I’m doing postpartum support for a new immigrant family with their first baby. i don’t know how long they have been here but its must be less than a year, probably less than 6 months. dads English is fine, mom forgets some words and has some trouble with it, mixed with the fact that shes a bit more reserved and shy means that she doesn’t speak to me too much.
when i met them, she as having contractions. we talked about postpartum support and what i did and how i can help, and we had to keep pausing every 6-8 minutes for her to focus. they went into the hospital that night. baby boy.
i met them in the hallway of their building as they came home from the hospital the next day. they wanted me there right away to help them settle in for their first night at home. they are nervous, want to make sure they do things right, and they want to do it the Canadian way instead of the Chinese way. dad said to me “sorry to ask you to work on black friday,” and i said “what…? oh!, no it’s not a holiday. its an American thing mostly,” and explained it was about shopping and being mean to each other over $5 dolls.
when i show up in the morning, i fill up the kettle and turn it on in the dark. its Chinese tradition to drink hot or at least very warm water so i start that off for them so its ready when they get up. mom stays in bed until the baby is awake. dad comes to greet me and gives me the low-down on what their night was like. ‘she got, maybe about 2 hours of sleep. shes very tired today.” along with a list of chores to do – sweep the floor, put on the laundry, wipe down the kitchen counters, tidy up a bit. then he sometimes goes back to bed too. i do my stuff quietly and listen for the baby.
i change baby’s diaper, soothe him, bring him to mom for feeding, tuck them both in bed again. when shes ready for breakfast, i hold the baby so mom and dad can eat together. dad flusters around, getting her the soft chair and setting her place and speaking softly to her and letting her eat her pick first. and I bounce and rock and let him suck my finger and do everything i can to keep him content long enough for her to have a slow, peaceful meal. if he’s sleeping i tidy their room. i answer 7236825 questions about everything to do with newborn care. they tell me “we don’t know what we are doing! we know nothing about babies!” but i tell them that they probably know more than they realize. my job here is to put myself out of a job, basically. teach them, show them, until they have the confidence that they don’t need me there anymore. i teach them how to recognize the ‘im hungry’ cues. they ask me how to bath him, what to do about his rash on his neck, if they can take him outside, is it okay that he failed his newborn hearing test? (yes its fine. a lot of babies do. its not the baby, its the equipment.)
when they are done breakfast i might tuck in the chairs and rinse the dishes. mom goes to brush her teeth. dad helps her to shower. shes still very sore and moving slowly and shes not ready to shower alone yet. i take care of baby while dad takes care of mom. peace of mind for both of them.
while i was sitting on the couch holding this tiny boy, staring at him and taking in his delicious tiny baby parts, noticing every tiny downy hair on his face, (that how you know they’re super new. they are born covered in a soft layer of fuzz) i thought “this is the easiest hourly wage ever. im hardly doing anything. i am uncomfortable getting paid for so little work. i hope they feel like they are getting their moneys worth. maybe i’ll go wash the windows.” but i remember trying to shower with a newborn on my own. you put the baby in the bouncy seat in the bathroom and have the fastest shower of your life while the baby screams and your milk drips (erm, pours. shoots out.), and probably you cry because you feel like a failure for not being able to shower/not being able to take care of the baby. i guess this system where you have a third person is much better.