Let’s just cut the crap right away, shall we?
For every doe-eyed mom claiming she feels absolutely terrific post-delivery as she lovingly caresses the pink, pudgy cheeks of her newborn baby, there are hundreds of others who, like me, were frazzled, ripping their hair out, and wearing heavy under-eye baggage for months.
We are the ones truly shell-shocked by the horrors of newborn reality—the crying and sleeplessness, the sudden snappiness between the very in-love partners who created this miracle creature, and the lack of time to do anything short of taking a pee.
Consider this a how-to guide for what not to do when visiting a zombie mom in this fragile state. I could’ve used this when our son was born. I would’ve sent it to every single person who wrote or called asking, "When can I come hold the baby?" Hold the baby? Really? That’s your best offer? Honey, honey, honey, you’re going to have to do better than that.
When I was first wrangling our wrinkly-skinned, eight-pounder, I was barely staying afloat in a treacherous sea of unknowns. For instance, my gut told me I didn’t want to see another human being unless they were visiting to a) feed me, b) not give me any shreds of advice, or c) send me away for a nap as they miraculously calmed our colicky child.
New moms don’t need someone to pop by and hold the baby. They need help. Blood, sweat, and tears kind of help.
How can you help, you ask? Good question. From the trenches to you, these are my top eight ways for making life easier for a new mama.
1) Give the poor woman a break! Make your friend a meal or, even better, stock her freezer up with pre-made eats. Do not, under any circumstance, arrive empty-handed and expect the woman who just pushed out a watermelon-sized human being to be your hostess. This happened to me. No joke. It sucked.
2) Bring your love, but for heaven’s sake, leave your ‘sage’ parenting advice at the door. From grandparents and friends with children to friends without kids and nosy strangers on the street, when a woman has a fresh baby in tow, suddenly everyone is an expert. Guess what? All that unsolicited advice is annoying and, in most cases, unwanted. Put a lid on it.
3) Bring a pampering treat. Instead of showing up with yet another onesie, consider arriving with a small present for the mama whose every source of pampering and leisure—including five-minute showers—has been abruptly flushed down the toilet amid a cross-fire of round-the-clock feedings. Some homemade muffins, store-bought cupcakes, or a bottle of (no, not booze) delicious smelling bath suds would be nice.
4) Don’t expect lively banter. If you can imagine a car being drained of all its gasoline and then being expected to undertake a cross-country road trip all uphill, that gives you an idea about the extreme exhaustion that comes with motherhood. When I became a mom, I didn’t have the guts to turn visitors away, yet I resented many of them crowding my space, overstaying their welcome, and expecting me to chat like old times, while offering them coffee and snacks. Keep visits short and sweet.
5) You want to see the post-baby glow, do you? Well go stare at shiny stock photos to get your fix of ideal motherhood bliss. The refreshed image of mom doting over her perfect little newcomer is about as mythical as the B.C. Sasquatch. Rare sightings of this large, hairy creature are reported, few people really believe them. In fact, I’d have an easier time believing in a Sasquatch than fresh-faced poster gals in new mom ads, which frankly irritate the hell out of me.
6) Allow mom to gripe. Yes, the recent arrival may look like the perfect TV-baby sleeping peacefully in her crib when you arrive, but when mom needs to vent about the marathon obstacle course she is currently on or her struggles with her fussy baby, by all means, let her vent and generously offer your sympathy. Never ever, under any circumstance, look down at the baby and say these words: "I don’t believe it—he/she is an angel. He/she would never do that!" In retrospect, I wish I'd kicked those people out of the house straight away.
7) While we’re on the topic of what not to say, ditch the whole, "Is he/she sleeping through the night?" question, will ya? No, he/she is not. Anyone who tells you their newborn is enjoying eight-hours of straight slumber is probably lying and most definitely not feeding their newborn enough. Trust me, nobody wants to hear about how your little Amber or Jake began sleeping through the night at three weeks of age. Stuff it.
8) I would’ve given my right foot to hear the magic words, "I’ve got this," in my darkest hours after trying every trick I’d read in every book to get our child to nap and/or stop crying. Imagine this—a trusted friend or relative coming over and putting no expectations on you. This person is only there to give you some "me time," during which you can do whatever the heck you want—nap, sleep, chow down like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet, or stare at the walls blankly—as they look after your beloved child for a precious hour or two. Next time someone you care about has a child, remember these words: "I’ve got this."
Baby + Toddler + Coffee: Is This What Your Life Looks Like?
From preconception to the teen years—a hysterical visual journey through motherhood.