10 Ways Grandparents Can Help Moms-To-Be

Is your daughter or daughter-in-law expecting? Here are ten ways to lend a hand (and get in good with the new parents).

By Kristen Sturt (www.grandparents.com)

For pregnant women, the weeks leading up to giving birth are anything but comfortable. Those seventh and eighth months are whirlwinds of fatigue, emotion, and alarming puffiness, and all respites are welcome ones.

I know from experience. I'm expecting my first child this May, after approximately 167 bajillion years of gestating. My nerves are on the fritz, and I'm pretty sure the baby is trying to claw his way out through my lungs. To be honest, I could really use some help here.

With that in mind, here are ten practical tips to help you help your daughter through the home stretch. Follow them, and you'll end up her favorite person (next to the baby, of course).

1. Spring for a pedicure
Summer is on its way, and odds are, Mommy hasn't seen her feet since February, much less painted her toenails. Treating her to a pedicure is a thrifty, highly rewarding way to pamper those swollen dogs. Bonus: If you have a bit of cash to spare, no woman in her third trimester (or right mind) will turn down a prenatal massage or salon blow- out.

2. Have a Casserole Day
New parents are notoriously poor eaters, with little time for anything but feedings, sleep, and more feedings. Stocking a freezer with heat-and-eat dishes helps them eat tasty, rounded meals without resorting to Ramen. So, scout some recipes (like these) and choose a weekend for a casserole-cooking marathon.

3. Make a Blue Bag
My friend Chris, an OB/GYN nurse and mother of three, knows all too well about the harrowing recovery period following birth. So she created the Blue Bag, a sack of medication and gear for soothing the postpartum mom in pain. Your Blue Bag could include acetaminophen, witch hazel, an ice pack, a spray bottle, overnight sanitary pads, hemorrhoid cream, (sigh) stool softener, or a topical anesthetic spray like Dermoplast.

4. Write a nice letter to the other grandparents-to-be
Whatever your previous relationship with "the others" may be, a new grandchild irrevocably changes an extended family's dynamic. Get things off on the right foot by telling them how thrilled you are to take this journey with them. Skip email for a hand-written note - in this case, a simple card can go a long way.

5. Take care of some chores (especially heavy and low-lying ones)
No matter how hard her nesting instinct kicks in, there are certain tasks a super-pregnant person shouldn't attempt. Laundry, yard work, and food shopping all involve copious lifting and bending, which can be a bit scary now. So, indulge your inner Martha Stewart and ease your daughter's pain. Hate housework? Think of it as prepping the stage for your grandchild's homecoming.

6. Compliment her physique
Right now, two weeks away from giving birth, I look like a cross between a very pale fertility statue and a beach ball with legs. While I know the condition is temporary and for a good reason, the words, "Kris, you're carrying so well," or "Kris, you don't look like the fifth Teletubby at all," would be music to my (swollen) ears.

7. Just visit (preferably with bagels)
Once mom stops working, there's suddenly a lot of time to kill - and it's even worse if the baby is taking his sweet time getting here. So, drop on by. Play games. Rent a movie. Go for a walk. Do anything to get her mind off of the endless waiting. Just make sure you call first, as pants are strictly optional at this point.

8. Create a Labor Fun Kit
First deliveries often take longer than subsequent ones, with protracted breaks between contractions. To help your daughter pass the hours, assemble a Labor Fun Kit with playing cards, puzzles, and magazines. For extra points, download her favorite TV show from iTunes to a portable device. When the pain really starts to kick in, she'll be happy to have Friday Night Lights as a distraction.

9. Plan your visits for after the birth
We know you want tons of quality time the second your grandbaby checks out of the womb - but hold your horses, Nana. Between recovery and learning to care for an infant, your daughter could be overwhelmed by the prospect of visitors. Check with the new parents about your visitation schedule, and be as understanding and flexible as you can. And don't worry - you'll get that quality time soon enough. (Babysitting, anyone?)

10. Avoid delivery room horror stories
Wondering if your tale is appropriate? Follow this handy guide:

Acceptable: "Everything was completely painless, and our lives are only better for the experience."

Unacceptable "I bled profusely from the eyes and the doctor had to extract the baby with masking tape and an old boomerang."

Other ways to help:

  • Babysit existing children
  • Offer to contact family members after the baby is born
  • Address envelopes for baby announcements
  • Stock up on baby medications
  • Pitch in to decorate the nursery
  • Cover any remaining gaps in the registry
  • Set up Skype on your home computer