Not every woman needs the same things when she's having a baby. Here are some alternatives.
I’m on my third baby. I already have a closet full of clothes in all sizes and both genders. I’ve already got my crib and all the gear I’m going to use. When it comes to preparing for the new baby, every mother has different needs. But every mother still needs support from her family, community, and workplace. Maybe she doesn’t need a baby shower. Maybe she’s not the type for the games and color coded balloons. But she still needs you.
Here are a few other ways that the community can help to welcome a new baby into the world …
It’s more fun to shop for tiny newborn onesies than it is to remember the family’s everyday practical needs, but those needs shouldn’t be forgotten. Can you organize a postpartum meal train, or fill mom’s freezer with casseroles, around the baby’s due date? If you’re not much of a cook, find out what local restaurants they like, and use an app like Doordash or Uber Eats to send them something hot — and make sure to let them know which days you’ll be taking care of dinner.
Can you get people to sign up for regular babysitting slots if she has other kids? Giving a new mom the gift of an uninterrupted shower (or better, a nap) is definitely a work of mercy. It’s especially nice if she knows she has some regular time to herself to look forward to.
Don’t be afraid of offering money. It’s awkward, I know, but if it’s something she needs, it’s probably also awkward for her to ask. Can you contribute to a fund for diapers, or for maternity clothes, if that’s what she needs?
If your parish or community is trying to come together in support, see if you can get people to chip in for the postpartum equivalent of a honeymoon fund: Can you gather enough funds for the new mom or her husband to be able to take a little more time off work? Nothing makes more difference to a healthy, happy postpartum period than not feeling rushed to dive back into normal life too quickly, and that’s not a luxury everyone has.
2Don’t forget the kids
It’s a big transition for everyone, including the kids. If mom doesn’t want a party, maybe the kids do. Take them out for a pre-birthday celebration, where everybody talks about what the new baby is going to be like, and what to expect when he or she arrives. Help them pick out birthday gifts for their new sibling, when they get to visit at the hospital. Especially if they’re feeling a little overlooked, the attention will go along way. For worried children, your excitement about the baby can be contagious.
Someone once bought my cousins their own little plush puppies, with instructions on how to take care of them: give them lots of love, carry them around, feed them and play with them … It helped them feel like they’d know what to do when the baby was born.
Maybe mom has everything she needs materially speaking, but women still have an important role supporting each other spiritually and psychologically when it comes to labor and delivery. One wonderful book, Birthing from Within, suggests celebrating with a “Mother Blessing.” Many cultures have some version of this tradition, but at its heart, it involves a trusted group of women getting together to recognize the difficulty, sacrifice, and sacredness of the pregnancy. It can be a time to offer emotional support, encouragement, and prayers.
Where a baby shower is all about the baby (nothing wrong with that!), a Mother Blessing has a different focus. You can share your own birth stories, and what helped you cope, and you can take the time to pamper the new mom a little bit. The author suggests giving every attendant a votive candle to take home, for her to light the moment she hears that labor has started. As the new mom is heading to delivery, she’ll be able to remember a whole group of women who are holding her in their hearts, keeping watch with her, and praying for her.
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