Letter to the Caregivers of a Newborn Mom
Congratulations on your sweet new baby!
(You look gorgeous, by the way.)
Now please hand the phone/computer to your husband/mother/whoever is helping you because this letter isn't about your baby: It's about you.
So I have some news for you. You actually have not one but TWO “newborns” on your hands.
You might not have thought of this, but when a baby is born, a mother is also born. A new aspect of being a woman has opened up to her. There are lots of new things happening to her that have never happened before, and hormone surges unlike any she has ever experienced before as her body becomes the soul source of nurture for another small human. All of this is causing what can only be described as CHAOS in her endocrine system. Although it sounds a bit like the "body talk" you got in seventh grade at school, it is in fact the reality for her at this juncture in her journey. You are dealing with a whole new creature now...your baby, and also, this brand new creature called "Mommy."
Give care to new mom as tenderly as to the baby because SHE is a newborn too. She needs to be attended to, observed, cuddled, listened to, fed, and loved unquestionably no matter how loud or intense or relentless she gets.
She needs to be fed...
You wouldn't think that a grown person would forget to eat, but the truth is that she will. She will need your help. Because a new mother's needs are intense and immediate too. She needs to be fed, or the demands on her body will overwhelm her and make her feel hungry, sick, and exhausted. She needs people to remind her of this in the early days or even better, just sit food down in front of her and walk away, preferably in bite size portions so she can one hand it or stab it with a fork whilst holding a reluctantly latching nursling.
She needs to be clothed and changed...
She needs help with the laundry. She needs you to hang up the stuff that needs to hang and put the diapers on the drying rack properly. She needs you to help stuff said diapers when they are dry (as applicable). She needs you to put a basket of clean underwear and socks next to her bed/chair where she spends the most time so she can AT LEAST get to that in the morning when she's so tired she can't see straight. She needs you to just do all of this without her asking.
She needs to be held and looked at...
She needs you to look at her. She needs you to cuddle next to her on the couch. She needs you to look at her eyes when you talk to her and tell her about your day, but not get mad when she seems completely distracted by the baby. She needs someone to tell her when they notice how beautiful she looks, spit up and all.
She needs to be clean...
Let her take a shower. A long one. Maybe the longest she's ever taken....EVERY DAY. To her, it is one of the most important parts of her day. It must be so for her helpers too. Do whatever you need to do to allow her to take this guilt-free time.
She needs patience and calm responsiveness...
She needs patience when she's restless. New moms don't always know the answer to:
"How can I help?"
They can seem grumpy, unreasonable, and emotional (sleep deprivation is an effective means of torture for war criminals). When babies start becoming inconsolable, we try to figure out why. We run through a mental checklist. We watch and observe, knowing that we will figure it out soon and we don't get personally offended. So just as you don't get mad or take a fussy baby personally, try not to take a fussy new mom personally. If she can't articulate what she needs, just quietly and consistently do the things she has asked you to do already and that you know she needs. Forgive her when she really is mean, and know that she really, truly doesn't understand how bad she sounds and that she loves you so very much. After all, she gave up her whole life to make a new life with you.
She needs to sleep...
She needs as much uninterrupted sleep as possible, but this won't look how you think it should. Offer to hold baby for just 30 minutes so she can have a "short nap". Any longer without him might be undesirable for her. Take it 30 minutes at a time and see if she wakes up/wants to keep sleeping. Let her call the shots but insist that she nap.
So my dear, sweet husbands, partners, helpers, Grandpas, and Grandmas remember that you have TWO newborns on your hands and love that newborn mama as much as you love that new little squishy baby! Everyone will be so much happier for it!
Lauren resides in Oklahoma with her husband and two children. She is a birth worker and an aspiring writer. In her spare time she loves to work out and spend time perusing old and new bookstores.