We’ve all done it, and we all meant well when we said it. But is saying “you look amazing” to a mother with a baby really the best conversation starter?
After having my twins, (which are kids number three and four), I have found that one of the first things people say to me, either when I run into a friend, or tell someone I just met how many kids I have, is “you look amazing!” I am sure people mean well when they say it, but it suddenly sparks this awkward weight conversation. Either way it is kind of shocking, when you really think about it, that we jump right into the personal and sensitive “weight” topic while skipping the really important stuff about navigating motherhood.
Below are ten things you should say to, or ask a new mother INSTEAD of (or as well as) “you look amazing.”
1. Are you loving motherhood? Because It’s okay if you’re not. The first few weeks are especially the hardest. No, wait. They are about 80% crappy for a lot of us. Yes, you are in awe and falling in love. But let’s be honest, your world has just been turned upside down. Your nipples are probably cracked, bleeding and ready to fall off of your body and it’s starting to set in how needy a baby really is. It’s okay to not love all of it.
2. How is your recovery going? This one is a little tricky. I think it is important to remember the trauma our bodies have just gone through during delivery. But how do you actually ask a new mom how her vagina is feeling today? Maybe start by telling your own war stories to break the ice and offer up a tip or two to help the healing process. Like, “have you tried throwing your pads in the freezer before wearing them? Your lady parts will thank you!”
3. Here is a meal I prepared for you. I can’t recall who gave me what item of clothing for each of my babies, but I can tell you, in detail, every meal that was dropped off to us unannounced. Prepared meals are like currency for new parents. Can’t cook? Pop a gift certificate to a fast food restaurant or somewhere that delivers into your card for the newbies. Don’t pull the old, “here’s a GC to a fancy restaurant for you two to get out on a date.” That’s just cruel.
4. How are you handling the isolation/hormones? Translation: it’s normal to feel batshit crazy and sob randomly and uncontrollably for the first couple of weeks. It helps to talk about the crazy that comes with childbirth. For extra points, point out to the new dad that it is normal for mommy to be a hot mess for a while.
5. Can I accompany you to your next doctors appointment to help? The first doctors appointment my husband and I took our baby to was insanity. We had to wait 5,000 hours, my husband got puked on 4 times (no joke) and somehow in the variety of diaper bags, and baby items I packed, I somehow overlooked packing a second change of clothes for our new little vomit dragon. That was with help! Having a second set of hands at the doctors is invaluable.
6. I want to come over for a visit and help with what you might need done. The new mom might feel embarrassed about the state of her once pristine house. Try to force your way into that home and without being instructed, start washing dishes and folding laundry. Tip: be sensitive and listen if she asks you to skip folding her own laundry. I think we will all agree that we would prefer to fold our own postpartum XL granny panties.
7. I will come by to take your older kids to the park or walk your dog (kind of the same thing). Now that there is this new completely dependent little baby, it’s hard to find time to give the older “siblings” any attention for the first while. Someone else coming over to burn off that energy for you is priceless.
8. I will hold your baby while you take a shower. Nothing is worse than someone coming over to meet your baby and expecting to be treated like a visitor, being offered refreshments, while they cuddle your newborn. Don’t ask or worry about offending the new mom, just tell her that you are going to sit and cuddle the new baby while she takes time for herself. There’s no need for her to exhaust herself making small talk.
9. Do you want to get out for a quick dinner/coffee together one evening without kids? When you are a first time mom, it seems impossible and you feel almost guilty for leaving your little one with someone else while you get out kid free other than frantically running errands. Little does that new mom know that going out even for an hour, just for her, will feel like she has gone to the spa for a day. Nothing is better for baby than a happy mommy.
10. You are doing amazing! We all wrestle with the thoughts “am I even doing a good job? Maybe I should be singing more songs? Maybe I should be reading more books? Maybe I should be making all of baby’s food from scratch?” Trust me, you are doing amazing, and no, you don’t need to be doing more of those things. Instead of obsessing over how amazing the new mom looks, why don’t you let her know how amazing she is doing!?!