Q&A: houseguest with a new baby

So the sleep regression book Chaosgirl was talking about? I think I'm quoted in it, which is kind of cool. I've emailed with one of the authors back when they were starting the project, and they really seemed interested in figuring things out, not in promoting an agenda.

But now on to an awesome question from Ashley:

"My best friend is having a baby next month.  We've been best friendsfor 10+ years, but she now lives on the other side of the country from me. I just found out that I have the opportunity to travel to a city near her hometown for business in June.  It seems perfect: I can do my work and then take a weekend to visit my friend and her baby, who will be about 2 months old at the time.  I mentioned this to my friend, and she seems thrilled about the idea.

So here is my question: in June, is she still going to want a guest?  I realize it probably varies from mother to mother, but since I don't have children yet (I read AskMoxie to see what I'll be getting into when I take the plunge in a year or two :-)) I have no idea if a two-month-old and a house guest can possibly be a good combination.  This will be her first child, too, so I'm guessing she's almost as clueless about newborns and hormonal changes and all of that stuff as I am.  So just because she's really excited about the idea now doesn't mean she'll still be feeling that way a few months from now.

I know the obvious answer is to wait until a few weeks before the trip, see how she and the baby are doing healthwise and then make definite plans to visit only if she feels up to it, and that's my plan.  But assuming I do go to visit, what would a new mother most appreciate?

During the day I'm perfectly content to sit around the house and stare at the baby (in other words, I'm definitely not expecting her or her husband to entertain me!), but if I'm going to be there I would also like to be helpful.  I will ask her how I can help, of course, but I know her well enough to know that because of her cultural upbringing and her personality she's going to tell me to stay in her guestroom and not at a hotel and tell me that she doesn't need me to do anything for her.

Would you have wanted a house guest when you had a two-month-old?  And if you would have wanted a friend to visit at that time, what would you have most appreciated in terms of help?"

Ashley, I love you. I love that you want to visit your friend, but mostly I love that you love your friend enough to want to do what's going to be helpful for her, and not just what makes you feel good.

I think that your friend will be thrilled to see you as long as you don't add any more physical or emotional work to her load. It sounds like you have no expectations of being entertained, and are completely prepared and happy to take care of her.

Since she's a super-hostess type (because of her cultural upbringing and personality, as you say), asking her what you can do might not get much out of her. The things that really need to be done when you have a new baby are laundry, food prep, laundry, dishes, and laundry. Did I mention laundry? It's mindblowing, and another one of those things that is impossible to comprehend until you're in the middle of it. So I think your plan should be to do as much laundry for her as possible while you're there.

When I was at that stage with my first, honestly, the things I needed most were 1) adult conversation, and 2) a shower. So in between laundry, she'll like just having you there to talk to. And if you say, "Oh, can I hold the baby for 20 minutes while you grab a shower?" it might be like you just turned on the sun.

And she might still be really tired and discombobulated (especially if the baby is extra-screamy from 6-8 weeks, as some kids are), or she might be dying to get out and go somewhere since she has someone else to help with all the crap you have to haul around with a baby. (Remember that stage when you'd finally get yourself dressed and ready and the baby dressed and ready and then the baby would have an explosive poop and you'd have to start all over again? Yeah.) So hang loose, and be ready for either action or extreme inaction.

Oh, also, if she's nursing, she may or may not be getting graceful with it at two months. So you might see more of her breasts than you've ever seen, unless you used to go to Mardi Gras together back in the day. If you can be cool with that, then it'll help her a ton. And if she's not nursing, then don't mention it unless she introduces the topic.

Because of the incredible hormone rush at this stage, your friend, through no fault of her own, is going to be more emotional and sensitive than she usually is. Which means it'll be easy to make her feel loved, but it'll also be easy to make her feel judged if there's something she's feeling insecure about. Breastfeeding is kind of the big kahuna at this age (soon to be superseded by sleep). So stay away from it unless she wants to talk about it.

What do you guys think? Am I hitting the right notes with laundry, adult conversation, and a shower? What would you most have wanted when your baby was two months?