I have a confession. Caring for a newborn while recovering from childbirth while never sleeping more than 90 minutes at a time while serving as a round-the-clock drink dispenser is HARD.
Add in some crazy hormones and, well, it can be a little overwhelming.
Hello understatement of the year.
These past three weeks as a first-time mama have yielded some wonderful, precious moments of cuddling a content newborn against my chest, inhaling her new baby scent, of watching my sweet husband love on this itty bitty thing that we created together and kissing those tiny baby toes. The past three weeks have also brought me to the edge of a nervous breakdown, making me cry more tears than I knew was humanly possible. I have never been more tired, more run down, more worried and more unsure of myself than ever before.
Obviously I’m rocking this motherhood thing… about 20 percent of the time. The rest of the time – when this cute baby was refusing to eat, crying hysterically in the middle of the night, or I was waking up drenched from hormonal night sweats while hurting in places I didn’t know could hurt… well, that’s a different story.
That’s where our friends and family stepped in and helped keep me sane. Being a new mama means that every ounce of energy you have goes to caring for (and feeding) that adorable baby. It helps to have other people who want to care for (and feed) you so you can take care of your baby. In that spirit, here are some ways to love and care for a new mom:
1. Offer to come watch the baby so she can sleep. This is by far the greatest gift folks gave me – friends, family, heck, at some point I would have welcomed a stranger off the street. They graciously offered to simply snuggle the baby so that I could take a 2-hour nap… uninterrupted, not worrying about every little peep she made. After several sleepless nights in a row, two hours of uninterrupted sleep is one of the sweetest things on earth.
2. Bring snacks. Right after we came home from the hospital, some friends of ours came to visit and brought an entire gift bag full of snacks for me to eat while breastfeeding. Since the rumors are true – you really do drink like a camel and have the hunger of a lion – and you’re living in a fog where things like feeding yourself move to the bottom of the priority list, having a bag full of granola bars, fish crackers, wheat thins, and even candy (for those especially hard moments) handy to grab during a middle-of-the-night feeding helps so much.
3. Bring take-out. I’m one of those who feels guilty when I bring a new mom take-out because by the time I get off work, make the dinner and deliver it, it would be 9:00 p.m. and no new mom wants to eat at 9:00. So, I typically just offer to pick up take-out from the restaurant right next to my work that carries EVERYTHING. Turns out – it’s a welcome treat. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if someone brings a home-cooked meal or something from McDonald’s, it’s just nice to not have to worry about feeding yourself, and I have welcomed the company on days where I was starting to get stir crazy. So go ahead, don’t feel guilty about not cooking. Mama cares more about having an adult conversation anyway.
4. Send an encouraging note/email/text/Facebook message, and don’t expect a response. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have been blessed with so many notes of encouragement over these past three weeks. Folks have told me they’re praying for me. A friend I haven’t seen since high school told me that the best thing I can do to keep from getting run down is to keep myself fed and hydrated. Others sent encouragement about breastfeeding, told me about their own experiences with raging hormones, and shared that they had been there and knew exactly what I was going through… and told me that soon things would get easier. Those notes, which I usually read in the middle of the night, were so helpful. For most, I didn’t even have the mental energy to reply, but know that they meant SO much to this overwhelmed mama. So go ahead – send some encouragement, and don’t be offended if you don’t get a response back. Soon that mama will emerge from her fog and act like a normal human again.
5. Tell her she’s doing a good job. And that soon, things will get easier. And that she’s normal. (It’s also a good idea to tell her husband that she’s normal… I’m thankful for a few people who told Mr. Right what to expect so he wasn’t surprised to wake up to baby and mama both crying during a 3:00 a.m. feeding).
In the meantime… things seem to be settling down a little and we’re starting to see glimpses of a routine. Yesterday I rocked her to sleep while singing along to lullabies on my Pandora station and had one of those “so THIS is motherhood” moments that made my heart swell. I got a mommy massage and Mr. Right gave her her first bottle (a success!). We spent yesterday making funny faces at each other and doing tummy time and she “supervised” while I quilted (meaning, she slept in her portable seat-thingy). She even slept in her nursery for the first time last night (a huge accomplishment for me… I’m not sure she noticed the difference).
This motherhood thing is already getting SO MUCH BETTER.
Mamas – what other ways did people love and care for you after you brought baby home? Share your ideas in the comments section so we can bless the next new mom.