Postpartum life can be blissful. After all, you’re probably enjoying lots of warm snuggles with your tiny baby, and OMG don’t they just smell so amazing? Folks will surely flock to you, wanting to see your new bundle of joy. They’ll smile and bring presents and want everything to do with your baby. That same postpartum life can be harsh, though. You’ve been the center of attention during your pregnancy, and now all anyone can do is dote on your newborn. That’s when you realize t there are things you need to hear besides ,“Your baby’s beautiful.”
When my own son was small, and finally home from the hospital, I mostly had people wanting to chat about the new baby. Of course, that’s totally fine. I loved and still love talking about my son. Still, it was kind of a strange experience, to no longer get that same attention I was getting for 40 (more or less) weeks, when I was growing another human being inside my body. People just weren’t asking me about how I was doing, or about my experience, nearly as much as they used to.
Again, I get it. I really do. Newborn babies are hard to ignore, and most people wanted to comment on how beautiful and long my son's eyelashes were (it’s true), or how gorgeous his eyes are (which, yes, they are gorgeous), or how much he looked like his dad (still does). But still, the fact remains that I just went through an unbelievably taxing experience in order to bring those long eyelashes and gorgeous eyes into the world. I didn't want people to ignore my son entirely, but it definitely would have been beneficial to hear people say some of the following things, instead:
"How Are You Feeling? OK, But How Are You Really Feeling?"
Postpartum days can be rough on a formerly-pregnant person. Your hormones are all out of whack and you’re exhausted beyond belief. Not to mention all the risks of developing postpartum depression and/or anxiety. All I really wanted was for people to ask (and really want to know) how I was doing, because sometimes I was OK, and other times I really just needed to talk.
"What Was Your Labor Like?"
I’m pretty sure every postpartum person wants to talk about their labor and delivery experience. Seriously, I could still give you an exact play by play. I don’t know why we enjoy sharing this so much, but for the most part, that’s all I wanted people to ask so I could recount my son's birth over and over again.
"How Is Your Baby Doing?"
My son is cute, and was cute when he was in infant. I think most moms feel that way about their babies. Still, I preferred when people asked me how he was doing rather than just talking about his adorable self.
"How Is Feeding Going?"
This has to be done in a totally non-judgemental way, of course. I hated when people asked if I was still breastfeeding, because my experience was not great. I nearly drove myself to the edge trying to produce more than an ounce of breast milk at a time. But in general, asking how the baby is feeding, and not interjecting your own beliefs, is a good way to go.
"Go Easy On Yourself"
Remind new mamas that they can rely on others. Remind them not to stress so much. Remind them to take time for themselves in those early postpartum days. They need it and they often won’t do it unless people tell them to.
"Do You Need Help With The Baby, Or Absolutely Anything Else?"
YES. OK, but seriously, most new moms want help. They are always behind on everything: groceries, laundry, cleaning, work, sleep, and every other aspect of their life. So if you can volunteer to help out, in any way, by all means.
"I’m Here If You Need Me"
In general, it’s nice to know we can rely on our loved ones in the postpartum days. While we may or may not take you up on it, it’s just good to hear. More than anything, we might just need someone to send 3 a.m. gifs to while we're in the middle of a late-night, early-morning feeding session.
"How Are You Healing?"
This is especially important for moms who experienced any kind of physical birth trauma or who had a c-section. The healing process can take a while, and usually much longer than most folks realize. So for those of us who had some trouble and needed time to recuperate, it was nice to hear people ask this.
"Want Me To Bring Something Over?"
If you want to bring something for the mama or the baby or the household, definitely ask first. Some moms welcome random visitors, others prefer some privacy or notice. Either way, most everyone enjoys getting a gift in those first few months of motherhood (especially edible ones, for the record.)
"You’re Doing A Great Job!"
Please let us know we’re doing well, people. Maybe it seems silly, but we need to hear it. We need to hear that we’re not bad moms, and that we aren’t totally screwing everything up. There’s a lot of insecurity that comes with early parenthood, and a few words of encouragement can seriously go a long, long way.