It's a boy! No! It's a girl! No! It's a baby!
The birth of a child has a way to exciting people. Everyone connected to that child literally trip over each other to catch a glimpse of the newborn baby. Like the parents, we want to see God’s masterpiece in blending the two parents together into a whole new being. To some, the newborn symbolizes a fresh start, new beginning and to others growth.
Babies have a way of bringing out the best in us. Their purity, innocence and vulnerability make us want to be better people. Better providers and protectors of this beautiful soul as well as pave a bright future them. Babies make people smile, within and without. The happiness of seeing a baby makes people automatically want to hold it and kiss it and possibly never let go.
A mother’s experience is a lot different from that of the on lookers. Yes, she too is excited, she too wants to cuddle and kiss that baby all day long, however, she alone bears the weight of the fears for that baby’s future, day to day welfare and life as a whole. While visitors will come and go, she remains and has to manage her and her baby’s lives.
Personally, after having some rough experience with my first baby, I learnt a few tricks on the second. Here is my go-to guide on welcoming a new baby into the world.
1. I prefer to deliver at a hospital that allows visitors. May they come enmass, because I noted those who come to the hospital, rarely follow when you go home. Most repeat visitors are family members, and their numbers are fewer and more manageable.
2. I recommend that if you have any form of infectious illness, please stay away. While you are cuddling and cooeing over the baby by day, I shall have many a sleepless night when that baby has caught your illness. Personally, I visit newborns (sick or not) after at least 3 months post birth. They are just so fragile!!
3. If you can, set up an appointment with the family, and verify if its still alright to visit before you set off. As we all know, babies can be erratic, and you would have no clue, if the family slept at all the day before. Your visit may coincide with a much-needed break or nap. Therefore, to avoid the temptation to bad-mouth new mom and dad, make sure your visit is a joy not something to dread. I recall after my second birthing experience, I suffered from pelvic separation, which made it excruciatingly painful to walk, get out of bed, get into bed, turn over in bed. Literally, anything that required the parting of my legs had me wailing in pain. You can imagine how I felt about having visitors at that time. Not everyone goes through this. It is important to be alert and sensitive to the peculiarities of each women’s experience, that way your support can be inclined toward her needs.
If you get there and find them asleep, please set aside another time to pop in and visit. Alternatively, if you are not in a rush, wait for them to wake up. They may be asleep, but they would definitely enjoy spending time with you and sharing their joy with you.
4. When you enter the home, if the family has not set out a sanitizer-station with either sanitizer or wet wipes, kindly usher yourself to the nearest sink and wash your hands. Covid-19 has set a good pace for us. Now new moms do not have to deal with jeers and glares over requesting their visitors to wash their hands as they enter the home.
Additionally, as we take note of the time we are living in, please feel satisfied seeing and loving the baby from its mother’s arms. As much as we are human beings who love to hug and snuggle with babies, I pray you are able to overcome the temptation. Should you or the parents insist on you holding the baby, kindly avoid any form of kissing on the baby. To begin with, Herpes Simplex (zvidzimu) can be very dangerous for babies if not fatal, and you do not want to be the cause of such an eventuality. At the end of the day, the visit is an expression of joy and love for the beautiful gift from above, let it not be cause for broken bridges and animosity.
5. Visit the family with a spirit of support and helpfulness. Be quick to offer a hand. It is unfair to visit a new family and expect to be served. Chances are, if it is a first baby, they may not have resident help or know how to juggle a home, baby and hospitality. These things are learnt. If you can carry snacks and serve yourself and everyone else, please do. Ask if any laundry needs to be done, or if the mom needs a nap. You never know, you could literally be the, ‘Rainbow in her cloud.’ Bare in mind, it’s the lack of support and feeling overwhelmed that drives mom into post-partum depression.
I remember receiving visitors who came at the height of a financial low in my life. I had nothing to offer them, and it was my first baby. We sat awkwardly, after they turned down my offer to serve them water, then they left and talked up a storm about how I didn’t offer them food. Funny how people forget when you send them cakes unsolicited, but remember when you fail to meet their misplaced expectations.
6. The usual temptation when you encounter a pregnant lady or new mom and dad is to offer advice. The beauty about it is, we all do it in good faith as a way of supporting the new parents. Let your advice be simply that, advice. It should not become a way of life unless they chose to make it so. A lot of the time, people will insist that their advice be the only option, pressuring the parents into decisions they are not comfortable with, including baby names. By definition, advice is a point of view or opinion offered to a person by another. It is not a rule. Allow the parents to create their own rules.
Rejoice in the presence of a new baby! whether it is a baby boy or girl is not an issue. So please keep the, ’oh another girl/boy?’, comments safely tuck away in your mind, away from public hearing. Having successfully delivered and taken home a baby in itself, is an experience worth celebrating.
7. Be supportive and encouraging to father’s who are trying to get involved. Many times, people are quick to tear down a dad who is trying and berate him for being weak or bewitched (akadyiswa). Encourage him allow him to express his true joy in welcoming his heritage from God. We need more men like them, courageous and bold enough to stand up and proudly proclaim the fatherhood. Real men change diapers and bath babies!
At the end of the day, your visit signifies collective joy and celebration of the arrival of a new baby. It also marks the end of a 9-month long journey of brewing a human. My rule of thumb is, if it were me, how would I want my visitors to be. I would want them to feel at home and free enough to mash up a meal for us all, iron the baby’s clothes or even play with the other kids if there are other children in home. We need your support.