When the author of this post (ahem, me) wrote this first draft she was hormonal, sleep deprived, un-showered.
proceed with caution.
and please don’t be offended.
* * *
Pregnancy for me is every synonym of terrible. 10 months of bloated, nauseous, uncomfortable, exhausted, grossness, wherein I inevitably gain about 60-90lbs. Oh yea, a real sight.
But then, on or around the 6th (or 100th) time that you are convinced that you could not get any bigger or uncomfortable…. There’s a baby. Poof! Snap of a finger! Baby!
(Hardly, but we’ll save THAT experience(s) for another time)
Whether it is by pushing, c-section, or adoption- Having a baby is an unparalleled experience. 6 Million years of procreating has led us to an experience of utter devotion and awe of babies. I am deeply blessed to have three beautiful, healthy babies. Everyday I am thankful for their health and existence.
This post was first written in a dark place in the mama lowlands….about 6 weeks in, when the adrenaline has receded. I felt exhausted, fat, and isolated from friends and the general population of people who didn’t have a newborn gnawing on their poor poor nipp….OK OK OK, happy place, happy place, I’m not there anymore.
No, for realz. This post is intended to give ‘the new Mamas’ a voice. To share with you, a very summarized version of what it’s like in those first few weeks and, hopefully, how you can best be there for that new mama in your orb.
It is overwhelming having a newborn.
In those first few days/weeks the most important thing for Mama to do is to recover from childbirth, which is not a comfortable experience. Mama can hardly walk, is crampy (worst with each pregnancy!) bloody, exhausted, hormonal, and feels like a deflated balloon. She stands in the mirror and wonders if she will ever have a belly button again…
Mama and baby are enamored and mystified with each other. All they want to do is bond and get to know each other in a calm, safe, and quiet environment.
They are trying to figure out breastfeeding, which is emotionally and physically draining and more often than not, pretty tricky. The BEST way for Mama and Baby to figure out the labyrinth of breastfeeding is to have skin to skin contact all day. No joke. No shirts, nakey baby… all. day.
Mama and Baby are both going through a lot and rest is so important.
These things are hard to do even with the simplest of basic human needs like eating and going to the bathroom. Of course if there are other dependents to think about, it is even more complicated. The onset of visitors makes these things near impossible.
I get it, everyone wants to meet the baby, it’s exciting and new, and it’s pretty freaking awesome seeing such a new little human. But take it from me, Mama needs some time.
But how, Anna?! HOW do I help my dear Wife, BabyMama, Daughter, Sister, Friend get through this and know I love her and I’m here for her!
Fear not friend, read on.
Your FRIEND just had a baby
Drop off food: Keep it simple.
Meals that won’t require her to do much/anything and put them in containers that she can throw away or keep. Whole Meals- pesto pasta with vegetables, enchiladas, soup with yummy bread. If she has other kids, make sure you consider the picky eaters…i.e. simple is best. I had a friend who brought me pesto orzo loaded with veggies and feta and then a ziplock bag full of noodles and butter for my older babes (GENIUS)
If meals aren’t possible (or needed) treats like banana bread, oatmeal cookies, muffins, bagels, and good beer are great options.
Be a friend: Mommy-mush-brain is real and she may not be her usual sharp and witty self, cut her some slack and catch her up on the preschool gossip while handing her some trashy magazines and a 6-pack of good beer.
Take care of her other dependents: If she has other kids, take them to the park, offer a play date at your house, or give them a ride(s) to/from school. If no other kids, but a first-child-dog, you guessed it, take that damn dog for a walk.
Your DAUGHTER/DAUGHTER IN LAW just had a baby
(all of the previous, and…)
Help HER: If you are there, help HER. As much as you want to be there just for the baby (don’t deny it…) Mama is the one who needs you. And what does she need you to do?
Pick 1 or ALL of the following- Clean, cook, wash the dishes, take out the trash (there will be lots of trash), tidy up, wash and fold the laundry, go grocery shopping, help with thank you notes, help with the other dependents, and…
Moral Support: Mama is going to be moody and emotional. She is going to keep face for the outside world, but with you, her Mama, she will probably cry, a lot. Its a tricky mix of exhaustion and hormones. Try and recognize when she needs to just let it out and when she may need a little ‘break from baby’. Biology is amazing. As exhausted and overwhelmed as she is, she will not want to separate from baby, if only for 20 minutes! GENTLY offer up “It looks like baby is out for a bit, why don’t you take a shower and rest while I finish folding the laundry.”
Your WIFE/BABYMAMA/PARTNER just had a baby
(all of the previous, and…)
Be her Gladiator: Everyone is going to want to come and see the new baby. We have now learned that endless visitors are not the best thing for mama and baby. Be the gatekeeper! You be the one to tell friends, family, and neighbors when (and when NOT) to come by. When family is mad that they can’t come within an hour of getting home from the hospital, you deal with it…be her flippin gladiator.
Fake it till ya make it: Even if you can’t understand what she has/is going through; even if you love baby but can’t quite bond with it just yet (totally normal in those first few weeks!) Just love both of them. Show her you love her, show her you love baby. Rub her back, listen to her, tell her you love her more than you ever have before. Be in awe of the process.
Show her: 2 words.
No, no, no, don’t roll your eyes. Give her something.
It doesn’t have to be diamonds, or expensive.
Give her something that shows how much you value her experience. A letter or photo-book with memories from her pregnancy and new baby, jewelry, a book of poems, a piece of art, a journal. Give her something that she will be able to have always, to remember this wild and beautiful time.
And Mamas, I promise, it gets easier….and then harder, and then easier again 🙂 Have faith in 6 million years of evolution. It works. Trust your intuitions and if you need help, ASK. Hell, even if you are a stubborn, I can do anything type a gal, ask for help.
As wonderful and hard as it is- feel, remember, be present and enjoy the ride of this fleeting time.