Your first visit to a new family does need some careful planning, no matter how well you know them. Christine Stride offers some insight into what a new family may want you to consider before you leave your own house.
At last! Your best friend's baby has finally arrived and the weight, gender and name details have been doing the social media rounds. Naturally, you want to visit! But, back up the wagon a bit. While the first visit is truly a joyful occasion, it's also a complicated one that your bestie and her partner need you to think through before bowling up to their door with balloons and baby gifts. There are some etiquette guidelines to consider before that first visit; things that may be forgotten in all the excitement.
Wait at least a week
Two days after the birth of my second baby, a friend texted to ask if she and her family (husband and two under-fives) could visit me in the birthing unit. I agreed, but looking back, I should have politely suggested waiting until we were back home. When my visitors arrived I was struggling through a breastfeeding session, so while my friend and I chatted, her husband took the kids for a walk through the corridors. But having two littlies who really, really wanted to see the baby and a one-hour car park just made it all too rushed and stressful and not the joyful occasion we'd hoped for!
Don’t come unannounced
It's surprising the number of people who 'just pop in'. When you're in the throes of new parenthood, there's almost never a good time for visitors, if we're honest. You're either too tired to chat, or asleep. My favourite 'visitors' simply left items of food at the door with a note, or perhaps a (quiet) knock on the door and a quick word to my husband. If you must visit on the fly, at least wait for confirmation before arriving. A text or a message saying you'd 'like to pop in after lunch' may go unnoticed by distracted new parents.
Bring something with you, preferably food
The question 'can I bring you anything?' is so welcome to a new parent. If mama and baby are still in hospital or a birthing unit, she may be craving 'proper' food (I had been on a gestational diabetes diet in hospital for three weeks before I gave birth and I was desperate for a good meal) Meanwhile, a new family may have some frozen meals up their sleeve (so to speak) but baked goods or fruit always goes down well. Do check for any dietry no-no's first though.
But don’t bring pets...
That you don't bring pets into birthing units or hospitals goes without saying, but if you're visiting the new family at their home, leave Fido at yours. Your princely pooch could choose this day to reveal his inner wolf; it's not worth the risk. There's also the chance that someone in the house is allergic to pet hair, so even if Fido stays outside, sensitive allergics will still be affected.
If you're invited to see the new babe, that means you are invited and nobody else. Not your home stay student, not your seven-year old niece whom you're babysitting, not your new boyfriend/girlfriend. New parents are exhausted on so many levels, and won't welcome having to chat with people they don’t really know. They get to choose who spends these precious first days with them and who doesn’t, not you.
Stay home if you're unwell
Three weeks after my first baby was born we had our first non-family visitors. Before hugging me hello, one of them said, 'I'll just go and wash my hands, I've got a cold.' I didn't really register that that was an issue until a few days later my daughter and I both caught a cold too. A new baby's immune system is so immature while a new mother's immune system will be on low alert. That cold went on for weeks and weeks. If you're sick, don't visit.
Don’t go on about your labour
This moment is all about how amazingly well the new parents did, so let them bask in that glory. Listen, laugh, cry and marvel with them over their little miracle. That's all you need to do.
Don't assume it's ok to take photos
I'm wearing a stained pregnancy top, I have not showered for two days, I have dark circles under my eyes and my newborn baby looks like an old man with a cone head. No, I don't want you to take a photo.
New parents have enough whirring through their minds without having to contend with hearing about any shocking child-related incidents you saw on TV, or your well-meaning jokes about how babies ruin your social life, your sex life and your bank balance. Put on your happy face and remember the above rule in #7.
By keeping simple courtesy in mind, and doing a little research, your first visit will be remembered for all the right reasons.