When I was pregnant with my first and only baby, I was blessed with generous friends and family that showered me and my family with gifts. Many of the items and services that I received, I never would have thought to give and they turned out to be the greatest things. Here is a list of some of the simple things that were wonderful:
After three days in hospital and arriving home with baby, my husband and I had no energy to cook. I was also hesitant to let my husband leave to go get take-out or even groceries as I was hormonal and terrified of being alone with my brand new tiny baby. Luckily friends a family kept dropping by (not to visit because I was not up to it) but to drop off baskets filled with home-made meals. We probably went two or three weeks without having to cook for ourselves and it was the greatest gift. For a friend who is currently expecting we had a cooking party where we all brought a "freezer friendly" recipe and cooked, labeled and packaged it. We filled her deep-freezer with everything from muffins and bread to Chicken Cacciatore.
Cleaning Service / Laundry
As I mentioned about food, when we got home from the hospital, we were having a hard time getting things done around the house. A cleaning lady for a day or a friend who stopped by and loaded my dishwasher and wiped down my counter tops was amazing. At first, I felt weird about allowing a friend or stranger in to scrub my toilets, I got over it and I am so glad I did. Our baby was a barfer and our clothes, linens and her little outfits were in constant need of a wash. My mother-in-law came over with a few bags and took away all the dirty laundry and came back a couple of hours later with clean folded everything - again this was the best!
An Extra Set of Arms
Many people stop by wanting to see baby which is wonderful but as a new parent it puts pressure on you to get dressed and play host and hostess. My favorite visitors were the people that came by with coffee, food and open arms to hold baby. My husband and I could shower, have a nap and get some neglected chores done with no expectation of entertaining our company.
A child-size bookshelf was purchased and each guest brought one or two of their favorite childhood books. I now have books for my child for years to come and each one was bought with love. My friends coordinated this party like a pot-luck where everybody registered with the host which book they were bringing so there were no duplicates and we sat around for the afternoon reminiscing about our books.
Newborn babies produce more diapers than I had ever thought. We live in a city where there are several reasonably priced diaper services (about $25 per week) and I was blessed with three months of unlimited diapers. The company drops off the diapers and a pail about two weeks before your due date. When you have your baby you give them a call and they will ask a few questions: breast fed or formula fed and size of the baby. The service will come back weekly and pick up the dirty (no washing, no rinsing, no smell thanks to the magic pail) diapers. For three months I never had to worry about running out to the store to pick up diapers in the middle of the night and baby never had a diaper rash with the soft cloth nappies that were sent over fresh every week.
A Basket for Mom
At baby showers, usually baby gets a ton of clothes, toys and blankets which is great but it is nice if Mom gets a little something too. I received a few essentials for my hospital bag and a few items to make me feel pampered, pre and post baby. This is what I got:
For prebaby: Belly cream to prevent stretch marks, the book Babywise about sleep;
For my hospital bag: a heating pad, a wooden massage tool, lip balm, chewing gum, small packs of snacks, warm socks, nipple balm and a his and her toiletries kit: shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, tooth brushes, body wash;
For postbaby: Tightening lotion, breast pads, maxi pads, lightly scented epsom salts
Something for Dad
Lets face it, Dads are totally neglected when baby is on the way. Mom is carrying and delivering the child but Dad endures nine months of hormones followed by a stressful and draining (while being supportive) wait during labour followed by being a dad. Our friends who have children offered my husband the "friend card" meaning at any time he could pull the "friend card" and he would be met for a beer at a location of his choice - brilliant! My husband was also given many funny books about becoming a dad that kept him entertained while waiting for doctors appointments and baby's arrival.
Anything for Baby
When giving a gift to a first-time mom who has nothing, truly any gift is great. It is nice to receive both the practical and the extravagant gifts that you would never buy for baby yourself.
The best toys I received were Sophie the Giraffe, our baby and all of our baby friends light up at the sight of Sophie and a Plush Eyore from Winnie the Pooh, he is made with several different textures and he is well loved.
The greatest clothes came in bigger sizes. Babies grow out of things in a matter of days. Try to think of how old baby is and during which season if you decide to buy clothes for somebody in advance.
We quickly learned that having extra blankets, towels, face cloths, and receiving (burp) blankets is wonderful. The more linens a mom has the longer she can go between loads of laundry and the fuller those loads will be.