I’m a couple of weeks into my fourth trimester, and I’m getting in ample skin-to-skin time with my son. I can’t stop inhaling him. What is it about newborns that smell so good?! He latched perfectly, and my milk is flowing in abundance. We nurse every 2 hours around the clock, and it makes me feel exhausted some days, but I get to take dreamy naps cuddled up with both my babies, so it’s worth it!
The 40 days postpartum is a crucial time to push through the ups & downs of exhaustion, excitement, mystery, and miracles of motherhood. It is also a time to be surrounded by love, partnership, community, and consideration which unfortunately can be elusive for many women. I am deeply grateful to have a support circle that’s tight, compassionate, and understands that having a family was a dream of mine. However, the support I have now wasn’t always entirely like this.
Flashback – after birthing Luna, I was completely enamored, and there was this innate desire to retreat with her. I was the happiest I’d ever been in life, but it seemed that some of the people around me were more concerned with how my transition into motherhood affected them. As a result, I got a small dose of negative energy thrown my way because my availability, accessibility, priorities, even my identity changed, and a few people took it personally.
I got a text message saying, “I’ll never call you again.” I had a visitor stay for 9 hours! Someone even walked into the house and immediately said, “Your baby is huge!” It doesn’t get any more distasteful than that.
“The miracle of motherhood had seemingly gone unseen.”
At that time, support was considering that my husband traveled internationally for work, so my entire focus was on my daughter while he was gone. Support was offering grace because, as a new mom, I was not available to return calls & texts right away. I was also sleep-deprived and not always ready for visitors. Support was asking, “How may I help?”
Some regarded these things and brought me meals, went grocery shopping, or cleaned the house while the baby and I rested. Recently my circle dropped off plants, tea, vegan food, and other organic healing remedies like yoni tea bags. My husband has been my chef almost daily, and my parents being so hands-on has helped cultivate another beautiful postpartum experience!
No one can pour from an empty cup, so if mama is fed and full, everybody eats.
If you know a woman who has just given birth, here is a collection of tips from myself and a few other moms I know as to how to offer support during the fourth trimester and beyond:
1.) How Are You?
Pushing a human into the world can wear on the mind, body, or spirit. Ask mama if she is okay, too.
2.) What Would You Like to Eat?
One of the first areas new moms (and dads) sacrifice after having a baby is nutrition. After nursing/feeding the baby every few hours around the clock, sometimes parents don’t have enough energy to feed themselves. Consider ordering, cooking, or dropping off some nutritious food for them. If they can’t come to the door, leave it on the doorstep.
3.) Where’s The Broom?
Sometimes the house will get a little messy, especially if mama has more than one child. Maybe offer to sweep and mop or do the laundry while she rests. You could even wipe down the bathroom sink or empty and refill the dishwasher. Whatever it is, mama will appreciate it!
4.) Respect the Lifestyle Change.
Don’t say, “just bring the baby.” If mama can’t hang out, she can’t hang out. Not every environment is appropriate for a newborn. Also, it takes ample energy to prepare to leave the house with the baby in tow. Allow them time to retreat and rest at home. Everything else can wait.
5.) Check-In at a Reasonable Rate.
There is no need to call or text a new mom repeatedly. Sometimes offering space is grace. Call once and wait for a callback, which may not be on the same day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. It may mean that mama is sleeping whenever the baby sleeps.
6.) “Let’s take a Ride!”
Some moms don’t have the luxury of retracting from the outside world after having a baby. A nice gesture is to offer to run errands for or with her. Sometimes an extra set of eyes and hands is just what she needs to check things off her to-do list. You can go to the store and grab the items on her grocery list, diapers, wipes, gas, etc. It’s also fun to hold the baby while mama tries on some new nursing bras or dresses in the fitting room. Who doesn’t love a fashion show?
7.) Pamper Her.
One of the best gifts you can offer mama is a fabulous spa day. Whether it’s a facial, massage, or manicure & pedicure, mamas need to be primped and pampered, too.
8.) Time’s Up!
Don’t stay too long (unless you’re playing with the older children, cleaning the house, etc.). Mama is too tired to entertain. If mama is ready for visitors, don’t make it an all-day affair. New moms’ attention is usually on the kid(s). Unless you are there to help, don’t monopolize her time.
9.) Mind Your Words.
New parents are in a delicate state. Don’t point out that the house may be a little unkept. Rest assured, parents know this. If you aren’t there to help, perhaps keep those comments to yourself. Lastly, don’t be rude by making negative comments about how anyone looks. Bless everyone with compliments or get placed on the “do not invite” list.
10.) Wash Your Hands and Wear a Mask!
That goes without saying. Also, a lot of parents are germ-conscious, and rightfully so! So if mama and papa have a “look but don’t touch” policy, respect it, especially during a pandemic!
11.) Keep it Comin’!
Support shouldn’t stop after the first forty days. Although things get easier as time goes on, motherhood will perpetually have its challenges, so keep pouring love all over the family!