Postpartum is a tough time, right? Like TOUGH. Today I want to share my personal experience of being a new mom and the things people said to me that were helpful and unhelpful. Most of all, I want to share the one thing you should NEVER ask a new mom.
Here are a few things every new mom should hear:
- “The baby has your (insert cute body part here).” Whether it’s her nose, her eyes, or even her toes (Hannah had my toes!), every new mom wants to know her new baby looks like her. For some reason, it is both comforting and a bit of a triumph over the dad (your genes are stronger!).
- “I can’t believe you had a baby _______ days/weeks ago! You look amazing!” It doesn’t matter if she does or not, throw a new mom a bone. After nine months of body changes, not to mention that horrible realization that though the baby is out, you still look like you are six months pregnant, she deserves to have someone tell her she looks great. She needs to hear that right now.
- “You’re doing such a good job! He/she looks so healthy/happy!” New moms doubt themselves a lot. A LOT. They want frequent reassurance.
- The best thing of all: “Can I hold the baby so you can get off your feet, or better yet, nap?” Enough said.
Here are some things that you should not ask a new mom:
- “I slept in til noon today!” This is cruel and unusual punishment, akin to describing a waterfall to a person dying of thirst. My brother bragged about this once and I was almost in tears.
- “My baby was already sleeping through the night at three weeks.” Again, unnecessary and unhelpful.
- “You’ll have so much time to clean your house while you’re on maternity leave.” This is straight-up BS.
- Comments about eating and sleeping decisions. Be it breastfed or formula-fed; crib, bassinet or co-sleeping, unless you are the child’s parent, these topics are not up for debate. Many mothers spend months researching before making the decision that is best for their child and family. Off-handed comments and unwanted advice are not needed.
Whatever You Do, NEVER Ask a New Mom This:
But here is the number one thing you should never ask any new mother and it’s not what you think. Please do not ask a new mom:
“Aren’t you just loving it?”
Please, before those words come out of your mouth, think back to your first few weeks as a mother (if you are one, if not, imagine). Get past the images of your sweet baby that you still cherish and think about how YOU actually felt. How would any woman feel after a (most likely) difficult delivery, followed by sleepless night upon sleepless night? You are feeling unsure of every decision as you learn to care for a newborn and navigate a new role in your life. Not to mention crazy fluctuating hormones. Did YOU love it?
I certainly didn’t. Although I absolutely loved my baby from the second I saw her, I did NOT love the transition to my new role as mother. On top of feeling exhausted, I felt completely vulnerable, stressed, scared and not one bit like myself. I actually longed to go back to work, where there was order, structure, routine and most importantly, where I was actually GOOD at what I did.
I had several well-meaning ladies ask me this question during my time as a new mom. Though I put on a smile and shook my head yes, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Was I supposed to be loving this? Why wasn’t I loving it? What was I doing wrong? Was I a horrible mother for not loving every second? I will never forget the way that innocent question knocked me off my feet.
The ladies who asked me were not being unkind. They were older. Obviously the years had blurred their memories of the first few months their with babies (or perhaps they had miracle babies who slept through the night since day one and miracle hormones that quietly settled down instead of raging like mine). I know they weren’t being malicious, but it knocked me off my game just as much as the sleep loss did.
The Very Best Thing to Say to a New Mom
I also remember the one really kind thing (you know, the bone-deep, feel-like-a-breath-of-fresh-air, stick-to-your-soul kind words) that almost made me cry with relief because I wasn’t alone.
At six weeks old, we took Hannah to a birthday party for a daughter of a friend. It was the first time we had really taken her out in public, aside from the doctor’s and family visits.
After the exhaustion of not only getting Hannah ready, but also packing all her things, not to mention having to get myself ready (first time I had blow-dried my hair and put make-up on in two months), we were exhausted by the time we arrived. I was questioning our decision to even have bothered and felt tears coming on. One mom, a girl I didn’t know, asked how old Hannah was. The she said “Wow, that first six weeks it’s so tough to do anything and take them anywhere. Good for you.” I felt like a tidal wave of relief wash over me. This was normal and I was doing ok. I can’t put into words the comfort I got from that one off-handed comment.
So when you meet a new mom, please, don’t ask her if she’s loving it. No matter how good of a show she’s putting on, she’s probably not. So instead, offer compliments, support, or a show of solidarity: that you too know how hard it is being a new mom. That she is normal for feeling this way. That things will slowly get better, but it will take time. That there is a light at the end of that new mom tunnel.
Like the vast majority of new mothers, the feelings of inadequacy passed. In a few months (well maybe 6, when my sweet girl started sleeping a decent amount of time), I was loving it. Absolutely head-over-heels LOVING it.
Have you ever been made to feel like you were not enough as a new mom? What would you recommend never saying to a new mom?