mamamonday: Helping a New Mom

Monday, February 27, 2012

Before Eli was born, I was clueless as to how to help out my new-parent friends. Usually I'd bake some cookies, buy some flowers, and drop them off a few days after the new family arrived home from the hospital, along with a "Let me know if you need anything!" As it turns out, I was on the right track. But for someone with very little experience with babies, I always wondered if there was something else I should be doing.

A friend shared this post on Facebook today: How to Help a New Mom. This is an awesome list for anybody who has a friend or relative who's expecting or has a new baby. In a nutshell, the best thing you can do for a new mom (or dad) is to offer your support. Whether it's something tangible, such as bringing over a meal or helping her clean the house, or just being available to lend an ear or meet her and the baby for a walk or for a coffee break, letting her know that you're there for her is the best gift you can give.

Here are a few other things I'd recommend.

Give her some notice. When you've got a newborn, your house can be in any kind of state, from spic-and-span (unlikely) to war zone (more likely). You can be covered in barf, poop, and lord knows what other bodily fluids for extended periods of time. And while visits from friends are always welcome, it's important to remember the days of the drop-in are over. Now is not the time to call her and say, "we're in the neighbourhood. Are you going to be home in 10 minutes?" If you're planning to come by after work, ask her in the morning - that gives her a few hours, at least, to get herself, the baby, and the house looking presentable. (That being said, a good friend won't care what you and your home look like!)

Consider waiting until she's home from the hospital. We spent two days in the hospital after Eli was born, and they weren't pretty. Most of our friends and families waited until we were home to visit, which was a huge relief. I know some people love having visitors right after their babies arrive, though. Just check with her first. In my case, I felt like I'd been hit repeatedly by a bus. I was exhausted, sore, popping pills, attempting to learn to breastfeed AKA having my boobs groped and kneaded by nurses at all hours of the day and night, and trying to retain information about how to look after my baby. The last thing I wanted to do was entertain visitors or be seen by my friends looking like a bag of ass. Once I got home and started feeling like a human being again, I loved seeing everybody, but that first day or two was just not good times.

Bring her a treat. If you're bringing a gift for baby, add a little something for mama, too. She's feeling like ass and any kind of pick-me-up will make her day. A chocolate bar, a face mask or a nice body lotion, a gift certificate to a spa (that's not exactly a "little" something, but it would be well received nonetheless), a latte, a new bottle of nail polish...something you know she'll enjoy. We also had friends who gave us a toy for Rory along with Eli's present, which is another great idea. If your friend has a pet (or another kid) bring something for them, so they don't feel left out.

Keep her in the loop. It's so nice to take a break from all the baby talk and have an adult conversation. It's even better to have an adult conversation filled with juicy, gossipy tidbits. Since she's not working and probably not getting out as much, a new mom can feel out of touch, so make sure you keep her up to date on all the inter-office fraternizing and the drunken stunt your douchey mutual acquaintance pulled on the weekend, so she doesn't start feeling like an isolated shut-in.

Invite her out. Even if she can't make it out to a movie, dinner, or drinks, keep extending the invitations so she doesn't feel left out and eventually she'll be able to join you.

Know that 'mom brain' is really a thing. She's not being forgetful and scatterbrained on purpose. Your friend is completely exhausted and in the throes of a boatload of craziness, so cut her some slack if she misses calling you on your birthday or forgets she still owes you $20. I was actually worried about how forgetful I was after Eli was born, and how difficult it was to complete the simplest tasks sometimes (i.e. the thank-you cards from my baby showers in September and October - half of them have been sent out; half of them are still sitting on my desk). She'll get her act together soon!

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  1. I'm not a new mom yet (2 weeks!) but even I can appreciate this! I may passive-aggressively send this post to those close to me who I feel are at risk of forgetting that babies don't come into the world without a great deal of work on their mama's part :)

    1. Only two weeks to go, that's crazy! It's going to fly by. You must be happy to be in the home stretch.

      Our families and friends were awesome after Eli was born. Maybe it's just me who felt at a loss for how best to help new parents before having a baby myself, but I never knew if I should visit right away, what to bring, what to do, etc.