Sunday, 22 June 2014 00:00

The Shark Suit or the Bells and Whistles?

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The thing is, they’ve been working on this for months. They’ve collected enough tiny clothes for quintuplets and they have a total of 15 rattles in various guises, along with a variety of things that beep, squeak and have flashing lights. The room has been redecorated according to the expected gender, and there are shelves of toys and walls splattered with decals. There is a row of tiny but very cute shoes although the owner won’t be walking for about a year. But who can resist little leather shoes that look like they belong to an elf?

There is a gorgeous bassinet, draped with pretty fabric and made up with matching sheets, all toning with the general décor. And nearby there is a rocking chair with a footstool, and a small table ready for the warm drink that will be sipped while baby drifts off to sleep at the same time every night, to wake only once for a quick feed before snoozing back to dreamland.

In the cupboard there is a breast pump, a microwave steriliser, umpteen bottles and various kinds of teats, a baby intercom, a basket of 10 different baby creams and ointments, and a stack of books about how to manage every contingency. In the air there is a mix of excitement and anxiety – the bags are packed, the petrol tank never allowed to go below half.

So what’s left to do? When the miracle occurs, what can you wrap up and hand over as an expression of your joy?

Well, here are some suggestions:

  1. Make up a large tray of something like lasagne or a big pot of soup, divide into portions and freeze them. Have them prepared in such a way that no thought is needed – they go straight from the freezer to the microwave or stove.
  2. IOUs – these can be like this: “IOU 4 vacuums and dusts. Call this number at need.” Or “IOU 6 loads of clean laundry. Call this number and place a basket of dirty laundry by the front door, ready for my knock.” Or “IOU 4 emergency runs to the supermarket. Call this number when desperation looms. Valid for the purchase of chocolate or cat food, not just sensible stuff.” Or “IOU 5 dog walks, rainy days included.” (You might want to put a timeframe of availability around the IOUs. These folk are now in a different zone to yours.)
  3. A voucher – for a Lactation Consultant.
  4. A voucher – for mother massage or baby massage or both.
  5. Prepare a recording of gentle background music.
  6. Make an illustrated birth story book, suitable for reading with the small child whose story it is.
  7. Some special soap and lotion for a new mum who deserves to be celebrated. (Not to be used for the first day or so when baby is soothed by the smell of mum. Yup, they even like sweat.)

When visiting in the early days, check for a suitable time and don’t stay long. Be ready to find out they can’t do visitors today – they need to sleep.

When you do visit, your line is: can I make you a cuppa? Do you need the washing hung out? Is there anything I can do? I’ll stay with the baby while you have a shower, then I’ll go.

In the first week or so, don’t expect to hold that baby. Not for your needs anyway. That baby is learning and feeling comforted by the smells of his or her parents.

If someone with a chalk white complexion and contrasting dark bags under their eyes answers the door, have the grace to notice that their polite but watery smile of welcome may not be entirely sincere, and come back another day – with food. They love you, they just can’t stand up straight today.

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