I’ve got a soft spot in my soul for new mothers, the first-time kind. The bewildered, shaky, anxious-ridden variety who keep one vigilant eye on the clock (when did the baby last feed?) and one distracted eye on the conversation at hand (sorry, what was that?). The ones who fear the nail clippers. The ones who still disinfect the toys. The ones prone to sweating-and-swearing as they maneuver an oversized stroller into the passenger seat of their Toyota Echo for an entire year before a gentle, seasoned mother shows her the release button that magically folds it in half, perfectly sized for a small trunk.
(Thank you, Cassie.)
I love the moms that slice the grapes into sixteenths. The moms who pray for naptime, count down the hours until naptime, dream all day for naptime, and then, when the blissful hour arrives, they find themselves enslaved to the video monitor – wide-eyed watchdogs, worrying little warriors.
To the questioners, the criers, the Googlers, the doubters: I get you. I was (am) you.
I won’t tell you it gets better, because it just gets different. You find new things to worry over, like dairy intake and ill-fitting bike helmets. Like bullies, like monsters, both real and imagined.
But I do know a few things that helped ease my mind in those early days, and a few ways other women became the salve my muddled heart needed. Behold, 5 ways to help the new mother in your life (even if it’s yourself):
- Offer permission.
Write her a letter, an email, a text. Speak it to her in person. Call her on the phone (or not). Whatever the medium, offer her permission to take as much time as she needs to grow into her new role. Here’s the beautiful way my own friend gave this to me.
- Consider sunsets.
I have never met a mother who did not struggle with a sunset in those bleary-eyed newborn stages. As the night darkens, her anxieties often do the same: Will the baby sleep tonight? Will I? Will nursing hurt again? Can I handle this? For how long? If you think of it, send a text of encouragement as the sun goes down, or for extra credit, show up with chips and guac.
- Bring nourishment.
Vitamin B12 is a proven postpartum savior whether a new mother is battling run-of-the-mill anxieties or a deeper depression. Grab a bottle; she’ll need it. Add everyday staples: coffee, paper plates, Lansinoh cream or healthy snacks for those 3am pantry raids.
- Grant hope.
Give her something to look forward to. Those early days and nights can move like syrup until suddenly, weeks have passed and she finds she hasn’t left the house. Schedule something refreshing for her, whether it’s sending her on a solo stroll through the bookstore or a matinee with her favorite folks. If you have the capacity, consider scheduling a weeknight where you’ll sleep on the sofa and wake up with her baby so she’s guaranteed one night of Zzs (my sweet friends in L.A. house swap every Thursday so the new parents get a full night’s sleep in their quiet house, and the not-yet-parents get to cuddle a baby all night!).
- Don’t ask.
Two of my closest friends are brilliant in this department: when push comes to shove, they’re over with coffee and breakfast sandwiches at the ready. They don’t ask what I need, or how they can help, they just do something. Ken’s mother lives two doors down from us, so when Bee was born, she’d stop by to water the plants, play with the dogs, switch the laundry — all of the mundane tasks that go unseen, but can easily pile up. My personal favorite? Bring a fresh set of sheets to change her bedding, then finish with a spritz of lavender linen spray – both will make the most of the (little) sleep she’ll get.
Tell me, what are your favorite ways to help a new mother? I’d love to add to the list!
p.s. Of note, here’s a space for grieving parents, should you or your friend be walking a far different path. (I am so, so sorry.)