When a friend becomes pregnant and you get that call or you see the cute announcement on social media we get excited about them, we scream congrats and start to think about how your friend will soon be a mommy! Naturally, we will send the congrats text messages and share the love on social media, attend baby showers and post up cute photos online when the child gets here. But the child you were so excited about has been born and weeks have gone by, but have you checked in? Have you done anything more than share that cute newborn photo? I want to share with you the real reason you need to check on your new mom friends.
A Personal Story
I’ll begin this post with sharing a little bit about myself and my motherhood journey to give you a little more insight as to where I am coming from having once been a new mommy. I became a mother at 19 years old and so to the world I was just another young mom, another statistic teen mom who happened to be pregnant just a year shy out of high school. It didn’t matter that I was still in college, working full-time, had my own place and car or that my partner then and now husband had made the decision to have our son before he was conceived. I believe that God makes no mistakes in life and that everything that’s happened has happened according to his plan for my life. I would not go back to 19 and make a different decision no matter how hard it has been, because I truly was meant to be a mother and the road I’ve traveled although rocky has all been set in place to bring me to where I am today.
I remember back when I first had my son and brought him home for the first time, I was in pain from a c section. My body was swollen from days of magnesium, pain medication and sitting in the bed not able to move! My mom and immediate family came around the first couple of days to help us out and to get their own baby snuggles but as the days turned to weeks and my husband returned to work it was just me and the kid. I spent many days sleeping when the baby slept, watching endless amounts of t.v and spending too much time crying over milk, sore nipples, depression, sleeplessness and more. I am originally from NYC but at the time was living in Texas so I had no friends to visit me or anyone to talk to besides the baby and my online community. I knew that I needed to get out the house but I felt stuck most of the times and too guilty to leave my baby with anyone so I stayed indoors and the calls from “friends” became less and less. The visits from family more infrequent until I became a walking ad for what real life postpartum depression looked like. However, trouble doesn’t last always and as the months passed and I found my groove, we eventually moved back to NYC and it’s all a distant memory. But I want you to know the importance of checking on your friends because while their struggle may not be as severe as mine your presence matters.
The Fourth Trimester
Do you know what the fourth trimester is? The fourth trimester is the time from when a baby is born to the day they turn 3 months old. During this time babies sleep a lot, cry more than they ever will in life and eat frequently! But that fourth trimester isn’t all about the baby and the babies needs, in the weeks following childbirth, mothers must adapt to plunging hormones, recover from birth and learn how to feed and care for a new infant. Amid these challenges, moms receive minimal support from the healthcare system. Postpartum visits are typically scheduled four to six weeks after birth, leaving moms to cope on their own for more than a month.
Mothers deserve more attention and care during these months since this time in their lives may leave (some) moms feeling fragile and in need of support. I state (some) because this is not the case for some moms and I want to be cautious in making generalizations over one group. Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated a recommendation “for the “fourth trimester” of ongoing treatment for mothers of newborns. The care, which ideally would begin within three weeks of giving birth, would improve the health of both mother and baby by offering a continual assessment of the woman’s physical, social and psychological well-being”!
The fourth trimester is the time when you as a friend should check in on mom, ask her how’s she doing and if there is any way you can help out. Many mothers don’t know about the fourth trimester and think things are going to be easy once the baby is here but those first months are some of the hardest to get through. Because they are the hardest why abandon a friend you so anxiously were excited to congratulate? Use those time to check in even if it’s a call or text message letting them know you are there for support.
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects many women after childbirth. As the world becomes more socially aware of mental illness we have to take note of moms who may be silently suffering and too ashamed to speak out. This article here goes into detail about postpartum depression and offers some facts and signs to look out for. You can also download here a free pamphlet to get a deeper understanding.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Some of the more common symptoms a woman may experience include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment to her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
You never know what someone is going through so your best bet is to pay attention to the signs and offer your love and support in a way that is tangible. New moms don’t need likes on their latest Facebook posts, they need their friend to come over and hold their screaming baby or watch over the baby while they take a decent shower or even a nap. If you’re not physically able to go over your role as a friend is to encourage her to talk with a healthcare provider, offer emotional support and LISTEN!
New Moms Need to Eat
Have you ever went to visit a new mom and offered to bring food? Or did you expect the food to be there waiting for you?
Nursing moms need to eat more calories, according to this article “Making breast milk is hard work for your body…It is estimated that breastfeeding increases your energy needs by about 500 calories per day“. So now you have your new mom friend who is in the fourth trimester and may be suffering from PPD and on top of that may also be nursing requiring her body to need more fuel than usual.
But did you know how hard it is to get up and feed yourself when all you really want to do is sit on the couch? Or maybe she really hasn’t had the time to have a full meal because life with a newborn is hectic so that’s your chance as a friend to offer some support.
You can offer to bring some takeout food over when you go over for a visit, or when you are cooking for your family think of her family as well and prepare a few more servings to take over. When I first came home with my daughter my next door neighbor brought over two freezable meals for my family and in those first few days home I didn’t have to think of cooking on top of juggling being a new mom of two.
If you’re a nursing mom you can check out my post on mastering nursing in public which also includes a free printable for nursing and pumping!
Invite them out!
For some dumb reason, people believe that once you become a mom that your number changes and that you’re no longer able to function outside of being a mom. Well… Y’all got it all wrong! We want to be invited out and while we sometimes might not be able to go the thought of it still counts. It’s disheartening to see your old crew went out for drinks and not one person called to say hello or give you an invite.
I know every event isn’t for everyone but it’s less rude to offer than to not. If your Sunday is free why not stop by and grab sis up and go out to the mall or do something kid friendly. No one is asking non-mommy friends to change their lives and become babysitters but taking the time out to invite, go out and hang with your girlfriend will mean the world to her.
She may be a mom but she’s still your friend!
At the end of the day, your friend is still your friend no matter if she had a baby last week or six weeks ago. Becoming a mother changes you and undoubtedly your priorities begin to shift but at the core of a TRUE FRIENDSHIP, she is still your friend. When you go over to visit her for the fourth or fifth time instead of bringing a gift for the baby, bring over a bottle of wine & snacks or rent her favorite movie. Far too often we forget that she is still a person, outside of her new role as a mommy she is still your bestie, your close friend or family!
So while she may have milk on her shirt when you come to visit and the messy buns might be her goto hairstyle now, think about why you became friends in the first place and continue to love her, support her, lend a hand and be a listening ear.
So how can you help out during this time?
- Offer your support in whatever way necessary
- Prepare a meal for the new parents
- Frozen Meals will last a long time
- Bring over some takeout on your way over
- Lend a Hand
- Offer to watch the baby while mom takes a nap or shower
- Wash the dishes
- Fold the endless pile of laundry
- When you visit don’t have any expectations!
- Run Errands
- Offer to run errands for the new mom
- Are you going to target for your weekly run? Call her up and offer to bring something over!
- Pay Attention
- Listen and be aware of the signs for PPD
- Capture the Moment
- Take pictures of the busy new mom and her bundle.
- Invite her out
- She may be tired of all the baby diapers and milk so invite her out whether she accepts or not!
- New moms don’t ever want to feel forgotten or left out.
- REMEMBER HER!
- Ask her how she is doing
- Speak to her about normal regular life
- Bring something for her when you visit and not just the baby