Before my daughter was born, I unthinkingly told many, many people that they could—of course!—come meet the baby the second she arrived. But after she was born (via C-section after 28 hours of labor), I was so overwhelmed, exhausted, and pumped full of hormones that the thought of entertaining anyone felt like the most horrendous idea in the world.
If your best friend has just given birth, you are, of course, dying to go snuggle her little one. But before you show up at her doorstep like you have for the last 10 or 20 years, here are some basic rules for visiting new moms.
1. Make it short.
Gone are the days of three-hour-long brunches. Even if she’s not vocalizing it, your friend is probably out of her mind with exhaustion. Before you invite yourself over, make sure she is ready to see you. Visits shouldn’t last for more than an hour, but even that may be too long—15 to 45 minutes is usually enough time to squeeze in a quick chat and snuggle but not enough time to further exhaust your friend.
2. Be mindful of her time.
Do not arrive late! If you said you’d be there at 3 p.m., don’t roll in at 5 p.m., even if this is your MO. If you’re running behind, text her to make sure she will still be able to accommodate a visit. I once stood on a street corner with my screaming 4-month-old for 45 minutes waiting for a childless friend. I was so upset and wound up by it that it put strain on our friendship for months.
3. Ask ahead of time: Should I ring the doorbell?
Newborn babies are not always all that responsive to noise, but some are extremely sensitive. Moms, on the other hand, suddenly develop supersonic hearing. If the baby (or mom) has just fallen asleep after a long struggle, the last thing anyone wants to hear is the doorbell—and the inconsolable wailing that may follow. Ask her if you should text, call, or knock—or whether the door will be open.
4. Wash your hands well the second you walk in.
New moms are fanatical about germs—as they should be. Before you do anything else, head straight for the soap.
5. Do not visit if you are (even a little bit) sick.
“I won’t touch the baby!” or “I’m not even contagious anymore!” won’t cut it. You might put the baby at risk (and stress your friend out in the process). Wait until you are sure you’re completely healthy before even proposing a visit.
6. Want to help? Be specific.
“Let me know if I can do anything!” is a really nice thing to say, but no one in the history of the world has ever responded to it honestly.
Tell her you want to bring dinner over on Thursday. Does 7 p.m. work? How are pasta and a big salad? Are you having any particular cravings? Instead of offering to “help out” around the house, tell her you’d love to make her bed or do a load of laundry. And offer a specific date and time to do so.
7. Do not expect to be fed.
Or served. Or cleaned up after. Do not leave your Starbucks cup lying around. Do not ask her for a snack. If you’re hungry or want some coffee, offer to bring some over for everyone.
8. Make it all about her.
Your friend just had a baby! Regardless of how she’s dealing, she’s probably feeling a lot—extreme joy, pride, sadness, alarm, shock, fear, and excitement. Her hormones are on overdrive. Ask her about it. Some women want to talk about the birth, others don’t. Just keep in mind that your friend has been through an enormous life change. Be there for her in that moment.
9. Don’t write her off.
Yes, her life has changed, and it’s possible that your friendship will have to accommodate this big shift. She may be feeling a lack of confidence in her new role—not to mention self-conscious about how her friendships will hold up.
Be as forgiving and flexible as you can, especially in the early months. True, she may no longer be able to go out drinking until 2 a.m., but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to have a glass of wine with you after work. Allow the friendship to evolve into its next stage.
10. Stay in touch.
Have you heard the expression “the days are long but the years are short”? When you have a newborn, every day can feel like climbing Mount Everest. Checking in with her will go a long way. Because the days tend to blur together, she may not realize that you haven’t spoken in a month. Don’t take it personally.
Meeting your best friend’s baby can be a magical experience. Just remember that it needs to happen on her timeline, in her chosen way, when she feels comfortable. If you can be accommodating and loving—rather than judgmental and standoffish—your friendship will only grow stronger. And surely she will do the same for you when and if the time comes!