I was so flattered to be asked to guest blog over at Modern Man of the Cloth, for my post entitled “What a New Mom Wants from You“. This post was mainly directed towards the Father figure/partner in the Mom’s life. I really enjoyed writing things from that perspective, and was very appreciative of the offer to guest post for him. As a result of that post, I got another amazing offer.
The wonderful Mama from Mama Miller Parenting contacted me with a great idea. Why not have the two of us collaborate to come up with a two part blog post, covering what a new mom wants from friends/family who visit after a new baby is born? I would cover “The Field Guide to Visiting a New, First Time Mom”, while she (a soon to be Mama of three) would cover “The Field Guide to Visiting a New, Veteran Mom”. Two different views, from two different women. I jumped at the idea, and wrote her almost immediately with scattered thoughts and ideas.(I shamefully admit she seems much more organized than I do when it comes to blogging).
Be sure you pop over to read her take on things here: “The Field Guide to Visiting a New, Veteran Mom“.
1) Call before you pop over for a visit.
I get it. There’s a new baby and everyone wants to meet her/hold her/fawn over her. As a new Mama, she wants everyone to fawn over her baby, too. But she also would like to have notice that she should put on a bra, some clothes that aren’t covered in baby puke/shit, shower (since she likely hasn’t in a few days and smells like be aforementioned baby puke/shit mixed with the stench of hormonal changes we experience post-birth as mentioned here). Plus, do you know what she hasn’t had time to do lately? Clean. At least not to her prior standards. So yes, a call would be nice, with at least a couple of hours notice.
2) When you come over, surprise her with something she just might need.
She likely hasn’t fed herself properly all day (or all week for that matter), hasn’t had a chance to run to the store, and is running low on both the essentials and her sanity. Not sure what to surprise her with? Here are a few ideas: Her favourite coffee/tea, some basic groceries (think a loaf of bread and some milk), her favourite chocolate bar or snack, a rotisserie cooked chicken from the grocery store so she has one part of dinner looked after. Heck, if you’re SUPER close to her, pick her up some hemorrhoid cream, overnight maxi pads, or lanolin cream for her surely cracked and bleeding nipples. As tempting as it is, DO NOT BRING HER FLOWERS. It’s just one more thing she has to look after (which is the last thing she needs) and they will likely suffer a quick death.
3) Do not make any comments on her appearance.
If you have called and given appropriate notice and she still looks/smells less than stellar, don’t say anything. Sway away from comments like “Oh you look exhausted!”, or “I’ve never seen you without makeup” and especially “Are those maternity pants you’re still wearing?”. You’re lucky she even managed to get up and answer the door for you, so shut up and focus on the precious baby. PS – the same advice goes for the state of her house. Pretend you don’t notice the mess. If you do notice it, and it bothers you that much, she’d much rather have you clean it than hear your opinions about it.
4) Keep your visit short.
She’s tired, and likely not really up for entertaining. Don’t hold it against her if she forgets to offer you a drink or take your coat. If she keeps looking at her watch, don’t take offense. She’s probably caught up with trying to remember the last time the baby was fed or pooped. Don’t overstay your welcome, unless you plan to be helping out around the house.
5) If you’re sick, don’t come.
Even if it’s just a little sniffle. A new baby is susceptible to germs, and the effects on a tiny human are much greater than on an adult body. If you’re even the slightest bit sick, or have been making out with a sick person, or even breathing the same air as a sick person, postpone your visit. It is not worth the health of the baby, and the mother doesn’t want to be the bad guy who says “You’re sick? Sorry you can’t hold the baby”. On the same note, if you do come over to visit please wash your hands before handling the kid. It might sound like overkill to you, but it’s just plain smart and respectful.
6) Can it with the unsolicited advice.
If she’s asked you for your thoughts, opinions or suggestions by all means advise away. But if she hasn’t asked, don’t offer. She might not be perfect yet, but she has to learn about her child’s cues all on her own, and she will. Both she and the baby are new to this, and they are learning together.
One great example of this is how she chooses to feed her baby. If she is breastfeeding/bottle feeding, she doesn’t need your advice on why the other choice is better. She’s made her decision so just support her in it. If she is breastfeeding and is having difficulty with it (as I did), she does not need to be inundated with 6,537 pieces of advice on things to try, stuff to take, etc. Chances are if she’s made this decision she has already been in touch with her doctor, a public health nurse or a lactation consultant for information. Hearing over and over and over about other things to try and how it was “easy” for this person because they did “this”, just makes her feel even more stressed out. And guess what? Being stressed makes breastfeeding EVEN HARDER!
Again, the best rule of thumb is to keep it to yourself unless she asks for your advice.
7) Don’t tell her that her birth must have been easy.
It’s the question that always follows meeting a new baby. People want to know how the birth went. It’s fine to ask, and most Mama’s I know don’t mind telling their birth story at all. Just don’t follow up with things like “Oh your birth was only 20 hours? I wish! Mine was 53 hours!”. Seriously. Whether it was 1 hour, 20 hours, or 53 hours – it all is painful and it all sucks. Don’t try to minimize what she went through or felt. Empathize, share your story if you like, but don’t tell her what she went through was “easy” in comparison. Nothing about giving birth is easy. We’re all just as tough as the other to have gone through what we did, no matter the process, length of time, or outcome.
8) Don’t complain about how tired you are in front of her.
I’m sure some of you are wondering if that’s really necessary to include, but it is. Trust me. I came off of a 47 hour labour and delivery, followed by nearly a week in the hospital with a baby who was really jaundiced, so I wasn’t sleeping most of those nights either out of sheer worry for the health of my baby. The second or third night I was home, I got a phone call from someone. We chatted for a bit, and they then complained to me about how tired they were because the neighbours had a party till 1am the night before. They only got to sleep from 1am till 9am, so they were “exhausted”. Looking back, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t tell them to stuff it and then hang up the phone. I probably should have. So yes, just don’t even bring it up as a topic of conversation. It won’t end well.
9) Offering to babysit.
I’m torn on this one. Since my girl is a toddler now, I’m all for having people babysit her (family at least). But when she was first born I was literally overwhelmed by the number of people that offered to babysit for me. Some of these people I wasn’t even close with, and the thought of leaving her with these people sent me into panic attacks. Heck, the first time I decided to leave her with my own mother so my fiance and I could go to a movie, it took me 45 minutes to leave the house, I hyperventilated a bit, checked my phone every 5 minutes and cried. So chances are if she hasn’t come right out and asked you if you’d be willing to babysit in the future, you are best served finding another way to help.
Need some suggestions? Offer to come over and sit long enough for her to shower or take a one hour power nap (she might feel less anxious about leaving the baby if she knows she’s still under the same roof). If you’re close enough, and she’s comfortable with letting you, offer to come over and help her with the dishes or the laundry that is piling up. Heck, if you’re rolling in the dough and you want to gift her the ultimate help, buy her a maid/cleaning service for the first month she is home with the new baby.
10) If she’s coming to visit you, remember to greet her as well as the baby.
It takes a lot for a new Mom to get it together enough to trek to your place for a visit. She has to think if she’s got enough diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, toys, etc. Chances are she is paranoid and has grossly over packed her bag, which makes it ridiculously awkward to carry around. She probably had to start getting ready 2-3 hours before her time of arrival just to be sure she got there on time. So when she gets there and hears “Oh there she is! Look at that sweet little one. We’ve been waiting for you to get there!”, then sees that you’ve whisked away the baby into the house and left her at the doorstep alone, it is kind of a slap in the face. She put in the effort to come see you, the least you could do is acknowledge her existence as well. It happened to me more than once, and left me feeling like the person couldn’t care less that I took the time to come see them. Yes, we all know the new baby is the star of the show. But don’t leave the new Mama feeling like she’s invisible.
11) If she’s breastfeeding, be aware that she might be modest.
I was never really a super modest person, so this wasn’t as big an issue for me as it can be for some. Breastfeeding for a new Mom is hard. Likely at first, it is hard to tell if baby is latched properly unless you can physically see that your nipple is going in the baby’s mouth correctly. This makes nursing with a cover difficult for a new Mom (until she’s got the hang of things). Also, every new Mom I know has one particular “spot” in the house that is her comfort zone for nursing. Don’t know what I mean? Think of Sheldon and his “spot” on the Big Bang Theory. This spot is sometimes essential for a relaxed Mama and a successful feeding. Maybe that spot for her is in her chair, smack dab in the middle of her living room. Be aware that there is potential for her feeling modest about exposing her breast. If it is time for a feed, it is perfectly fine for you to ask the Mama if she’s comfortable with you being in the same room while she feeds, or if she would prefer privacy. For me, I didn’t care and just fed my kid. I felt if they were uncomfortable seeing my boob that was their problem, not mine. For some new Mom’s, however, it could be a make it or break it situation as far as feeding goes.
12) Don’t complain to her about how she’s “changed”.
Becoming a Mom changes you. Hot pants are traded in for sweat pants. Make up caked on your face is traded in for baby food caked on your face. Vacations with the girls down south are traded in for escaping to the grocery store by yourself. Is it a complete change? Yes. Does she miss some of her life from before? Probably some aspects of it, yes. Would she trade in her kid for any of it? Never. Complaining to her about how she isn’t fun anymore since she’s become a Mom is a surefire way to ruin your friendship. Her kid will always take precedence over a friend who doesn’t “get it”.
So, if you’re a Mama to be and are worried some people won’t follow the not so subtle hints I’ve written in the Field Guide to Visiting a New, First Time Mom, feel free to forward this along to them. It might save you the trouble of looking like a crazy person (I’ll gladly look like that person for you). If you have any other points to add, feel free to leave them in the comments section!
And don’t forget to visit part two of this post – The Field Guide to Visiting a New, Veteran Mom written by Mama Miller Parenting.
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