Those of you familiar with TTAF may know that one of our administrators, Curtis, has been, along with his bed-resting wife, anticipating the birth of his first child. I’m happy to report that the wait is over, and that our bearded friend has welcomed a healthy child into the world. Since I’m sure that in the coming months, Curtis will write quite a bit about new fatherhood, I’ll not infringe on his territory. Instead, I have some invaluable advice for those folks who, like me, have friends who have recently become parents. Social situations with new parents can be difficult to manage, but if you follow my tips, I’m positive everything will go smoothly.
1. When you visit the hospital, make sure to stay for a long time.
Imagine how you’d feel if you threw a Halloween party, but everyone who came left after half-an-hour. That sort of rudeness abounds when a birth occurs. Your friends will want to know that you value them, and the best way to assure them of their worth in your eyes is to invest your time – the most valuable commodity you have. A visit of fewer than two hours is basically a slap in the face (the baby’s face, specifically). These friends of yours have just spent stressful, grueling hours bringing a child into the world and your idea of a commensurate response is to “drop by,” make sure they’re “doing well,” and ducking out so you can “let them get some rest?” What a cop out. Newborns sleep like eighteen hours a day. Keep them fed and changed and they pretty much look after themselves. These early days are your best shot at getting some quality time in with your friends, you know, before they start really investing in the life of their child. So post up in those tiny chairs and take their minds off the stresses of parenthood by distracting them with your presence.
2. Use this experience to grow closer to your friends.
The birth of a child can bring people together like few other things. One of the reasons for that is that few things are as personal and intimate as having a baby. So make the most of this opportunity to get to know your friends a whole lot better. This is probably a good time to point out that, during your visit to the hospital to see the baby, social protocol dictates that no topics or questions are off the table. And it’s a good thing, too, because this lucky rule can really help open the proverbial door to greater friendship. I mean, is there anything you won’t be able to share with each other once you’ve discussed an episiotomy? The miracle of life is a wonderful, disgusting thing, and discussing it in detail is guaranteed to strengthen your friendship.
3. Make sure to compare the new parents’ experiences favorably with yours.
This is pretty simple: new parents have gone through a lot, and there will be a lot of fear and uncertainty swirling around for a while. It’s important to reduce your friends’ anxiety levels by making everything they’ve endured feel like it was really no big deal. For example, ask your friends how long the labor was, and when they tell you, chuckle and wave your hand dismissively. Explain that your (or your wife’s as the case may be) labor was – and this is important, so make it up if you have to – at least half again as long. They say eight hours; you say twelve. They say twenty-four; you hit ‘em with thirty-six. Similarly, if the baby was delivered naturally, make sure to point out how awful Petocin is and how drawn out the epidural made labor. If the new mom used medication, assure them that natural birth would’ve been too much for them to endure. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve just gone through hell, so do your best to ensure them that, compared to yours, their experience has been a walk in the park.
4. Give them advice whenever you can get a word in (and make sure to frontload!).
As the sheer volume of parenting guides on the market today illustrates, new parents are hopeless uninformed about raising their kids. In light of that, they love being instructed on how to parent, and those of us with experience must do what we can to help prop up the hopeless novices among us. And nothing is off limits: new parents are practically begging to be told how to do everything from swaddle a baby to hold the bottle when feeding to ensure a regimented sleep schedule. Because of new parents’ evolving schedules, “hanging out” might be more a challenge than in the past. For this reason, it’s essential to “frontload” your advice while visiting them in the hospital. Go ahead and let them know everything you think would be helpful for them to understand, because you can’t always be sure how long it will be before you see them again. It might be months, in which case all those great instructions you had about how best to prevent congestion will have been for naught.
Follow this advice and you too can make the birth of your friends’ child a truly special event. I know it worked for me. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give Curtis a call and make sure everyone is doing well. His eye was twitching pretty violently when I left the hospital the other day. Obviously the stress is already getting to him.