As a new mom, very few things actually made sense to me. The doctors letting me leave the hospital with my baby? Preposterous. Didn't they knew I was utterly clueless? A baby's ability to cry for hours on end? Mind-blowing. Like, how? The size of a tiny newborn's poops? Defies logic. A body that small should not be able to produce waste that big. What did make sense, however, were the people in my life struggling to figure out what to say to a new mom... me. I mean, before I had a kid I had no idea what to say to new moms, either. So when people in my life no longer knew how to communicate with me, aside from the "OMG your baby is so cute" talk, I wasn't surprised. I was, however, in desperate need for more.
It was obvious to me, even in my sleep-deprived state, that people could tell I was struggling. The circles under my eyes were very, very dark, I hadn't really showered in a few days, I hadn't really slept in a few more days, and my ability to complete a single coherent thought was seriously lacking. But it was even more obvious that people didn't really know how to discuss my obvious seat on the struggle bus. They didn't want to offend me, they didn't want to be intrusive, but they didn't want me to feel alone, either. So, more often than not, they would say they were around if and/or when I needed anything.
But that wasn't helpful, because there was no way in hell I could add "reach out to friends and ask for help" to my long to-do list; a list that was already overwhelming. I needed action, not words. I needed someone to just do stuff; to just help me; to just take a look around, assess the situation, and take some damn initiative.
So if there's a new mom in your life, do more. Do more than just tell her you're there when she needs you. Do more than just tell her she can always call you. Do more than just say you're around. In fact, you can start by saying (and doing!) the following things instead:
"I Made Dinner, When Can I Drop It Off?
Be proactive, people! Rather than saying you're available to help, thus putting the onus on the mom to reach out, simply help. Make dinner, then check in to see when you can drop it off. Buy diapers, then check in to see when you can drop them off. Do something that you know is going to be beneficial, then give a head's up so the mom doesn't have to think about anything other than herself and her baby.
"I Know You're Overwhelmed, So I'll Check Back In A Couple Weeks"
Of course, constantly bombarding a new mom isn't ideal, either. Yes, it's wonderful to know that you want to see and hold and love on our babies. And yes, we love having people around to help out... sometimes. But sometimes we just want to be left alone. Sometimes we want to be the only ones to hold our babies. Sometimes we need some solitude so that we can get used to our new normal.
It is wonderful to know that people aren't offended, or that, on top of being a new parent, we don't have to worry about being a good host. Let us know that you see us struggling, you respect that struggle, and you're going to give us some breathing room to adjust to the struggle before ultimately checking back in.
"What Time Works For Me To Come Over For A Bit?"
Again, saying you'll already head over and just checking in on when works best is far better than making the mom reach out. Unrealistic expectations, recovering from childbirth, minimal sleep, overwhelm, and did I mention unrealistic expectations? It all makes it hard for a mom to ask for help. So do the leg work for her. Don't ask if she needs help, just assume she does and ask when you can come over and support her in whatever way she needs.
"Go Take A Nap, I Got This"
This is by far, hands down, the most beneficial thing anyone said to me as a new mom. I vividly remember my mother not asking, or inquiring, or inferring about my needs. Instead, she simply took my crying baby out of my arms and said, "Go take a nap, I got this." I was going on day number four of zero sleep, I was crying, the baby was crying, and I was so exhausted I could barely stand. It was obviously — so, so obvious — that I needed help. So rather than asking me to come to her, my mom came to me, took the baby, and sent me to bed.
"Here Are Three Days That Work For Me. What Works For You?"
Again, be proactive! I mean, are you sensing a theme here? You should be sensing a theme here.
Instead of telling the mom to reach out to you, let her know that you have already blocked off days to come support her and just need her to sign off on a specific date and time. This, again, takes some of the emotional labor off of her. The less she has to think, plan, or otherwise scheme, the better.
"What Can I Clean?"
Don't ask if she needs help cleaning, because, if she's like me, she will probably lie. Just take a look around, assess the situation, and pick up a broom. If things aren't as obvious, don't ask if you can clean, just as what you can clean.
"I'm Taking My Kids To The Zoo, Would You Like Me To Swing By & Pick Up Your Older Child?"
Don't assume that just because a mom has had a child before that she doesn't need help when she has another baby.
Do. Not. Do. It.
If she has an older child, offer to watch them! Offer to take them somewhere fun! Offer to have them come over to your house and play with your kids! It should go without saying that things get easier for moms when they have one less child on their hands.
"No, Seriously. Take A Nap."
Tell her it will help. Make her understand. Explain to her, in her very sleep-deprived state, that she does not have to do everything and be everything for her baby.
Seriously, new mom. Get some sleep! The people in your corner got this.