When a friend has a new baby, it is common to say, "Just let me know if you need anything." Then she says, "I will!" and the interaction comes to a close. Instead of this exercise in futility, I propose ten ways that you could really help, especially if you've had kids already yourself.
1. Run interference on her visiting family members.
Hovering mother-in-law? Drop by "coincidentally" and allow her to talk your ear off about her health issues and family gossip. The new mom's toddler nieces and nephews? Make a fort with them in the backyard. Say repeatedly and loudly that you were just in the neighborhood and your friend had no idea you were going to drop in. (In reality, have a code. A good one is a text along these lines: "SOS. MIL.")
2. Drop off some maternity clothes for the coming season.
It is likely that your friend won't lose the baby weight by the start of the next season, yet she will be too embarrassed to purchase more elasticized pants. This is where you come in, you do-gooder, you.
3. Speak loudly in her husband's earshot about how little sex you have had since the birth of the kids.
This may get him off your friend's case if he happens to think she's the only one with no sex drive. Also mention how much your husband helped out with the baby (lie if necessary and fill her in on the truth later), to bring out your friend's husband's competitive nature.
4. Drop off meals the kids and husband will actually be excited about.
Put back your casserole dish and crockpot and go buy them a pizza or some BBQ ribs. Stick a note on the meal saying that breastfeeding mothers burn up to 500 calories a day.
5. Assemble the breast pump, pack and play, or whatever other things she has had no time to figure out.
All you should have to worry about as a pumping mom is figuring out what the pump sounds like it is saying to you (the Rorschach test of the nursing mommy; mine said "chicken" and coincidentally, I ate an entire rotisserie chicken every other day in addition to all my six other daily meals for the duration of breastfeeding).
6. Tell her about all your screw-ups as a mom of a newborn.
This will make her feel a lot better about her skills as a new parent. My best one is when I washed the umbilical cord stump anyway despite what they told me and the baby got an infection. Good times.
7. Text her but expect no response back.
Even say, "I expect no response back, but I'm thinking of you!" Send her a funny link that she can read during the 2 a.m. feed, like to this blog.
8. When she says ridiculous things like, "It will be way easier when I go back to work," just agree with her.
What good does it do to say, "Yeah right, when you go back to work you'll feel guilty, exhausted and anxious and your milk supply will dry up"? Ignorance is bliss, and it's also adaptive in this case, so that she doesn't have more panic attacks than she is already having.
9. Instead of an expensive baby present, get her something she actually needs.
Adjust to meet your budget specifications, anywhere from a sleep mask, to a box of diapers, to a gift certificate for a house cleaning.
10. Be a non-judgmental presence.
She is getting more than enough judgment from her family, other moms, and of course herself. You, who have been there and done that, can now be accepting and affirming. Remember: You are a Zen master.
If you follow all of these instructions, not only will you be a good friend, but you'll feel pretty good about yourself as a momtor. (That was supposed to be a cross between mom and mentor, but it sounds like a character on Thundercats.) Send this list to your pregnant friends and ask which of them they would like you to do. Then do all 10, because you're so awesome.