I have learned a HUGE lesson after having this baby. It is one that might shock and offend some people, but I think it was so important for me to learn that I'm willing to take the risk. Ready? Here goes:
Never say to a friend "Let me know if you need anything".
That's it. That's the lesson I wish to impart.
I know people say that phrase to be nice (and I myself have said it a gazillion and one times) but it's not nice. It's a cop-out. It takes away the guilt of knowing you should be helping out when you really don't want to. It's a way to make it seem like you care so much when really in fact, you just care enough to use your words...no more.
I realize that when people say "Let me know if you need anything" to me, I NEVER let them know what I need. Now, maybe this is just my personality that never wants to put anybody out, but seriously, can you ever politely say: "Um, ok, what I really need is for you to come to my house with a home-cooked meal for my family, and hold the fussy baby so I can get some work done, and then when the baby is napping, maybe you can take my older kids out to play so I can get a much-needed nap." Who does that? So instead I just smile and say "Thanks" and never actually call a person on it.
What I've learned is that the BEST thing to do to a friend in need (or just a friend indeed) is to ACTUALLY help them. Just say, "I really want to bring you a meal, so what day is best for you?" Or send them a package in the mail with diapers or a Target giftcard or some chocolate. Or insist that you want to take her kids to the park so she can have some quiet time. Don't ask, but as Nike says, Just Do It.
So this is the important lesson I learned this time around. Don't show you care with empty words that make you feel better. Show you care with action-filled deeds that make her feel better.