pregnancy and parenthood

The best way to help a new mom

I was that new mom who cringed every time someone offered to hold him so that I could attempt to sleep. I was that new mom whose anxiety soared when someone tried to touch my dirty laundry and dishes. And I still am the mom, at nine months postpartum, who brushes off babysitting offers. 

And in confiding with other moms, I have come to learn that I am not alone in this controlling thought.

For some of us, taking our babies and taking over our households is exactly what we need. For others, it’s the most stressful thing you can do. And we don’t always know how to kindly tell you this, because we see your heart pouring out with generosity.

In those early colicky months, I knew that my baby hated being swaddled. I knew that he hated behind cradled. I knew that he didn’t care for loud “Shhushing.” And yes, he really was “hungry again.”

It’s not that I didn’t want to share him with loved ones, but hands down, the best way for all of us to get sleep was with him on my chest. Truthfully, all I wanted and all I needed was to hold him in privacy, skin to skin.

It was so heartwarming to hear offers for household chores. We couldn’t believe how many people – some who barely knew us – were willing to lift up their sleeves, pause their own hectic lives and tackle mundane tasks for us. It guilted me that I simply wanted to shut our door to the world at the same time.

But I did, because the best way for us to build a new routine was to sort it out ourselves. Truthfully, all I wanted and all I needed was space to find our own way. 

And while the thought of having a child-free night is glorious to some, it’s a stressor for us. New parenthood is bringing us together as a couple in a beautiful, unique way, and the best way for my husband and I to connect is something that we get to define, even if it just looks like sharing a bottle of wine while binge watching Netflix with the baby monitor between us.

Truthfully, all we want and all we need is time to soak up these fast-escaping moments.

I’m sharing this because I’m often asked “My friend just had a baby. How soon is too soon to visit? What can I do?” And on the same token, I often hear from expectant moms nearing their due dates, “How do I politely manage the influx of people already planning to visit? Am I even going to want visitors?”

The kind of support that new moms need looks different for every mom. And the support that we think we will need while we are pregnant can actually be totally different once the baby arrives. Many people still assume that a woman going into labor signals a green light to race to the hospital, or that bringing the baby home is an open invitation. We as a society tend to overlook the privacy and intimacy that is child birth and instead focus so blindly on the celebratory bundle of joy. Recovery for mom? What’s that?

Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all except for wait. Wait for them to heal. Wait for them to bond. Wait for them to figure out the kind of help they need. Or drop off food with minimal social interaction required (all hail the meal trains!)

Truthfully, all I needed after taking my baby home was to be with my baby at home. To know the support, encouragement and love was there, but that I didn’t owe anything in turn just yet. That I could unapologetically get to know my baby on my terms and that my loved ones would be ready to celebrate with us when we were ready.

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7 thoughts on “The best way to help a new mom

  1. This might sound good to you however, at their same time your are pushing those who love you and want to make sure everything goes good at their Hospital. Varying views here so as an outsider reading this and unapologetically saying congrats to you for wanting to have it all to you but just remember that when you decide to come out of your cocoon those very giving and loving people will have moved on an there offers with them. However, I understand your time with them baby but there is a way to figure it out that family is not feeling pushed away. Unapologetically, you cannot push them very people out who worked hard to sure you had clothes, diapers etc., for when you came home. On their other hand I wished that I had my mom there to share in this joy with me. But each to her own. Little bit selfish if you ask me.

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    1. Thanks for reading and chiming in! Though I find it painfully judgmental of you to label new moms in need of privacy as “selfish.” Needing time to recover and bond with baby free of visitors is not selfish. Visitors pushing their way in because they would rather see the baby than support that mom is actually quite selfish, in turn. Every woman should feel empowered to ask for and define the kind of help that she needs after childbirth, whether that be having family over OR asking for privacy. Maybe that mom is having a particularly rough recovery for medical reasons, or emotional reasons. When a woman gives birth to her baby, she absolutely gets to do what she feels is best for the wellbeing and health of her and that baby, and frankly, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach that you get to just assume works for everyone. Wanting space is a lesser discussed kind of support, which is why I wrote about it, but it’s just as valid and beneficial of an option. Fortunately, no one in my family or friends took this as “pushing them away,” and in fact, they overwhelming responded with “Oh, I totally get it. This is about you and your baby. Rest, and let us know what we can do when you know.” It is unfortunate that you have trouble understanding the positivity of this message, and I hope that you are not one of those people who runs to the hospital after someone you know has given birth, because chances are, unless they asked you, you are SO not their top priority 😉

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      1. Well I don’t run to theaters Hospital. I figure that is a bonding time. Sorry you don’t see my point of view but that is ok. We all have opinions and I am not condemning you but glad your family understands some don’t. Like I said wished that my mother was there to bond with. My complications would have made me happy to have her there. But whatever stroked you that is your life but not everyone would understand not wanting to share their joy with family. Not trying to upset you just saying.

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      2. I do see your point of view. I made sure to emphasize in this blog that some moms absolutely do thrive on the company and immediate extra set of hands, but some moms, as in my case, just need privacy at first. What every new mom needs truly looks different, and that is OK. Mothers tend to struggle enough in prioritizing their health and their needs, and so while I appreciated your insight, I simply did not think it was kind to use the words you chose at the time, particularly selfish. If a new mom needs privacy she should not be shamed into feeling like she doesn’t deserve that.

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  2. This hit so close to home! I had a really difficult delivery and a very hard recovery. All I wanted was to hide away with my baby, and husband. I was very happy to have my mom and dad there to help, but I didn’t want anyone else stopping by for more than a minute or two. The visitors I did allow in stressed me out even though they are people I love. I know they all meant well, and some were hurt when I finally had the nerve to say “no” but I needed that time. I was ANYTHING but selfish to ask for it, because it meant that I was able to recover from my birth injuries (both physical and emotional) in order to be a better mommy to my son.

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  3. I can completely relate. I had a tough recovery and felt I needed time to focus on my health and baby. Close family like my mom was able to help which was nice but I wasn’t ready for crowds of people. My husband invited people over cause everyone wanted to see the baby but I was in so much pain I couldn’t even move to see them Lol I’m glad you wrote this perspective because some people do need space to recover and bond. Sometimes you end up hosting when you should be resting!

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