How To Help A New Mom

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Major life transitions are times when we may need help and advice the most. Big changes, even happy, positive ones like getting married, starting a new job, beginning college, entering retirement, can be stressful moments in our lives. This is probably most apparent with the transition into parenthood. I do not have children, but the experiences of friends, clients and the Look Who’s Talking movie franchise have shown me that for new parents, every moment and decision is like stepping into a great unknown. And yet there remains one unequivocal, knowable truth: it is really hard and you can use all the help you can get. Since I do not have my own experiences to draw on, and I have learned that people with babies do not like it when you compare parenthood to pet ownership, I reached out to some of my baby-raising friends to find out what was most helpful for them in those first few months with a new baby, and what help or advice could they have used and wish they had asked for. To all of the lovely women who responded, thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom, and for letting me make goofy faces at your babies and smell the tops of their heads (why do babies’ heads smell so good?).

Here is what they had to say:

Nina (mom to an adorable, bright-eyed little girl who is a little over a year old and is surprisingly well behaved when hanging out in a rock climbing gym)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“My mom’s support. I had a fair amount of anxiety and depression that I didn’t realize right away. She was a great listener and encourager. Newborns are a lot of work their only ‘word’ is crying, so an actual human saying ‘you are a good mom’ when you feel like you don’t know what you are doing–or worse, failing to meet some absurdly impossible standard your brain has tricked you into believing–was really affirming and emotionally helpful. My mom’s a smart lady so she also encouraged me to see a psychologist and I am so glad I did.

Also cooked meals! Cook a mom some meals.”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I think just ask [my husband] or someone else to watch the baby for a longer chunk of time so I could be non-mom Nina…especially on my maternity leave, it was a lot of baby work and I could have benefitted from more time to do the things I did for fun before I became a mom.”

 

Naomi (mom to a plucky 4 year old girl and a 10 month old boy with the greatest natural hairdo I have ever seen on a baby)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“A friend came over a couple of times to help hold, entertain and occupy the baby while I was able to pickup around the house, do dishes, laundry and general clutter removal that eats away at me if I stare at it long enough! She also brought lunch for us and cleaned up after we were done eating, so it was one less thing I had to think about….Another way [she] helped was to meet me to go on a walk, to get fresh air (and much needed coffee!) during those first weeks being a mom. Having adult conversation and fresh air was more critical than I ever realized.

Any sort of household help during those first few weeks and months was so appreciated for me as I’m the type of person that gets stressed out when things around the house get cluttered, messy, dirty, etc. But being so tired and still figuring out the new routine, it was hard to find the time to do them while I was the only one at home with a newborn.

My sister-in-law brought us a basket of healthy, easy to grab snacks to keep in the house–granola bars, trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, crackers. Some mornings that’s all you have time to eat, whatever’s handy and can be eaten with one hand. Another friend made us ham and cheese sandwiches on hamburger rolls that she individually wrapped up and froze. They were easy to defrost in the microwave in 30 seconds and that ensured I had a warm, easy lunch at my fingertips. I was so sad when they were finished!”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I would have loved if someone was able to come over and be with the baby while I went out and shopped for groceries, clothes, etc. Just having a little while to myself, by myself, would have been huge. It is quite a transformation that you go through after having the baby and being home with them. Before and while pregnant, I was able to go anywhere at anytime. Once the baby arrived, you’re tethered to a new human with so many needs and so much stuff! Sometimes, I just wished I could up and leave the house in 5 minutes, when I decided it was convenient for me, if there was someone who was willing to babysit.

I would add making sure you have frozen meals at the ready. We made it a point to have soups, casseroles, pasta dishes, etc. prepared and ready to reheat, before the baby was born so that the evening routine was easy as well. By that time of day, you don’t want to think about what to have for dinner – you just want to have it done! So, if we hadn’t made our own, I would have loved it if others had done this for us. We just got lucky and had time to make meals the month before we were due!”

Liz (mom of a wily and wonderful 6 year old girl, a sweetly shy, but wild-haired almost 4 year old boy, and a smiley little one year old fella)

What was something helpful that someone did for you after you had a baby?

“After Baby #3, folks gave us frozen homemade healthy meals. It was great! I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate them at that point in life. With the first two babies, life was still manageable. We could still make dinners, or could “cheat” that night, and order take-out for us. It was after #3 came that I had to plan healthy meals for not just for us, but now for two growing young children! I’m embarrassed to admit how many times we served cereal for dinner!  Another helpful thing was being given disposable Tupperware. And honestly, it was only after having #3 that I got into this situation, and realized that I needed the help in the kitchen!”

What help could you have used and wish you had asked for?

“I have a lot of help from family, I’m lucky to have many relatives within an hour’s drive. However, one thing that I would have loved to have had was more help with household chores. It’s great to have family come over with the intent of helping, but their help was to hold the baby, relieving me so that I could get the chores done. It was great to have another set of hands to help (no one likes a crying infant) but I wish I could have been more direct with requests such as helping me fold laundry, helping me do the floors, or just putting dishes in the dishwasher for me.”

 

I also reached out to one of my wonderful clients, a single mom with a 6 month old son who has the sweetest grin you will ever see and has already spent some time on my massage table alongside his mama! Here is what she had to share:

“In the first two weeks the thing that was most helpful was having someone, my mom in my case, just make sure I was cared for. I remember crying exhausted tears of appreciation when she did the laundry and I had clean clothes to put on. As a nursing mom, I felt literally pinned to the couch for hours on end. She made sure I had water and snacks. Once my mom left I had some support in the evenings so I could go to sleep for two or three hours. I don’t know how I would have survived without that. I wish I had asked for those sleep breaks from the beginning. It was difficult because I wanted my tiny little newborn with me at all times, but I was so exhausted. I also wish I had asked people to bring me food. Once I was left alone with the baby and he was still having those marathon nursing sessions, I was often going all day without eating.”

 

So there you have it. If you know someone who is getting ready to have a new, little human enter her life and you are wondering how best to help: food, sleep, household help and a little sense of normalcy appear to be the keys to a new mom’s heart. Thank you again to all of these wonderful women for opening up and allowing us this useful peek into life with a new baby!

For any new moms out there who are struggling, hang in there, and reach out for help. I leave you with this additional bit of wisdom from Nina:

“It’s hard, but so good. It got better when I stopped worrying if I was doing it ‘right’.”

 

 

{Photo: Me as a baby, hanging out with my mom}

 

 

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