Skip to content

When Aunt Kathy Came to Help

Originally published in LLL of Colorado/Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Leader, Summer/Fall 1996

When Leaders discuss getting breastfeeding off to a good start, we often mention getting help with the housework when the baby arrives. We mention how mothers, mothers-in-law, neighbors, and other female friends are helpful in the early weeks. But now it was up to me. I was the helper.

I got the call one afternoon eight years ago. My sister-n-law Laura had just had her third baby at a birthing center in Denver. She was back home, and her family awaited my arrival. This was going to be great, wasn’t it? This was going back to an older way of doing things, where female relatives took care of each other after a birth. Plus, I was a La Leche League Leader! I knew a lot about helping new mothers, and Laura’s kids were excited about seeing their cousins. This would be perfect! Wouldn’t it?

I was filled with doubts as I traveled for two days with my two boys toward Laura’s home in the mountains. As I clutched the map on the final dirt road to her house, I worried about how I was going to fit into an already busy household. Would her husband Paul dread having a family of three live in the same house for ten days? Would everyone get tired of my compulsive cleaning? Laura was an experienced breastfeeding mother who attended La Leche League meetings in her own little town. Would I be able to be any help at all? Would Laura want me to share her kitchen? Would the older kids listen if I pleaded with them to keep quiet and let mom and baby Elizabeth rest?

Laura’s mother was grateful I was there. She had been scheduled for an operation and was disappointed that she couldn’t help with the new grandchild. When I had volunteered, my mother-in-law was very relieved. My husband was also relieved that his mother could just concentrate on getting well. The whole extended family was counting on me.

Laura’s husband was also grateful I was there. He needed to get back to work. Since he knew another adult was helping at home, he relaxed a little about his hours away of commuting and working in the office. Some highlights of how I really helped out were:

• I answered the phone. Lots of people wanted updating about laura’s and the baby’s health.
• I took all the children outside, leaving Laura and the baby in a quiet house for an hour or two.
• I was someone else for Laura and Paul to talk to.
• I filled in at bedtime. An extra set of hands drawing baths, finding dry towels and pajamas, and reading stories made nighttime chores a little easier.
• I was a companion. Laura and I talked about babies and many other things. Discussions about gardening, woodworking, crafts, and the robin that kept trying to fly into the kitchen helped lift both of us out of the rainy-day doldrums.
• I washed dishes. I tried to keep the kitchen clean and put things away where I found them—not always an easy task in someone else’s arrangement!
• I didn’t give Laura any advice about parenting or breastfeeding (although I was available if she asked). I also didn’t try to take care of the baby.

Sometimes my doubts seemed justified. It took me a long time to figure out where everything was in the kitchen. Sometimes my own two kids were a handful. Then three people (my two-year-old and myself included) got sick in the night after I made two cookie sheets of homemade pizza for dinner. My nephew and niece didn’t always listen to me and there were arguments between the four cousins about the train set and cookie dough scraps.

Laura wanted to go to the Denver Botanical Gardens when the baby was seven days old, and I argued a little with her abut it. I thought she’d get too tired and told her I didn’t need to be entertained. She insisted, and we had a lovely day along the flowered paths in the brisk sunshine. I learned to trust her to know what she felt like doing.

Coming to help out a mother when a new baby is born is complex and hard work! Companionship, cooking, and cheerful housekeeping and childcare are basic ingredients a helped can offer the family. And now Elizabeth can always tell the story of how I made her daddy sick with that homemade pizza.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *