“When a friend or family member has a baby, we are all eager to be of service in any way we can. Unfortunately, the kind of help we tend to offer sometimes isn’t in alignment with a new mom’s actual needs. If you want to get real specific, I’m talking about holding the baby. While holding a fresh baby might be fabulous for you, it isn’t necessarily helpful for her. In fact, when it comes to helping a postpartum mother, the most valuable assistance you can offer usually has nothing to do with the baby at all.
My most permeable memories of early motherhood include struggling with breastfeeding, being perpetually sleepy, and significantly stressed. All I wanted to do was nurse my baby and take an occasional nap as my little one laid nestled close by. And yet, every visitor I had seemed to have a similar proposition: ‘You want me to hold the baby, so you can get some stuff done?’ I stared back, blank-faced, and bewildered. ‘What do you mean?’ I would think to myself. Sure, there were dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor, and cat hair in every crevice of the house, but none of it mattered at the time. How could it, when I was finally holding the whole world in my hands? ‘No, it’s okay…’ I declined reluctantly.
Let’s make one thing clear – of course I let other people hold my baby. I understand the awe and excitement that comes with interacting with a new life. But to consider it helpful? Let’s be honest; at the time, it felt more like a chore. Altering a newborn’s sensitive sleep and feeding schedule is no easy feat, and having to cater to guests when all I wanted to do was lay topless in bed and endure the wrath of cluster feeding was exhausting. I was so appreciative of the attempts to help, but the type of help they were offering just wasn’t what I needed. So, like many other moms afraid to ask for help, I said nothing.
Although I was too shy to express it, deep down, I knew exactly what I needed. It was something so simple yet infinitely valuable at the time. I just wanted to hold my own baby. I wanted someone to recognize we were in the midst of a sensitive, silent conversation — learning each other’s cues, becoming familiar with habits, and deciphering needs. I wanted someone to look me in the eyes and see the waves of emotion coursing through my body and hold space for me to experience them without interfering. I needed somebody to say, ‘It’s okay, sit. Snuggle. Rest. I got this.’
If you want to help a postpartum mom, like really rock her freaking world, help out around the house. They will never outright ask you to do it, but they also won’t refuse. Having someone help take out the trash, get the mail, load the dishwasher, run the dryer, walk the dog – those are the things that would’ve made the biggest difference in my early days of motherhood. Those are the kinds of offerings that would’ve moved me to tears in those moments of being completely overwhelmed.
So the next time you visit with a newborn, please try and remember what it feels like for the world to keep spinning while you stand frozen in time, staring down at the love of your life, trying to soak in every fleeting moment. The way your hormones insist you fulfill your motherly duties without interruption. How you yearned to explore your little one’s eyes without feeling the need to look away and entertain. Those are the things she needs, and those are all things you can give her. And maybe when you’re done, after the most heartfelt ‘thank you,’ you’ll ever hear, she’ll let you hold that beautiful baby.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Latched Mama. It originally appeared here, on their blog. You can follow their journey on Facebook, Instagram, and their website. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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