This here is a Public Service Announcement regarding the dos and don’ts of visiting a new mom.
First and foremost, please remember that although you are anxious to smell that baby’s head and kiss those baby toes, this woman recently spent 1-72 hours getting a 7-11lb human out of her vagina.
Or had the major surgery of a Caesarean Section. Most people tend to gloss over the fact that C-sections are major surgery. Keep these thoughts in the front of your brain.
WHEN TO VISIT: I realize you are busy but ask New Mom when would be a good time for her AND the baby for you to stop by. Visit at THEIR convenience, not yours. If you hear hesitation in her voice, do not push the issue. You will get to meet New Baby soon enough. These two are finding their way around such basics as eating and sleeping. Let them.
WHAT TO BRING: Bring food. Call and ask New Mom what she might like to eat. Food that can be easily reheated and held with one hand is good food. When in doubt, quiches and soups are usually awesome. I’m 99.9% certain, New Baby does NOT need another onsie, blanket, stuffed animal or a copy of Goodnight Moon. If you really want to bring a gift, bring food. If you still want to bring a gift, gift, ASK if New Mom if she needs anything she might have forgotten about.
WHAT TO SAY: You’re pretty in the clear with, “You look great. And the baby is gorgeous. And so smart.” Beyond that, listen. Birth and the first few days can be overwhelming and she may be in awe. Let her recount this amazing story to you. Let her fawn and tell you things about this child like she invented them. Agree with her. About everything. Ask her how she feels and LISTEN. Ask her if she wants to tell you her birth story. OFFER TO WRITE IT DOWN FOR HER. Every mom should write her birth story down, the sooner the better because the details fade. Keep in mind, now is not a good time to recite YOUR birth story.
WHAT NOT TO SAY: If her birth did not go according to plan, for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT SAY, “Well, at least he’s healthy.” While this is true, it completely invalidates her experience. Good friends listen between the tears. If she had a rock star birth, be appropriately amazed. Do not ask her when she plans to return to work, the gym, sex or the girls night out.
WHAT TO DO: Look around and see what needs to be done. Clean the toilet. Do a load of laundry. Ask if anything heavy needs to be moved or lifted. Cook her food. Do the dishes. Vacuum. Do not ask her. Just do it. Ask her if you can hold the baby while she NAPS or SHOWERS. That’s right. These basics go by the way side in the first few weeks of New Baby. Ask her if you can help address/mail announcements or return any gifts or do anything she might need. If she has older kids, ask if you take them somewhere or pick them up from daycare or school.
When in doubt: ASK. And don’t be offended by the answer.
One of the tragedies of current parenting is our loss of tribal community. Many new parents aren’t around extended family and have little support. Many New Moms feel they have to do it all themselves and this starts the slow downhill shuffle of not good enough. In reality, we are meant to help support new moms. Her job should only be feeding, sleeping, healing and loving the hell out the New Baby. Help her do this. That’s what friends do.