’ll stop crying to laugh. Hopefully, anyway.
2. Sleep. Lots of it.
Pull down the shades, plug in a white-noise machine, give her ear plugs, and close the door behind you as you leave her in her bed. Do whatever you need to do — dancing, bottles, swinging, swaying, reading, singing, voodoo, etc. — to ensure the baby doesn’t need your friend for as long as possible. Bonus: Sleep doesn’t need to be gift wrapped because it’s already perfect on its own.
3. Sweet, precious time alone.
When you’re done letting her sleep, let her be alone while she’s awake. The latest issue of People magazine, Real Housewives on her DVR, a good soak in the tub, or just sitting and doing nothing — whatever it is she craves, let her do it, and ensure she gets to do it without interruption. You can’t buy that kind of time although you can certainly gift it.
4. A real-life Mary Poppins.
In the best of circumstances, new moms would have help from night nurses, nannies, doulas, partners, husbands, grandparents, siblings, neighbors and friends. However, even in the best of circumstances, it’s unlikely that caring for a newborn will go down like a spoonful of sugar. That’s where Mary Poppins comes in. She’s not easy to find, and even harder to convince to care for your friend’s newborn. But if you really want to be her best friend, you’ll make Mary pop-in. That’s what friends are for, right? (Alternative option: Spring for a maid for a day or a sitter to watch the older kids — or both. Fortunately, money can buy those.)
5. A magic pill that instantly sheds the baby weight.
Speaking of magic: Since breastfeeding and running after the baby are only weight-loss techniques that work for obscenely rich and famous Hollywood women (translation: personal trainers making house calls and juice delivery services more expensive than many four-year colleges), your friend would likely appreciate a magic pill that would help her dump the weight that didn’t get delivered alongside the baby.
Maybe the “pill” is something that looks like you meeting her for a walk around the neighborhood a few times a week, followed by healthy meals you’ve made that can be frozen and eaten at her convenience. Ideally, though, the pill is probably in the form of a time machine that could take her back and remind her that eating a single piece of cake in one sitting will be far less regrettable in the future than shoveling in the whole thing at once. (And if you find that pill, would you mind picking up one — or a dozen — for me, too? I’ll be your best friend.)
6. A wet nurse.
Wet nurses aren’t nearly as prevalent these days as they were in, say, Elizabethan England. However, even if you can just find a milking cow (or goat?) to take your friend’s place at the just a few times a day, her nipples will thank you in spades.
You could also just sit with her while she breastfeeds or pumps, to help pass the time and offer encouragement — that works, too.
7. A mother-in-law muzzle
Yes, mom of my friend’s husband, I’m looking at you. We recognize that your children never cried/spit-up/frowned/acted like Beelzebub. Clearly you’re a superior human being, and a champion mom. However, if you could zip it while your daughter-in-law is struggling with her tiny human and your only contribution is to tell her repeatedly how it all went so well for you 32 years ago (which isn’t advice, by the way), that’d be great. Thanks.
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