Being a new mom can be overwhelming. When I gave birth to Emily, I was pretty anemic at first, and walking around made me out of breath quickly. My husband is a teacher, and I birthed the last week of school before summer vacation. He had to go to work and was exhausted himself. Plenty of people wanted to hold the baby to “give me a break.” To them, I ask, “What kind of break did you want to give me?” Holding the newborn baby is the best part. At that time, what I really needed was for ME to hold the baby and rest while other people took care of the finer details of running a house for me. My parents came to visit 3 days after Emily was born and they stayed (in a hotel) for 3 days. Every day, they stopped by the grocery store and brought us rotisserie chicken, olives, sandwiches, smoothie ingredients, and anything else I needed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My dad went out to the garden and installed drip irrigation in my vegetable garden for me (I was going to finish installing it before I gave birth, but…). He installed the diaper sprayer on my toilet (for cloth diapers). Every day, Dad vacuumed the carpets and Mom washed and put away the dishes after every meal. In the morning, they would bring breakfast for me (omelettes, fresh fruit, toast…). They ran to the integrative health pharmacy and picked up a jar of my prenatal vitamins for me. They held the baby while I took showers(that’s when other people holding a baby for you comes in very handy!). They came to visit two weeks later, and my mom filled my freezer with black bean chili, chana masala and rice for later. They drove me and Emily to a chiropractic appointment so that we could get there on time (both of us needed adjustments!), and then we drove to the Department of Vital Statistics so that I could fill out a birth certificate application. I am so grateful for their help, and for those of you who want to help a new mom, I have some suggestions for you:
- Bring breakfast, lunch or dinner. Ask ahead of time if the mom has any requests, or foods she’s avoiding. Organize a phone tree of friends who can bring meals. Bring food that she can easily eat while holding a baby. Corn on the cob and ribs are downright impossible to eat while holding a baby. Try it sometime.
- Bring extra food (all ready to go in freezer containers) for the freezer. Chicken soup is a winner (unless you’re a vegetarian).
- Do the dishes. Wash the dishes in the sink and/or run a load in the dishwasher.
- Take out the trash and/or recycling and/or compost.
- Clean the house. This includes running the vacuum.
- Do a load of laundry for her.
- Go grocery shopping for her. Ask if there’s anything besides groceries she’d like you to pick up (menstrual pads, Tylenol, nursing pads, diapers…). Costco runs for bulk items are deeply appreciated.
- Ask her if she needs a ride anywhere to do errands. Getting out of the house can be overwhelming, and having a helping hand is the best!
Last but not least, never forget that a mom still appreciates help long after the baby has stopped being a newborn. Emily is 8 months old now, and getting on toward 16 pounds. I have tendonitis in both of my elbows from lifting and carrying her all the time. I’ve also had a bout with symphysis pubis disorder, which seems to be resolving after two months and four chiropractic adjustments, but it’s made walking while carrying a baby challenging to say the least! Now is the time when I appreciate other people offering to hold the baby for me. Babysitting for 30 minutes or an hour is deeply appreciated so that I can rest my elbows and shoulders.
Having a baby and caring for one is very physically demanding, but the emotional rewards run deep. If you’re reading this to help out a new mom, I thank you for her and for all new mothers out there.