Any first-time parent will agree that life changes considerably in the blink of an eye. Whether you birth a baby or adopt, any new parent can attest to the utter exhaustion that comes with taking care of a tiny human. As a new mother this year myself, I know there have been so many things I wish I would have heard, or things I was so grateful to hear. Most of these things will be specific to new mothers, and more specifically those who have birthed a baby. Adoptive parents are amazing, but this is going from my personal experience as a new mom who went through labour and delivery. If you’ve got a friend or family member expecting a new bundle of joy, keep reading, because this list is for you!
‘I’m dropping dinner off’
Let’s preface this by saying I would have LOVED to have meals dropped off for me in those early weeks. Everyone told me, “When you have a baby, everyone brings food” and yet no one did. I chalk it up to having a baby 3 weeks before Christmas and people just generally being busy with their own lives.
What would have been the most amazing help was to have takeout delivered to us, or to have a meal or two dropped off. The emphasis here goes on ‘dropped off’. If you think bringing dinner to her and then staying to eat it helps, it actually creates loads more work. New mom then has extra dishes to wash. She will probably spin into a frantic frenzy to try and get her home in some sort of tidy manner. She will likely instantly feel self-conscious about the fact that she hasn’t showered or brushed her teeth yet. The best thing ever would have been meals that can easily be warmed and eaten during a nap, and one-handed snacks, dropped off.
‘Why don’t I snuggle baby for a bit while you shower/put your makeup on/nap/watch an episode of Game of Thrones’
The gift of time is something new parents treasure most. You’re giving new mommy a free period – like in high school! She may choose to shower, she may choose to nap, she may choose to sit and watch something that won’t trigger her baby blues hormones (NOT the time to watch This Is Us, new mommy!). No judgements please, just offer the time. She’ll be forever grateful, I promise.
“When it’s glorious, we praise mom for being triumphant; a champion upon all mothers. When it’s traumatic, we say, “it’s ok, you don’t have to talk about it” because it’s hard for us to hear.”
‘That sounds so tough, but you’re handling it so well’
New parents get inundated with well-meaning, unsolicited advice at all times. Mom’s tend to get it much worse than Dads (surprise, surprise, eye roll emoji). As a first time mom, I’ve felt so guarded with who I say what to. Often new moms worry that if the vent about hard times they open Pandoras Box. Suddenly terms like Postpartum Depression¹ are thrown about. Sentences like, “Millions of women have managed to do it before you and they survived” get spoke (can we all have a collective barf for this one? No one should ever say this!).
The most amazing thing you can do for any new mother is to let her know her feelings are valid. Let her know that you understand how hard her transition is, but that she’s amazing and doing great! When I was a brand new mom to a very colicky baby, I actually cried a little every time some tossed out, “All babies cry” or “You probably just need to feed her more”. When I would come across another parent that had experienced colic, the compassion was like a warm hug. They knew. Listen to your new mummy friend, commiserate if you’re a parent too, and validate her feelings without a diagnosis.
‘I’ll stay if you need me, but I’m happy to leave when you’re ready’
No one likes a guest that overstays their welcome, and yet we’ve all done it. Speaking for myself, as a new mom I didn’t want to burden anyone. I hated the idea of telling someone to leave especially after they’d just brought a cute gift for Everly. Watch for cues like, “Well, I really should put the baby down for a nap” (hint, hint, that’s your cue to leave). Oppositely, “The days are so long and I’m all alone” might be a hint that some company would be enjoyed.
‘Tell me about it’
I’ve not come across a single mother that has given birth that doesn’t want to speak her story, good or bad. I’m not talking about the nitty gritty (though she may need someone to talk to about that too) but there is a reason why we love to talk about our story. For most, giving birth is the single most insane and life-changing experience in our lives to date. For some of us, it was incredibly hard, possibly even traumatic. In any other situation, you would be expected to talk about your feelings. Yet postpartum we get told, “Well its all over now and you have a beautiful baby so it was worth it!” and “I’m sure you’ll forget all about it in time for baby #2!”.
Some of us need to speak our journey out loud. My experience with a couple of the doctors and nurses that I was in the care of has been difficult for me to come to terms with. Oppositely, my experience during my c section was really good and the team that did it for me were amazing. For some its a glorious experience and for some it’s traumatic. When it’s glorious, we praise mom for being triumphant; a champion upon all mothers. When it’s traumatic, we say, “it’s ok, you don’t have to talk about it” because it’s hard for us to hear.
Bonus: ‘My goodness, what a beautiful baby’
Yep, we all know all babies aren’t cute. This is that one time I am going to tell you to lie folks! Just smile and say, “My goodness, what a beautiful baby!”
What did you want to hear as a first-time parent?
¹Postpartum Depression is a very real, crippling infliction many mothers suffer with. I get upset when it gets tossed out as a catch-all for any feeling a new mother is having. Having new parent blues, stress or anxiety does not necessarily fall into the scope of PPD. If you feel that you or a loved one is suffering from PPD or PPA (Postpartum Anxiety) please seek the diagnosis of a doctor.