When planning for postpartum help or directing it after birth, you should be clear about just how often you need help, what kind of help you need, and exactly how you want it delivered. Before her son, Lance, was born, Seattle mom Molly Haugen says she prepared as if she were going out of town and someone would be house-sitting. She made maps for her visiting mother -- marking where the pharmacy and grocery store were located -- pre-paid her bills, made notes of when the garbage would be collected, wrote directions on how to check the answering-machine messages, and made a list of people to call after the birth. Her prep work kept her from having to direct her mother and husband.
This kind of list and direction making can also save you from the ever-present temptation to just do it yourself, or redo it yourself. If you have to have softener in the laundry or glasses on the top rack of the dishwasher, go ahead and spell this out on your lists or put appropriate notes on appliances. Not only will you save yourself hassles and irritation during your postpartum period, but you'll be better prepared for the years to come, when you have to tell babysitters the same things. Once you are home from the hospital, start a running list of things you need done. This way you or your caregivers will be able to easily delegate tasks when people call to ask if they can help.
And people will call. Like most new parents, my husband and I were amazed at how much help was offered upon the birth of a new baby -- some from people we knew only in passing -- and how surprisingly natural it felt to accept it. Although not particularly private people, we certainly never envisioned having friends come into our bedroom in the morning and take our baby, letting us fall back to sleep while they watched her and made breakfast. And yet the memories of this kind of help -- as well as the meals on the doorstep and the neighbor whose gift was to come once a week for a month to let me take a walk -- are some of our most precious, not just for the genuine assistance that it provided but for making us feel so welcome in the new community of parenthood.
Barbara Rowley, who lives in Big Sky, Montana, is a mother and freelance writer.