What Bringing a Meal Really Means

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- Reposted from April, 2017 -

As my husband and I welcomed our fourth child into our family over the past nine weeks, we have marveled once again at the generosity and kindness of those who brought us dinner. We had a number of friends and family deliver meals to our home after the births of our first and second children, and by the time we got to our third, we knew enough about reality of life with a newborn and my own experiences of postpartum depression to ask people up front for this type of support. Folks responded so positively, joyfully, and generously then that we were shocked to see even more response after the birth of our fourth. We are only now beginning to cook again, nine weeks after our son was born.

Okay, so who doesn't love lasagnas and hot dishes and dinners already prepared? But oh...it is so much more than that. What does bringing a meal really mean? Why is it always recommended as a way to support new parents? 

In the earliest days after childbirth, a mother really shouldn't be standing up and walking around much more than needed for using the bathroom or caring for herself. Making dinner is hard on the postpartum body, and quite frankly, the more help with food preparation that a woman receives, the more she will be able to truly rest and recover from birthing her baby/babies. Having meals brought can also aid healing by providing helpful nutrition. Frozen pizza, macaroni and cheese, and canned soup may be quick, easy meals that taste good, but roasted chicken and fresh salad and crusty bread are just as delicious and much better for the body. There were many days when I may not have gotten all the iron I needed if it weren't for the delicious dinners containing meat or dark, leafy greens. At my six week postpartum doctor visit, my iron and vitamin D levels were great, and I knew it was partly because of the wonderful meal help we had.

Dinner can also be one of the mot stressful times of day for any parent. Anyone who has ever tried to prepare a meal with young children around understands the challenges of getting anything done with relative efficiency, and when you throw a newborn into the mix, cooking can become virtually impossible if baby is awake. Having a meal delivered can honestly make the difference between a screaming, hungry baby (and probably a crying mom) and a calm afternoon of nursing the newborn while reading books to the older kids as the oven reheats the enchilada bake. I can't tell you how many times over the past nine weeks that I have whispered thanks to our meal angels as I've cozied up with the kids and actually enjoyed the late afternoon rather than stressed over it.

It's seriously a mental health support to bring a meal to a family after they have a baby. If figuring out what to make for dinner and then making it is a source of stress or anxiety for new parents, then you can imagine it can snowball the anxiety into other parts of the day. If depression is a risk for a parent, then the latter part of the day can often be the most difficult. As the day begins to darken into evening, many moms and dads can feel the sadness or anxiousness set in. Having a meal already prepared becomes a crucial and tangible reminder that they are not alone and there are people who love them and care for them. When each day runs into the next and life feels like a mix of chaos and exhaustion, sitting down to a meal together can bring a sense of order, routine, and peace into the home. This can be an anchor for family life when one or both parents are struggling with keeping mental health concerns at bay--or even if they're not.

So, the next time someone you know is having a baby, ask them if they have a meal "train" or schedule set up yet. If they don't, offer to set one up for them. Meal support is such an easy way to show someone you care, and you never know the immense help you might be providing that goes so far beyond just the food.