My family is very open in discussing gifts, so I'd discuss this with your wife. If that's not your style, the typical recommendations are:
electric footbath (I really wanted a plain basin for literally cooling my heels after long days in high heels, and was disappointed when Mom got me one that plugs in and makes bubbles, but I really like it, as does my fiance.)
She has the most beautiful and valuable gift in her arms already.
A gift card to have the house cleaned - she'll be very thankful for that in a couple of weeks.
Seriously - how about a photo album - the first few pages of her as a child, then with you, then something suitably cheesy like "We'll fill the rest of these pages together, the three of us."
THEN give her the gift card to have the house cleaned.
I think I did a great job making my wife feel safe, supported, etc., when our children were born. It didn't even *occur* to me to get her a gift.
We did a relaxed-birthing class. I got music to play while she was in labor. I wrote the birthing preferences, made copies, and made sure they were where they needed to be. I ran interference with nurses who were trying to engage her in conversation when she was, well, a little busy. For the first birth, when she was out of it (I said, OK, you get ready, I'll get the bag, came back in and she was just standing there) -- I took articles of clothing and said, "Put this on," then led her to the car. I handled insurance and talking to medical personnel about the problem we saw with the boy, which was major.
That is, she got lots from me that she needed way more than a gift in a box; I think a necklace would sort of trivialize it. If not: it better be some necklace. But if it's the custom, I guess you'll have to follow it. Something she'll need. A sitz bath. A boob hiding apron for nursing. A sling; a boppi; a bumpo. Best of all, get up in the middle of the night and do everything but the nursing. Getting up every 2 1/2 hours with that baby is going to wear her out.
I have to say that an actually useful gift could backfire, depending on the personalities and expectations involved. It's like a vacuum cleaner for Valentine's Day - will work for a few wives, but most are expecting romance.
Cleaning service is a good idea.
Wouldn't fine jewelry or roses at that juncture be, well, weird? It's like you haven't even noticed what's going on -- like inviting her to go dancing when she's barely able to stand for lack of sleep.
I would think my wife would consider it a signal that I wasn't really there with her in our new, vastly changed life.
I don't like push prizes. [That's what I've heard them called; almost no one likes the name, even if they like the idea.] I'm too frugal for gifts at such an expensive juncture. Sounds like lots around here share our attitude.
But it sounds like this new mother is expecting one. So the question becomes what is she expecting? We can't really know, because we don't know the mother. I can only speak to what I've heard from other women who expected such gifts. And the suggestions I've recommended are what they say.
How about taking out a low cost life insurance policy on yourself, with your wife and child as co-beneficiaries? That'll let her know you wanted to get a gift, and that you are taking your paternal responsibility seriously.
Life insurance is about as unromantic as you can get.
I'm not knocking these suggestions or the good intentions; I'm just providing a woman's opinion.
I agree, wholeheartedly. However, I will say, the savings bonds I whined about at every birthday (until my 16th) paid for my college..........
As an insurance agent I would second getting life insurance.
As a husband I wouldn't suggest that being the only thing you got her.
Are lump-sum premium policies even available?
Of course everyone should rethink their insurance needs when there's an additional dependent, but additional continuing expenses, such as insurance premiums, should be discussed between a couple, not be gifts. If it's $10/month, OK, I guess, but if we're looking at life insurance for more than symbolic purposes, that's not a gift, that's a sizable continuing expense.
[From the girl who budgeted for married-life life insurance before she wrote her wedding budget, and who's spent the last 2 days studying life insurance fraud.]