How to Support a PostPartum Mom
We made it, better than I ever thought possible, through the first month postpartum with our tribe of three little men 5 & under. Every mom experience is different, but I have definitely found the transition from 2-3 kids much easier than the transition from 1-2. God's grace abounds, your heart expands. I think it was a combination of the timing, I would pick a summer baby over any other season; the spacing, our oldest 2 boys are occupied as best playmates all day, every day; the experience, my recovery from this birth was by far the easiest, I barely felt my milk come in, & my body felt like autopilot for both birth recovery & breastfeeding, and most importantly; drum roll....the support. We have been inundated with help from both of our loving families, and our amazing local community who welcomed this baby with open arms. No one can (sanely) do this alone. This freely given support filled me with an overwhelming gratitude that inspires a mission to ensure every woman enters the 4th trimester with the latter.
But how can I pull off the mission to return the love? A wise friend recently advised that there will come a time when I can pay it forward, and I promise myself to deliver!...but for now this little blog post is my way of contributing to the sanity of my fellow postpartum moms, and will become my personal go to list for any new mom I personally encounter! Yes, we no longer raise our babies in villages with our extended family on hand, our maternity leaves are not endless surrounded by fellow females all at home, our husbands have to go back to work, but we can make the most of our modern lifestyle to build a supportive community for our moms and babies to thrive in. In the cocoon of postpartum bliss, every hour is focused on infant survival for the new mom, and every hour is an opportunity to support.
I was lifted up day after day during this time, in not always grandeur ways, but through simple and loving support. Here are the best things that others did to help create such a smooth and positive transition. My hope is for every new baby we see in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, moms groups or whatever community's, we consider this list for their tired mama:
1. Make her family a meal. Highlight, italicize, underline this. Its definitely a top priority for postpartum moms. Find out if she has a meal train set up, and offer to set one up for her if she doesn't. If she declines, kindly impose. Learn the unwritten law that says every new mom's family should be provided meals. Doesn't matter if its baby #1, #3, or # 6, gather your tribe to sign up as many people as possible to help prepare meals. Anytime in the first few months is best. Have you heard how ancient (& I believe some modern) cultures don't allow the new mom to get out of bed for the first month! The least we can do is make sure she doesn't have to cook.
2. Watch her other kids. I would never dream to ask a friend to watch my kids so I could take a nap with my baby. That would be ridiculous, everyone has their hands full...I could just put on a movie or wait until my husband comes home...but my friends have taught me how necessary, beautiful and mentally life saving it is when my other kids are out of the house for a few hours. This is new to me but I found the best tactic to be to text her the day of (you cant think of plans beyond the hour in the early weeks), and tell her you are in the area and would love to take your other kids to the park. Tell her it would be great for your kids too or that you want to see her kids. Make it as easy as possible. Don't offer to watch them at her own house, she wants an hour of silence with just her baby. (I was able to write my birth story the first week postpartum while my 2 other kids were at their grandparents :)
3. Do her household chores. This might be the toughest for someone to do, or for the mom to accept or ask for, but for me at least, one of the most needed. Maybe while you bring her a meal you can suggest she sneak upstairs for a little nap while you straighten up a bit...you can do some moderate straightening of the toys, sweep the floors & empty the kitchen sink. Or if she's willing to suggest a specific chore like the laundry, go for it! I think experienced moms are the best at this, my mom basically cleans my whole house on her post partum visits :)
4. Bring over a surprise treat for her. - iced latte, chocolate bar, ice cream...this was my favorite! I'd get a text at 9 or 10am from a friend, I'm on my way to Dunkin, can I pick up a coffee for you? YES! I held that iced coffee or twix bar all day long and felt so. loved. Throw in a love note with bible verses to top it off. When she's mostly glued to your house with her newborn this little treat will make her day!
5. Gently remind her to rest. She is already exhausted and dying to rest, but the paradox of our modern lifestyle of productively can make us feel bad or guilty for resting...even after having a baby! Its easy to feel the pressure even early on, and it can be hard for us as modern women to learn this lesson. I have personally found it validating and reassuring to hear rest reminders. Remind her to just focus on drinking fluids, (lots of them, at least a glass of water with every feeding) to limit her activity, (she should limit stairs in the early days) and to just focus on her baby. Gently say, I hope you're just sitting on your couch staring at your baby all day :) Help give her permission to do nothing other than what she should be doing - enjoying and nurturing her newborn.
6. Affirm her motherhood. Text & praise her affirmations. All day, every day ;) Tell her, "You are doing such a wonderful job with your new one!" "Your baby looks beautiful." "Great job transitioning with your baby!" "I love seeing pictures of your baby!" etc...we can all use a little words of affirmation as our love language in the postpartum days :)
Let's do this! Our postpartum moms need all the love and added little joys they can get. Because no matter if its her first or tenth, like this lovely picture, her hands are full ;)