For all those mommas out there, this is for you. And more specifically for your friends who aren’t mommas (yet). In my life, I’ve never felt such difficulty expressing myself and my needs. And never before have I so badly needed to!
My first child, Little E, is now nearly three months old and its been a doozy of a trip getting here! I personally hated pregnancy–getting up every 20 minutes to pee, oozing from every orface, awkwardness in EVERY aspect of daily life–the list goes on. But advice in helping mommas through pregnancy is a totally different rant.
Now, onto the real deal! This is my perspective on being a new mom so take into account that every woman is different and my shading of this experience is bound to be wholly opposite the next. But of all my research, there was nothing I found that could have prepared me (or my friends) for the rapidly-altered life I now lead.
So, let’s just say your friend just had a baby–congrats to her! And you did all of your “friend duties” like attending (even organizing) endless showers, listening to her cry over every tiny aspect of pregnancy, buying her chocolate then apologizing for making her “fat”, etc, etc. Now the real moment is here. They’ve left the hospital and are home. What now?
- Give them space. Momma and baby have a lot of bonding to do. Yes, they’ve been cohabiting for 9 months, but momma really does need to count those toes fifty times each day. She needs to try to get baby to look at her and respond to her voice and grasp her finger when a tiny hand goes flailing in the air. They need each second of each precious day together. It was not my experience, but for the mommas who plan to return to work, the mourning period has already begun and she is dreading the day she has to leave baby with someone else.
- Wait for momma to call you. Back to point one, momma is absorbed with her baby. If she gets one more call asking how she is or how the baby is or has she had the baby yet, she’ll slam her head into the wall and swear off human contact forever. No, seriously. I actually stopped speaking to some people when I finally had enough of the calls. When she is ready, she will call you. And be prepared for either a very short conversation or a very long, one-sided one in which she will tell you about that time baby sneezed and it was so cute!
- Do not insist on coming over unless you are there to work. I bought paper plates and disposable cutlery because lots of women seemed to forget that might be an option. At most, I only needed the pasta pot cleaned, so dishes really weren’t a problem. What I wish I could have asked for was for someone to come over just to vacuum the carpets. That’s all I needed most days with two dogs running around. Or to stay in the house for twenty minutes while I napped–with the baby next to me–and find something to do. There’s plenty to pick from in a modern house hold. Bring a casserole if momma didn’t make freezer meals. Make her a cup of coffee or tea. Straighten up her living room for when her family comes over (because they didn’t read this list). But above all else, keep it short and sweet. She will be embarrassed and I know I was too ashamed to ask. I would let people hold my baby while I ran about and got chores done (lifting buckets of feed and water and laundry that I NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO DO). Some days I’m amazed my incision healed at all.
- Do not insist on holding baby. Yes, you will be excited. Yes, babies are adorable and bring out the best in everyone. But early on, you really need to hold your tongue. Unless momma hands you baby, she is probably not too keen on having her little one in someone elses’ arms. Like any mother, I was very protective of Little E. But silly me, I would say stupid things like “no, really (name), its okay!” or “yes take her, you’re doing me a favor!” Don’t believe it. You make sure momma keeps her baby and sits on her fanny while you’re folding her giant mesh undies (see number 3). And if you see momma picking up anything even close to her baby’s weight, you need to take it from her and finish whatever she was doing. Expect a hormonal rant (and a big adult tantrum) about being a perfectly capable grown woman. Just deal with it and do it for her anyways.
- Be inviting and understanding. Babies are all kinds of craziness packed into a tiny pudgy body. They are loud, they sometimes smell, they pull hair, and they interrupt EVERYTHING. But your friend still needs you. Even if all those aforementioned things are a total nuisance, your friend’s life has changed dramatically for the better and she desperately wants you to be a part of it. That being said, be prepared! Call her up for a cup of coffee, see if she wants to rent a movie or go to a park for a little while. It might even make her day if you offer to change a diaper! Just make sure you are ready with a ponytail and Asprin for the inevitable tantrum. Nothing can make a new mom feel worse than thinking everyone is having fun until her kid ruined it all. Don’t blame the baby–its what they do! They can’t help it! Momma is new at this, and very likely unsure and insecure about her new role. Criticism will not earn you brownie points, so keep your laughter and opinions to yourself.
I’m sure there’s tons of other things I can list, but these are the main five. Can you think of any others? Are you a new mom? What was really helpful to you in the beginning?
Betty and Little E