The days after having a baby are like Christmas. Not only do we rejoice in the great gift of life, but each morning brings the plop of plentiful post on the doormat. OH and I rushed to be the first to assess the scale of the booty, then fought over who got to open the cards and/or packages, a decision usually made by whoever’s name came first on the envelope. The first day when only bills came through the letterbox was a sad day indeed, and signified a return to normality – life, plus one.
For those few weeks, our house was a sea of pink, as every card or item of clothing came in a hue of the traditional girl colour, be it pastel or bold fuchsia. Never a girly girl, I celebrated the arrival of a green babygrow.
Before having children, I would respond to friends’ happy news by hitting the shops and splashing out on something posh, like Baby Gap, which I knew the parents wouldn’t normally buy. I now realize this is because they knew only too well it would be covered with bodily fluids, and that baby would outgrow it within three weeks.
As a new mum, it’s wonderful to be remembered by so many people, and reassuring to know that I won’t need to buy any new baby clothes until Daughter reaches her first birthday. But some gifts of the non-clothing kind were equally appreciated, and some deserve special mention.
Take, for example, Stephanie, a fellow mum whose gifts have always been full of practical insight as well as immense generosity. Before the birth, she presented me with a thermal water spray, which came into its own in the tropical climes of the delivery suite. In hospital, she visited bearing superfoods, such as raspberries and a fruit/nut mix, to boost my energy levels; brought a “tiny baby” sleepsuit chosen specially to fit our dinky daughter; and a variety of baby-related apparatus which has seen much use (sterilizer, feeding pillow).
A few weeks later, Stephanie called to say she was cooking lentil soup and red cabbage salad, and could she make some more for us to save us kitchen time? She arrived with Tupperware, and a baby gym for loan just as I was contemplating buying one. As the mother of a three-year-old, Stephanie no doubt drew upon her own experience of motherhood to predict my needs before they had even occurred to me.
Melanie, meanwhile, brought a basket of vegetables culled from her own garden – courgettes, chard, dwarf runner beans and tomatoes, garnished with sweet peas. The accompanying label declared: “Welcome to this great vegetable garden we call life,” while beautiful hand-made card bearing our daughter’s name. Several friends had sent hand-crafted cards, and each gave me the warm glow that someone wanted to take time out and create something individual to celebrate our daughter’s arrival.
In fact, the kindness began even before our baby was born. An old schoolfriend recently connected on Facebook, mother-of-six Marie, donated four bin bags of clothing and paraphernalia, including Moses basket. When her friends and relatives heard I was coming, they emptied their attics too and added to the stash. And as I was a couple of months behind Sally, who was pregnant with twins totaling 15lbs in weight, I received regular hand-me-downs of outgrown maternity wear.
A colleague, Lindsey, offered a Wilkinet sling (http://www.wilkinet.co.uk/) which had seen her three boys through babyhood. It might look like a Krypton Factor challenge, but Wilkinet has a firm following – another colleague is hanging onto hers for her grandchildren. It was invented by a mother of eight, who by number four had given up looking for the perfect baby carrier and decided to fashion her own. It’s now a big hit in our family, leaving my hands free while Daughter loves being close to mummy and is instantly calm.
These mums are happy to pass on items in the knowledge that they will be used by the next generation (with the added bonus of freeing up loft space). Soon it will be my turn. I’m already passing on barely worn items of maternity wear to pregnant girlfriends, along with surplus Lansinoh, while tiny babywear was winged up to the hospital ward where we learned to breastfeed.
In the meantime, here are my gift tips for expectant parents:
- Wait until the baby is born, and buy clothing accordingly. Our daughter was smaller than expected, and I regularly ran out of tiny babywear, which always seemed to in the wash!
- If you have time and talent, something home-made (or grown!) is guaranteed to bring a fuzzy feeling to a special friend.
- Consider a practical gift. Ask if there is something mum really needs. Or buy a “nappy cake” – three tiers of disposable nappies wrapped in clothes, blankets and muslins, topped off with flowers made from socks and scratch mitts. I received a lovely one which also contained pamper products by Cornish Balms and Crafts; visit http://www.balmsandcrafts.co.uk/chuchi-cakes.html
- Raid your own stores for baby products to give or lend.
- Offer your time, perhaps by helping around the house or making food for the happy couple.