I think it’s safe to say that when you have a baby, the personal relationships in your life change drastically, or at least they did for me. Best friends who were always around didn’t stop by (some have only met my kids once or twice, if that), the phone stopped ringing, and the support system I assumed I would have wasn’t there. It was indeed eye-opening for me both times I had children who offered meaningful help, and for the most part, it wasn’t people I was that close to. It was women who were already moms. The women who had felt and lived through all the things I was now experiencing. People who knew how hard the transition into motherhood could be, especially that first time around. Even if someone makes it look easy or like they have it all under control, it’s still important to show up for them.
I had a C-Section with both of my babies, so recovery was intense and painful. It was hard to do even the simplest tasks like get up from the bed, take a shower, hold the baby, and comfortably breastfeed. I was lucky enough to have my mom for a week or so after both boys were born, but then she had to head back to Oregon. She would cook for me, wash laundry, hold the baby, bring me tea, tell me to rest, all without ever being asked to do a thing. And that is what a new mom needs. She shouldn’t have to ask. I got tons of texts from people saying congratulations, thinking of you, or let me know if you need anything. But, I didn’t even know where to begin with what I needed. Help with everything, some sleep, a warm meal, someone to hold the baby for an hour or two. And, when Paolo was born, I needed help with Costa. Getting him out of the house and distracted while I tried to heal and connect with a newborn. The new mom should not have to ask for help. We should just help her. Especially because asking for help is not easy for everyone (I know it’s not for me), often people don’t want to be a burden. During that phase, even the thought of having to call someone to ask for help made me breakdown. We are raw and vulnerable and depleted; we need someone to step up and help without being asked. We need someone just to be there, to offer calm, quiet support as we process the intense changes we are going through and start feeling like ourselves again.
So, the next time you want to get a new mom the best present ever, give her the gift of support. Don’t text her and tell her to let you know if she needs anything. Call her and tell her you are coming over to hold the baby for a couple of hours and make her a nourishing meal; what day is best? Tell her you are dropping off some soup, lactation cookies, and a bag of healthy groceries. Tell her you are coming over in the morning so she can shower, and while the baby sleeps, you can blow dry her hair. Tell her that you are coming over to help fold some laundry, wash any dirty dishes, and make dinner. Tell her you are coming over because you want to see her and spend time with the baby. If you live out of town, order her groceries, send her dinner from her favorite local restaurant, or pay for a postpartum doula to come over for a few hours. There are so many things you can do to offer meaningful help and support. Don’t assume that she has it covered and that the people closest to her are handling it all because most of the time, they are not. I know so many women who experienced the same thing when they had a baby, and, for many, it sent them into an even deeper postpartum depression. It was traumatizing. They felt alone and heartbroken that the people they thought were the closest to them suddenly weren’t there anymore.
We need to show up for the people we care about, and that means making it a priority. Show up, be available, be dependable, check-in, make a phone call, and connect. It will make a world of difference, and that mom will be forever grateful.