After 16 hours of labor and almost three hours of pushing, I finally gave birth to my daughter. She was perfect in every way, except for her weirdly shaped head. I held her and I cried, suddenly overwhelmed by an indescribable, pure love. The two days at the hospital were a blur, but the moment we left life got very real. Postpartum life is an intimidating, surreal experience. That's why there are a few things a new mom needs to hear when she comes home from the hospital. Hopefully, with a little kindness and support, her loved ones can alleviate some of those feelings of fear and uncertainty.
I remember sitting in the comfortable chair in my daughter's room, holding her and watching her sleep. I remember feeling everything and nothing all at once. I felt love and exhaustion, excitement and apprehension. I wanted to cry and laugh all at once. I remember wondering if I had made the right choice, fully aware of the fact that there was no going back. I recall looking at her beautiful baby cheeks, feeling her little body pressed up against me, inhaling and exhaling ever so gently, and feeling immense calm and anxiety concurrently.
Everyone tried to help. My in-laws cooked a few week's worth of food and froze it into nightly meals. My parents would show up uninvited and help around the house. My mom would try to help me breastfeed and watch my baby while I attempted to nap. Sometimes she was able to ease my mind, and other times she just made me nervous. My friends came with gifts and food and kept me company so I wouldn't completely succumb to the baby blues. I felt loved and supported and yet, still, so very much alone. Now that's I'm a "seasoned" mom of two, nine years later, I now know what new moms want to hear when they come home from the hospital. In fact, I think it would be nice for all new moms to hear the following:
Go ahead and tell the new mom how amazing she did. After all, labor and the delivery was all her. She pushed and properly breathed through the contractions. Although she probably felt like she was being literally sliced open (and if she had a C-section, she was literally sliced open) and her body likely convulsed multiple times, she came out a rockstar. Tell her how proud you are of her and how incredible she is.
Actually, instead of asking this question, just start doing stuff. There's always something to do when you have a newborn. Do the laundry, wash the dishes, cook the dinner, and go grocery shopping. Just do something and tell the mom about it after you're done. Maybe do everything you can and then ask if there is anything else she'd like. The new mom in your life just created and birthed a human, so you can do everything else.
A new mom is beyond exhausted. She has just pushed a human being out of her body and needs a break. Unfortunately, a nap isn't usually in the cards when you're postpartum, but with someone's help, a new mom may actually get in a little nap. Even 30 minutes would feel like the greatest present.
A foot massage, a back rub, and a quiet bath? Check, check, and check. Literally anything will do. Basically, just ask the new mom how you can make her more comfortable in her new environment. Tell her you're here for anything she may need, even if that need is to be left alone.
Food is the key to anyone's heart, but it is especially the key to a new mom's. I didn't have the mental capacity to even think about dinner when I was a new mom, let alone find the time and energy to make it. That's why it was so amazing that my in-laws cooked for us for a little bit. If I had no one to make us any food, we'd probably survive on takeout and delivery, because I couldn't imagine trying to cook with a newborn in the house.
Tell her she is an awesome mom. Tell her she's the best mom that ever lived. Tell her this every day, too, because every day someone will try to tell her the opposite. She will doubt herself, and when she does she will need some reassurance. Motherhood is difficult, especially in a society that pits mothers against each other. So tell her she's incredible daily, because she deserves to hear it.
Of course every mom knows her baby is perfect, but it doesn't hurt to tell us one more time. And to the new mom in your life, her baby is the most beautiful, smartest newborn in the entire world, and you should tell her she is right. Tell her that her child is the greatest child and she will feel the kind of pride only a mom can feel.
Finally, and most importantly, tell her you that understand everything she is feeling and that everything she is feeling is totally normal. Tell her you understand postpartum blues and how much pain she is probably in, and how difficult it is to adjust to the newborn life. Let her know you are there to be her shoulder and her ear. Tell her she has you to count on and that she can turn to you for help. Tell her you are her constant and you'll do anything to make her life easier.
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