I remember being so excited every time my friend had a baby. I couldn’t wait to go over for that first meeting, but also had so much apprehension come up of not wanting to be a burden. I would get a little hurt if my friend didn’t invite me over right away.
Now that I’ve had my own baby, I am embarrassed about my behavior toward my mama friends. I was completely oblivious to what they were going through. I developed so much compassion for my own friends who were also clueless when they came to see my baby and wish I had been able to give some guidelines for them to know how to best support me.
Here’s the thing: while you want to see the baby, the mama may really need you to show up for her, not the baby.
She just went through the most difficult moment of her life. If she was anything like me, she was wiped out, depleted, exhausted and maybe even nursing an injury.
Think of it this way: if you just had a major surgery, how would you want your friends to show up for you, if at all? You’d want to be in bed all day, eating comfort food and watching movies. But she doesn’t have that luxury. She has to get up and care for another human being completely reliant on her round the clock. It never stops.
If that sounds difficult, it is. It’s no joke. The only thing that gets her through it is the unconditional love.
I’m not trying to make it sound like the worst thing in her life, because it’s actually the best thing. But the last thing she wants is a bunch of people draining her because they want to come over to see her baby. So here’s some basic guidelines of how to best support her the 40 days after birth:
Make her feel more special than the baby. She’s a warrior. She’s just squeezed that giant baby out of her vagina. And if she had a c-section, she just had a major surgery. Treat her like a champ. Like she just won a race or a battle. Because she did. Treat her, pamper her. love her up. When you call, tell her you want to come see her and how she’s doing (and also her baby). Bring her a small gift that’s just for her. She may be experiencing some depression or baby blues if she had a difficult birth or the baby is having some challenges sleeping or nursing.
Do not come empty handed. Bring a meal, and make sure you check in with her as to what she can and cannot eat. Babies get gassy easily so leave out the cabbage and broccoli family, the onion and garlic family, and definitely NO chocolate. Before you come over, ask if she needs anything at the store. She should not be doing errands and doesn’t have the time anyway. Or bring diapers. Ask her if she needs diapers or wipes and the answer is probably YES. Get the newborn or size 1. She can never have enough diapers.
Don’t have the expectation of seeing the baby when you come over. The best thing you can do is ask if you should just drop off the meal or anything else at the front door. She may be sleeping or just not want to talk. In fact, don’t come over to socialize and tell her all about your fabulous news. Make it about her and her baby unless she doesn’t want to talk about it. She may be very disconnected from the outside world and your news may exhaust her. It may be the best thing that happened to you; save it unless she asks.
Help with chores. I am forever grateful for my friends who came over to do chores without asking me what I needed them to do. This is key: just look around the house and do what needs to be done. She probably feels guilty about you doing any of her housework but she desperately may need it. If you ask, she’ll probably tell you “don’t worry about it” which is code for “please do something, anything!” Key areas: washing and drying dishes, washing and folding laundry, spraying down the bathrooms, taking out the trash, tidying up the living room, and vacuuming (although make sure it won’t wake a sleeping baby).
Do not come over sick and make sure you wash your hands. This little being is new to the world and not used to germs. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before holding her. And if you have someone in your house who has been sick, wait until there is absolutely no chance of you passing the germs along.
Buy or give her a massage. Even if you just come over with some lavender oil to rub her feet, she will love you. A full on massage would be such a treat too. She needs some healing work after what she just went through.
Coordinate help for her “First 40.” The first month is the hardest because it is a huge adjustment. She needs help, even if her mother or mother-in-law is staying at the house. I used a service called The First 40 where my meals and chores were organized by the company. I highly recommend buying this for her as a baby shower gift.
It’s difficult to understand what a woman is going through as she becomes a mother unless you have been there yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. I couldn’t even comprehend what my mama friends had told me before I gave birth what it would be like until I was there. Be mindful that she’s in a whole difficult world from you and just get curious as to what her experience is like. You can’t put yourself in her shoes, but you can be sensitive and conscious of her unique experience. Every birth is different. The bottom line is to ask mindful questions and be courteous so she feels loved, seen, and heard.
Motherhood is sacred. Birth is a rite of passage. Honor this new mother and her transition. She deserves it.