The aftermath of possibly the most physically and emotionally draining experience of my life, combined with the realization that I was someone's mom, knocked me sideway. Add an onslaught of hormones and a few sleepless nights and, well, I'm not surprised new moms don't feel like themselves after giving birth. I mean, I didn't. Thankfully, there are things friends and family can do for a mom who literally just gave birth; things that can make her feel loved, valued, and cared for; things that can definitely improve that exhausting (and ridiculously blissful) post-baby haze.
I have to admit that, after I gave birth, I didn't really enjoy my post-baby hospital experience. While I appreciate and respect the hard work that nurses do, in my particular experience I felt that some personal care was missing. Instead of feeling unique and valued (or at least like a patient that was being professionally tended to) I felt like I was on the "new mom conveyor belt," just going down a mechanic line until it was my time to leave.
For example, some of the advice I was given was patronizing and dismissive of my life experience (particularly my career in baby care). It was actually suggested by one cranky nurse that my husband (who happens to be disabled) wasn't going to be able to hold our baby properly. Obviously we were very unhappy with this blatant ableism and her failed attempt to set limits on what my husband can and can't do. Needless to say, we couldn't wait to get out of there and, after making a formal complaint about our treatment, we hightailed it home.
Rather than the prejudice views and condescension my partner and I, unfortunately, experienced I would loved to have had more people doing the following things:
Right after giving birth, many women feel emotional and a little out of control. Be her best advocate by helping her get the right advice on a range of issues, from breastfeeding to leaving the hospital to getting the best pediatric care for her baby.
Listen to her wishes and help her to get the support she needs.
Make sure she gets adequate nutrition. I mean, this is honestly postpartum care 101, my friends. I was famished after giving birth and demanded every visitor brought me something good to eat. After all, recovering and making breast milk worked up quiet the appetite.
Almost everyone says congratulations after a baby is born, which is usually followed up about how adorable or cute the baby is. That's all well and good, to be sure, but don't forget to praise the mama, too. After all, she's the one who did all the hard work, regardless of how she choose (or ended up) giving birth.
Make sure she realizes how amazing she truly is and what an accomplishment it was to bring her baby safely into the world. That's a big freakin' deal.
You guys, making "padsicles" is really easy. Here's how you go about it:
Take a maxi pad, open it up, and smear it with aloe and a drop of witch hazel. Then, fold it back up, reattach the wrapper, and cover it in cling wrap. Last step? Freeze.
These DIY postpartum pads are the most wonderful and amazing gift you could possibly give a new mom. Seriously, you will become her new favorite person (other than her baby, of course).
Life with a newborn is not an ideal situation to be toiling over a hot stove, making meal after meal. Help make those first few weeks easier by cooking up a batch of meals and freezing them for her.
After a long day of newborn care and labor and delivery recovery, sitting down to eat a meal a dear friend has made for you makes you feel all warm and gooey inside.
Everyone wants to hold the baby, but hardly anyone offers to empty the dishwasher or do a load of laundry. It's too bad, honestly, because these things truly can help a mom stay neutral and not feel overwhelmed.
You can buy her a gift certificate for professional cleaner (if you can afford it), or you can just turn up with supplies and tell her to go rest while you get to work. Either way, I guarantee you, you're making her day.
Sadly, right after my son was born I resisted more than a few helpful attempts (made my friends and family members) to help me get some much-needed sleep. I thought they would think I wasn't capable or that it was rude to go to bed when visitors came round.
However, my exhaustion eventually caught up with me and once I let a family member care for my baby while I grabbed a nap I felt so much better. I wished I had allowed them to help beforehand.
New parenthood comes with a lot of feelings and conflicting emotions. Sometimes new moms just need someone to listen to them. Don't offer any advice, give unsolicited suggestions, or relate it to your own life experiences. Instead, simply sit quietly, listen, and maybe over a hug.
While every mother is different and every experience unique, it's also important to let new moms know they're not alone. So, with that in mind, take the time to remind the new mom in your life that everything she is feeling is normal and she will start to feel like herself again before too long.
(If what she's feeling isn't "normal," and you see the signs of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, remind her that many women experience both, too. Then, of course, help her get the help she needs and deserves.)