Some Emphatic Advice on What NOT to Say to New Mamas
At the risk of repeating what other moms, probably most emphatically postpartum gals like me, have been saying about treading lightly when it comes to speaking to a woman who has just had a baby evacuate their bodies after doing crazy sh*t to it for 10 months, I will deign to give advice on what NOT to say to new mamas. Ever. Under any circumstances. And, if I'm not too fired up afterward, I will try to provide some good stuff to say too (but the list is pretty short and basically involves saying how good a new mom looks and actually talking to her and caring about her well-being before losing your mind about this tiny creature which was, in fact, PART OF HER, in the very recent past).
The main thing I want to encourage people to do is not put your experience on the new mom. She's good. She's had her baby and the birth may have been lovely or it may have resembled sets from the Saw movies. Point is, she does not have to tell you details, so don't ask. Ask instead how she's doing. Bring her things she likes. And most ideally, bring her food, leave it on the porch and text her or her partner that it is there. That way you avoid putting your foot in it altogether.
Do not under any circumstances asked how the baby exited her body and then frown or wince if it does not meet with your approval. I had women ask me if I HAD A VAGINAL BIRTH and I got the sense that they would have been pretty disappointed in me AND my vagina if I hadn't. Nobody needs that kind of conversation their lives. Nobody. (Keep in mind that these are tips for people who are not in the mother's tight circle. The mother has already told her tight circle what happened to her previously tight circle). Let's acknowledge that sometimes mamas have traumatic birth experiences that they have note processed in their sleep-deprived states and so asking them to relive it kinda sucks. Like, it sucks large.
Don't say things like "isn't this the most love you've ever felt," Isn't your heart bursting with love," "I bet you can't imagine your life without them in it" (you wanna bet? That was like five seconds ago, and also, mom brain doesn't equal dementia), and "aren't you just SO HAPPY!?!?!?!" because guess what, that's not everyone's experience. Some of us are so completely terrified and are basically walking around like a raw nerve, and who cry a lot when looking at their new babies and not because of any of the reasons listed above, that saying these things just make us feel not just more like monsters, but also like we are missing out on what should be the "greatest experience of our lives." So just don't, k?
DO NOT ASK WOMEN IF THEY ARE BREASTFEEDING and then cluck away at the answer. First, it's none of your f-ing business, and second, just wait a tick because they will promptly whip out their boob the next time the kid cries and, bam, mystery solved! If a bottle comes out instead, be non-judgmentally supportive and do not, I repeat, DO NOT begin questioning them about that choice/necessity and/or offering unsolicited breastfeeding advice. Guess what? The choice has been made, out of preference or necessity, or both, and you have no say. No say at all! So there!
Do not comment on the body of a woman who has just squeezed out or had a baby pulled out an incision on her belly. I'm looking out for you here because there is a special place in hell for people who do this. Consider yourself warned.
Okay. I think I'm good. Now onto the good stuff!
Tell her how amazing she looks, how strong she is, how amazed by her strength you are.
Tell her that her baby is the most wonderful (not the cutest, because then you might be lying) thing you've ever seen.
Tell her you brought her favourite food and that you're only staying a few minutes unless she desperately needs company or someone to hold the baby while she shits in peace.
Tell her honestly all the things you are willing to do for her if she needs help. Be insistent on helping. Don't just help once.
Hold the baby. New mamas need to feel the freedom that comes with being able to put the baby down safely in the arms of someone they love so that they can feel almost human again.
Treat her like she's a queen. Wait on her. Make her lunch. Get her things. Buy her flowers.
Love her and respect all of her choices. Tell her everything that she's thinking is normal and that being scared and weepy is totally normal and it will pass.
And if it doesn't pass: Help her if she's struggling. Do whatever you can to get her the help she needs. Be one of her supports. Wipe her tears and tell her that this is not her new life. Tell her that things get better. Promise her.
Thank you to everyone who loved me, wiped my tears, who held my hand, and helped me put one foot in front of the other until I was securely on road to healing. All.My.Love.Forever.