I just had my first baby. Nothing could have prepared me for how mind altering the experience of early parenthood has been. I believe the correct word to sum it up is “fanaa” — destroyed in love. If you're pregnant, or know someone who's about to have a baby and you’re wondering how to be there for her in the most helpful and supportive way, read on.
1. Feed her.
Seriously. Going through labor is the equivalent of running a marathon. Taking care of a completely dependent infant is time consuming and the mama needs to be nourished in order to be able to feed her baby and care for her baby optimally. Excellent meals for mamas are protein rich, full of greens and have warming qualities.
2. Pamper her.
Chances are, the new mama is exhausted, sore from labor and learning how to breast-feed her newborn comfortably, and hasn’t had a proper shower since before her baby was born. She’s probably not going to be able to go out and get a massage, or have the time to fix her toenail polish for awhile. Give her a neck rub with some arnica oil, paint her toes, massage her feet. Help her feel human again.
3. Clean her house.
Back in the day, we lived in tribes and had grandmas and aunts and sisters around all the time to help us with keeping up our house. The new mama most likely has piles of laundry in inopportune places, a sink full of dirty dishes and a bed that sorely needs to have the sheets changed. When you go visit her, let her relax with her baby and spend 15 minutes speed-cleaning her house, then you might be lucky enough to cuddle that little baby.
4. Dote on her.
The attention in the postpartum period goes all to the new baby, leaving the mama who's already most likely feeling depleted, exhausted and overwhelmed in the dust. Not feeling acknowledged for the gargantuan feat of bringing a human into the world and her transition from maiden to mother, dare I say, may cause her to feel a little blue. In pregnancy, women receive so much attention and love from their partners, friends and complete strangers; going from a glowing, pregnant goddess to a perpetually ponytailed, unwashed, 24/7 yoga-pants-wearer is not conducive to a healthy postpartum experience. Tell her what a great job she’s doing, don’t give unwanted advice, compliment her healthy baby and her natural mothering abilities. Focus on her.
5. Help fend off unwanted guests.
If you're a close companion of the postpartum mama and will be involved in the first two weeks postpartum — you may be a husband, sister, mother or doula — make sure you know what the mama’s requests are regarding visitors. Traditionally, a seclusion period of 40 days is enacted before the mother goes out into the world, in order for mama and baby to learn each other and bond. There are most likely going to be persistent phone calls from in-laws, friends, acquaintances, and even neighbors who are excited about the new baby. Keep the unwanted visitors away until the new mama feels ready, whether it's 14 or 40 days later. Protecting the mother and baby and their extremely sensitive energy field postpartum is absolutely vital.
6. Listen to her.
Birth is bittersweet. It may not have gone the way she planned, and hearing the condolence “at least you have a healthy baby” does nothing to help her. She's probably feeling more conflicting emotions at once than she ever has, with no break to process due to the demands of a helpless human. Listen to her. Don’t offer advice, just be there.
7. Hold her baby.
There are times when holding the baby can be extremely welcomed, allowing mama time to take a shower, stretch out her overworked shoulders and neck, change her clothes, and even eat a meal with both hands. Letting another person hold the baby can be really hard for a postpartum woman to do at first. It means entrusting you to hold what is essentially the most precious piece of her, her heart outside her body. What an honor!