When our first baby was born, I could barely move for more than a week. My husband had to help me get out of my chair the first few days, and it was a couple weeks before I could sit on a hard surface. The first two weeks were rough. The first couple of days, frankly, felt insurmountable. Learning to nurse when you can barely move and are majorly hormonal is ridiculously hard. Then I had a regimen (sitz baths, etc.) to promote healing that took up the entire time between feedings three times a day. I was a wreck. I felt like life would never again return to anything even remotely resembling normal. At least a portion of every day I felt devastated and confused.
Those are realities we moms know about, but don’t speak of too often. Over time I adjusted. My hormones regulated. I healed. Baby Girl learned to nurse well. Life did return to normal – a new kind of normal, one that was even better than our pre-beautiful-little-girl-normal. But I don’t know how I would have made it there without my support system. My husband took great care of me.
My mommy came over and helped with some chores. Friends and family brought us meals every day for two weeks. I’m now pregnant with my second, a baby boy due in July. I’m counting on that support system coming through for me again. This time I know we’ll get through it and that it will be a joy – but in the meantime we’re going to have a newborn and an 18-month-old, and I’m going to need help!
Based on my experience, here’s my top five list of ways you can be a good friend to a new mother:
Offer specific help
We’re all prone to that throwaway line “Let me know if I can do anything for you!” We often mean it, but it puts the burden on the person who should be the recipient. Personally, when I had my first I never would have felt I could call people up and tell them I desperately needed them to come wash my dishes so I didn’t have a nervous breakdown (I already felt insane as it was). Offer something specific: “I want to come do ________ for you on Thursday so you can relax.
What time is good for me to come?” Then, when you get there, make sure she knows you really do mean it – she’s to sit, and you will do the chore and play fetch for her if she needs something while you’re there.
I don’t know about you, but I found things just piling up after baby arrived. I had command central surrounding my living room chair, and no interest or energy in putting anything extra away, let alone cleaning my house. A quick dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, or dish-washing is a huge help to new parents. You don’t have to do everything – just knowing something is being done takes a load off the mind of a new mama who is stuck in one spot staring at the house as it gets dirtier and dirtier.
Eating well is obviously extremely important for a new mom, but making dinner is overwhelming for her and her spouse. There are some great meal planning sites out there now. My friends used MealTrain to facilitate meals for our family when we had our daughter. You could take on the task of setting up such a site for folks to sign up to bring meals. Or, if you don’t feel up to that, just deliver a meal or two you’ve made yourself. Any little thing you do will be greatly appreciated!
My mom did laundry for us the first couple of weeks after we had our daughter. It was such a huge relief to me. If you know ahead of time that you plan to offer to do laundry for the family after baby arrives, ask your friend to write down her laundry procedure before the baby even comes. That way you can feel confident you are doing things “her way” without requiring anything from her after baby arrives.
Watch older kids (or take them out)
Older siblings, especially if this is the first new baby they’ve experienced, are likely to feel the change acutely. They need individual attention, and of course that attention should come from their parents as much as possible. On the other hand, mama also needs some time to rest. As You can help provide everyone with what they need by spending time playing with older kids, or taking them out for a fun event. You could also volunteer for school pick-up or drop-off, or to chauffeur to any other events they may have in that first week or two.
Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are doing it to provide rest to your friend. Unless her personality is energetic right from the start (HOW are there people like that??), now is not the time to visit. Stay as long as you are able to accomplish what she needs without making her feel pressure to entertain you, and then head out. If you do any of these, you are an awesome friend!
What would you add to this list? I hope you are surrounded by lifesaving family and friends when you add a little one!