I have drafted and redrafted this post at least 15 times over the past 4 weeks trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to convey my message in a truthful and concise way. There are not many things in life that leave me tongue tied, and yet here I sit, again, attempting to put into words the feelings and thoughts that have dominated my world over the past 10 weeks. So, as most conversations with me go, I’m just going to be really blunt about this.
The way in which we care for and regard new mothers in this society absolutely sucks. In a society where we are virtually connected around the globe 24/7, we have lost the capacity to connect with and help those who desperately need it. Whether you are a mama of 1 or 12, you know this is true. Those of us who have found our tribe find are definitely more fortunate, and yet we still find ourselves attempting to do the impossible balance of bonding with a new baby, while managing a home life with varying levels of help.
Ten weeks ago, I gave birth to my 4th baby; uncomplicated and quick, lots of support from my midwives, meals from family and close friends, texts and messages to check in on me; it was lovely, and I felt very cared for and supported. The thing is, that somehow, it had taken my nearly 10 years and 4 children to build a healthy support system around myself and my family that allowed me the space to focus on integrating a new life into ours; and what a difference! If I would have had that support back when I had baby #1, I think things would have been much different for me. The women and men who surrounded and supported and loved me over these past few months made me a better mother and person, and now it’s time to pass on that wisdom, knowledge, and love.
You may have noticed that I gave props to men back there. Yes, I did. The men who supported their wives who then supported me have my eternal thanks. The men who reached out to my husband to ask how he was doing; thank you. My brothers, father in law, brothers in law who came to visit and give my other children some attention; we are so grateful. My 10 year old son, well on his way to becoming a man, who took over making some meals, filling my water bottle, and taking on the leadership role with his siblings; I noticed. And of course my husband... My husband who fully embraced the role of a supportive partner; making sure the other 3 children were taken care of during those 40 days, managed the house, and made sure that I had what I needed to rest, heal, and bond with baby; our children are so blessed.
So here I am, on the other side of those 40 days. I’m watching other new moms have babies, and I’m realizing that although we all have good intentions, our follow through when it comes to helping out new moms and families isn’t great. I count myself in that group too, so don’t feel bad. For me personally, I don’t want to overstep or disrupt the flow of someone’s day, but I now realize just how much a little help can go a long way. We need to surround these new families, no matter the size, with support of all different kinds. Following are concrete suggestions for you, no matter where your life is right now.
If you are pregnant, here are some suggestions that help make your postpartum time sweet and recouperative.
1. If you are able, I strongly encourage you to commit to the laying in or baby moon for 40 Days. In other societies, this is the norm. You can read about it here. It takes time to learn about this new little life whether you’ve had children before or not. This time is spent holding and feeding and learning to read your baby for signs of hunger, tiredness, discomfort, pain. It may seem like a long time to spend on such small things, but it is so beneficial in the long run. I found it helpful to buy some new pajamas so that I felt like I was getting ready for a new day every day.
2. Ask someone to set up a meal train for you. Don’t be afraid to indicate foods you like/dislike. If you have out of state friends or family, let them know of restaurants you enjoy that deliver. In our area, we have services such as Bite Squad and Door Dash.
3. Cook ahead and freeze if you have the space. Don’t forget to throw in some snacks! The only time I really need snacks is when I’m nursing. A month ago a friend brought me some homemade bars that kept me going when baby was nursing every 2 hours. They were deeply appreciated.
4. Some people may not want or be able to cook for you; ask them to grocery shop! If you don’t already make a menu and shopping list, now is a great time to start. If your area offers it, you may have even be able to have groceries delivered or packed ahead so they are ready for pick up.
5. Rely on your partner (if you have one), and tell them what you need. I finally mastered this one (it only took 4 kids to get there). Being the one to manage the household tasks with 3 kids in tow, it was always easier for me to just keep doing those things regardless of whether my husband was home or not. This time around, and with my plan of being home for 40 Days, my husband took on all errands, cleaning, and child related tasks until I was ready to step back in.
If you know a new mom, here are some things you can do to help:
1. Offer to bring a meal or send a gift card for a favorite restaurant. Not sure what to bring? How about a prepaid Visa card that can be used anywhere? Remember, it’s never too late to do this! As a mom, I can assure you that I would never turn down a meal whether I’m 2 weeks postpartum or 2 months. Life doesn’t get less hectic as babies grow.
2. Offer to run errands! Even small errands like going to the post office or library can feel insurmountable with an infant.
3. Even if you don’t know the mom well, offer to set up a meal train. You or she can pass the link on to family and friends.
4. If she already has children, offer to come play games with them or take them outside to play. Note that new moms might not want the added noise of more children in the house, so if you have your own children, ask first before you bring them.
*Big thanks to those who brought fun games and books and crafts for my children; it made them feel special and gave them something new to do!
5. Allow and encourage your own children to help. My eldest son and daughter were so happy to take on kitchen and cleaning chores, and my youngest son loved helping to fetch diapers and clothes for the baby and conveying messages from myself to his siblings.
*just a note that I’m sure you don’t need, but it bears repeating; if you or anyone in your household is sick, please delay contact with new moms and their families.
Above all, please remember that people really do want to help, and that help and love come in many forms. Allowing people to help in a way that suits them and you is a great way to build and stenthen relationships.