Lesson 31: (for your visitors) What to say to and do for a New Mom

Chances are, after you actually have a baby, a lot of your ideas on parenting will change. Among those things is how to be of help to a new mom, what to say to her, and what to do to make her life a little easier.

Oh, and, what NOT to say.

What to Do

If you’ve been invited to visit the family in the hospital, call and ask Dad when it will be a good time to visit. Then, an hour or so before time to arrive, send him a text, ask if it’s still a good time and what you can bring them to eat or drink.

Wait for Mom to invite you to hold her baby. She may not be ready to give her up just yet. Maybe she wants her to sleep undisturbed. Maybe she doesn’t want to pass her around for whatever reason. Maybe she’s eyeing you, waiting for you to wash your hands. If some time goes by and Mom doesn’t offer to hand her over, then it’s probably okay to show her that you’d like to hold the baby by saying something like, She’s so beautiful. I’d love to get my hands on her when you’re ready. If Mom ignores or avoids your statement, leave it alone. For whatever reason, she doesn’t want you to hold her baby right now. Be okay with that. It’s (probably) not personal.

Wash and sanitize your hands before touching her baby. Don’t make her ask you to wash your hands; it’s uncomfortable. Just do it yourself and make sure she knows that you have.

Prepare a few meals in advance, freeze them, and bring them over to leave in her freezer.

Bring dinner for the family, clean out the dishwasher, offer to watch the baby while she takes a shower or naps, bring a basket of snacky items, etc. Just be helpful.

If you want to bring a gift for the baby, consider checking their baby registry to see if there are any lingering items that have yet to be purchased.

What to Say

You’re doing a great job! Chances are, Mom is feeling tired, overwhelmed and emotional. Tell her she’s doing a good job! And on top of that, pick out one specific thing that you’re truly impressed with/admire and point that one thing out to her.

Along the same lines, You’re a really good mom. It’s the best compliment you can pay a mom. Ever.

What a beautiful baby! Let me tell you, a genuine compliment about my child will get you further in my good graces than a glass of wine. And that’s saying a lot.

It will get better. Your baby won’t always cry. He will sleep through the night. He won’t always need to nurse every 2 hours. He will stop spitting up all over the place. He will eventually stop teething. The temper tantrums will stop. No phase is forever. You will learn how to balance your time better. There will come a day when it takes you less than 2 hours to leave the house. The days are long, but the years are, indeed, short. That doesn’t mean you have to cherish every moment, but just know that it does get better.

What NOT to Do or Say

Let me know if you need anything. That’s tough because it puts Mom in the position of having to call you and ask for a favor. Instead, say I’m going to bring dinner tomorrow. What would you like? or I’m at Publix. What do you need? or I’m going to do your laundry. Is that okay? or Where’s your vacuum cleaner?

Don’t stay too long. Go, bring dinner, help her out around the house, watch the baby for a bit so Mom can shower or take a nap–but then get out. Don’t cross the line between helping and becoming a guest. She doesn’t need to feel like she has to entertain you.

Sleep when the baby sleeps. That’s a great idea! So are you going to be the one to come prepare the meals, clean the house, take care of the other kids, or whatever else it is that she needs to accomplish in order to feel sane?

He’s so small! Since many people equate size with health, this type of comment can worry a new mom. The mom who thought her baby was just perfect may now look at him and start to wonder if something is wrong with him. Is he eating enough? Am I producing enough milk? Should I wake him to feed him more often? Instead, He’s so beautiful and has the most perfect _____! is always a good thing to say.

Isn’t motherhood the best thing ever? Motherhood is awesome. Most of the time. But sometimes it sucks. Please don’t make Mom feel guilty for sometimes wondering if she made a colossal mistake. Of course she loves her baby, but sometimes she’s exhausted and leaking milk everywhere and everybody is annoying the hell out of her and she’d like to run away. Maybe try, When you feel like leaving your husband and child and running off to Tahiti, you know you can call me so I can babysit while you get a pedicure, right?

Don’t give advice unless she asks for it.

Are you going to have more? Holy Jesus. At least let her episiotomy stitches heal first.

Lesson 27: The hunger you experience in the days after birth will be like no hunger you’ve ever experienced.

Seriously. I had no idea. No idea. I don’t know what causes this hunger, but I can only assume it’s milk production. I remember shopping at Buy Buy Baby with my husband and J when he was about a week old (so, right as my body was kicking into high gear to make milk instead of colostrum). I was fine one minute, and the next I was gripped with a hunger unlike any I had ever known. And when I’m hungry, I am a bitch. More so than usual.

I growled at Bo, “Feed me, NOW!” and when he pointed out to me that we had a full shopping cart, so it would be a few minutes before he could get me to a fast food restaurant, I looked at him and said (and meant) these words: “I. Will. Eat. You.”

I grabbed the nearest pack of baby fruit snacks off the shelf and devoured them. I was still hungry, but at least my husband was able to get me out of there and to Wendy’s for a hamburger with all of his limbs intact.

Apparently, this isn’t uncommon. See here and here.

My advice to you: Keep lots of water and granola bars in your baby’s diaper bag. You know, so you don’t eat your husband.

Lesson 23: Spend some time with just your partner and new baby

Lots of folks will be wanting to visit your new baby, and their visits will be welcome because you’ll be wanting to show him off to those you love the most.

But take some time to revel in your new family of three. Sneak a few peeks at your husband while he’s getting used to the idea of being a new Dad.

It’s the first time you’ll ever see him as a father, and it is incredible.

Bo and J

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Lesson 21: Again, take lots of pictures!

Have at least one person visit right after birth who will not listen to your demands of “no pictures of new mom!”

That way you’ll always have a gem like the one I have of me shoving a whole hamburger into my mouth.

Trust me, you’ll want it one day.

But you’ll probably choose not to share it on your blog.

I know I sure as hell won’t.

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Lesson 20: Write the story of your baby’s birth

Write down the story of your baby’s birth as soon as possible because the memories will become fuzzy. One day your child will love to hear the story of her birth–especially when she is expecting her own baby. Here is the letter I wrote to my son:

Dear Baby J,

On Tuesday evening, March 27, your dad and I went out to eat dinner. I was off work for Spring Break and had spent the entire day cleaning the house, so I was certainly not in the mood to cook dinner. We ate Chinese and I managed to throw it up as usual, so your dad took me to get ice cream after dinner. That didn’t stay down either.

36 weeks

We went to sleep around 11pm. Around 1am on Wednesday morning, March 28, I woke up and thought I had pissed myself. It wouldn’t have been too surprising those days. I went to the bathroom, changed clothes, then went back to bed.

I was lying there in bed, just about to doze back off, when all of a sudden it occurred to me that I hadn’t pissed myself at all–my water broke! I laid there knowing that’s what had happened, but trying to convince myself that it hadn’t. I had to be sure because I didn’t want to wake your dad up and tell him my water broke, if I had, in fact, only pissed myself! But I was so sleepy and I didn’t want to have to get up and it was hard to think after only 2 hours of sleep.  About 30 minutes later, I decided I better figure it out. I went to the bathroom again and this time I was sure my water had broken.

Your dad was ready to hit the road to the hospital, but I had stuff to get done first. I had planned to use all of my Spring Break to get ready for your arrival (you weren’t due for another 2 weeks, Mister!). So, I took a shower, put on makeup, started a load of laundry, loaded the dishwasher and turned it on. Finally, we packed the car, I called the doctor and we headed to the hospital.

We got to the hospital around 2:30am and checked in. I wasn’t having any contractions and was only 1 cm dilated, so they started me on pitocin around 4am. The contractions started then and they were strong, so I asked for pain medication. The worst part, though, wasn’t the contractions. In fact they really weren’t that bad, all things considered. The worst part was that you were resting on my bladder, and that sucked with a big capital SUCK. I never could tell if I had to piss or not, so I spent a lot of time wondering whether or not I had wet the bed.

Anyway, they gave me some meds that immediately made me have no cares in the world, so I sent your dad back home to take care of our dog, Abbie. About an hour later, I was in a lot of pain again, so I called him to hurry him along. On the way back, he got pulled over for speeding, but he explained that his wife was in labor and he was trying to get back to the hospital. The nice police officer let him go with a warning, but I yelled at him for speeding when he got back. It certainly wouldn’t have helped for him to get in a car accident!

At 5am, I was 2.5 cm dilated and it wasn’t long after that I told my nurse that I wanted an epidural. She kept telling me I wasn’t supposed to have it until I was at least 4 cm dilated, and I kept insisting that I was ready for it. It was around this time that I caught your dad making updates on Facebook about my progress and how much I was dilated. I had to ask him to please refrain from posting about my vagina on social media. Dads, please don’t do that. Yuck.

Because you were my first baby, the nurse assumed my labor would be slow. She was wrong. I’m really glad that I insisted on the epidural when I did because by the time the nurse got around to listening to me and checking, she found that it had taken less than an hour for me to get to 7 cm. I would have said, “I told you so,” but she was just slightly bitchy and I was a little scared of her. The anesthesiologist took a little longer to get to my room than I would have liked, so I sent your dad out to the nurse’s station and told him not to come back without an anesthesiologist. They both arrived very soon after that!

By early afternoon, I was at 9 cm, then 9.5 cm. By the time I reached 10 cm it was about 2pm and I was ready for you to arrive because I was so HUNGRY!! But, they wouldn’t let me start pushing because you hadn’t dropped low enough. The nurse kept telling me it would certainly be hours before you arrived. I finally convinced them that I could do it, or that they should at least let me try, because DAMMIT I WAS HUNGRY. The nurse finally agreed but told me it would probably take at least 3 hours to push you out, since you were so high up and you were my first baby.

Did I mention I was hungry? Well, I was. And 3 hours was not going to work for me–so I pushed you out in 6 contractions, just 30 minutes. 3 hours, my ass. Don’t mess with a hungry pregnant woman.

The nurse was shocked that you came so fast, and we had to wait for the doctor to arrive before we could make the final delivery. You were almost delivered by a very surprised nurse!

You were born at 2:57pm, weighing 6 pounds, 2 ounces, and 20 inches long. I ate a hamburger at 3pm (ok, not really–but it is definitely one of the first things I did after you were born). Life was good.

J

You were so tiny and beautiful. You didn’t have a funny shaped head or all the little marks of birth that many babies have. You were just perfect, and I’m not being biased. Everybody commented on what a beautiful baby you were. Even the nurses agreed that you looked like a c-section baby because you were so flawless.

Bo and J

Lots of family members came to visit and, while they were there, you had your first bath.

J

I had them dress you in my favorite outfit, the same one your dad had hung up in our room while I was still pregnant so I could look at it and think of you.

J

Later that evening, your dad got to change his first diaper ever!

Bo and J

I started nursing you within an hour of you being born. You were an eager little eater and were easy to nurse! I wanted to keep you with me that night, but you kept spitting up and choking on it, so one of the nurses convinced me to send you to the nursery so they could watch you and make sure you wouldn’t choke. I knew she was overreacting (you were turning your head and spitting it out just fine), but she scared me, so I let her take you. I made her bring you back to me every 2 hours so that we could nurse, though. I cried when she took you and missed you so much all night. The next night, I kept you with me.

The next morning, March 29, I was so eager to have you back in my room. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out that day, for your birth certificate and social security card. We also had you circumcised and it broke my heart for them take you away from me again. You took it like a champ; you never even cried when they circumcised you (so they told me anyway). But soon after your return, I realized that you weren’t nursing anymore. All day long you slept.

The hospital photographer came in and we allowed them to take photos, even though we weren’t planning on buying any since we had hired our own photographer to come in later. But the assholes set your pictures to a slideshow with music and my hormones took over. We ended up spending an absurd amount of money on just a few photos. Your dad was smart though. He whipped out the credit card without a single argument. How could he argue with the woman who had just given birth to his firstborn son, ya know?

J

J

Right after, the photographer we had already hired came in to take your newborn pictures, and you slept through most of it.

J

J

J

I started getting worried that you weren’t eating, but the lactation consultant told me it was normal for baby boys to not eat for about 12 hours after circumcision. Sure enough, you wanted to nurse almost exactly 12 hours after your circumcision. But, I thought you weren’t getting enough to eat (my milk hadn’t yet come in and you weren’t latching on as well as you had before), so we decided to supplement with formula. If I had known better, I would have had you continue to nurse until my milk came in, rather than giving you formula. I think it caused a lot of continued problems with your latch.

The third day, Friday, March 30, we were eager to get you home! The pediatrician came in to check on you and you were jaundiced. Your levels were almost so high that they made you stay, but they decided to go ahead and let us bring you home, with the promise that we would bring you back to the see the pediatrician the next day.

J

On the way home, it was so rainy and I was worried about you being in the car. But, of course your dad drove very carefully. We stopped at Babies R Us on the way home to buy some preemie clothes for you. We had so many newborn and 0-3 sized clothes for you, but you were too tiny for any of them!

You were loved before you were ever born, but I had no idea how large I could love until I actually held you in my arms. I told you then, and I tell you almost nightly now: We love you always, no matter who you are, what you do, or who you love. There is nothing you could ever do that would diminish the great love we have for you.

Mommy and J

All the love I never knew I had,

Mom

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Lesson 18: Have a Birth Plan

Have a birth plan, but remember that it’s okay to chuck it out the window.

Having a plan is always a good thing. But being able to deviate from said plan as circumstances necessitate is your first real step into parenthood: things don’t always go the way you plan, especially when there’s a kid in the mix. You have to be flexible, and you have to be flexible without flipping out or beating yourself up.

Didn’t plan on having that emergency c-section? No problem as long as the end goal is met: healthy baby, healthy mom.

Swore you’d go completely natural, yet begged for an epidural at 3cm? No problem: healthy baby, healthy mom.

I didn’t have a Birth Plan at all with J, and that was probably the right thing for me at the time. But now that I’m more secure and confident in my role as a mom, there are some things that I’ll do differently next time. I will have a plan, but it will be very minimal.

I imagine my plan will look something like this:

First Stage Labor

I’d like to be free to walk around and go to the bathroom on my own, so I’ll wait on the epidural for awhile. But those drugs that make a me feel a little stoned and a lot happy? Hit me up with those. I’ll go for as long as I can without them because I know that one hit is all I get, but when I’m ready for them, I’d like you to be on standby with the IV in one hand and a margarita in the other. Thanks.

That said, go ahead and keep the pitocin to yourself. Unless we’re in a situation where the health of my baby is at risk, I’d rather my body did the work in its own time.

And as far as the snacks go? I don’t buy your crap about no food during labor. Hunger pains during my first childbirth were as bad as the friggin’ labor pains. Not this time. I’ll have healthy snacks and water, as my body will need the energy for childbirth.

Second Stage Labor

The one thing that makes me a little agitated when I look back on J’s birth is that I knew when I was ready to push, yet my nurse wouldn’t listen to me. She kept telling me there was no way I was at 10 cm and I had to finally insist for her to check because I knew I was. Next time, I’ll be more vocal and confident in my body.

Third Stage Labor

This is the one that’s important to me. This is the one that I wish I had had the confidence to have before (Thanks, Carly, for sharing your plan with me so that I could tweak it to make it my own).

  • The baby is to be placed on my chest immediately after birth.
  • Please delay cord-clamping if possible until cord has stopped pulsating and placental transfusion has completed.
  • Bo would like to cut the umbilical cord.
  • Please delay routine procedures (weight, length, PKU, and other assessments and routines that cannot be performed without leaving our baby with his/her mother) until we have had at least one hour to bond with our baby, allowing him/her to breastfeed without interruption.
  • If our baby needs temperature regulation, we would like to try skin-to-skin contact with baby and mother before a machine is used.
  • Our feeding preference is to breastfeed: please do not offer formula.
  • Bo would like to assist with the first bath.
  • We may request that no eye ointment is used. This is something I will discuss with my doctor and pediatrician before birth.

I just didn’t realize that I had an option on many of these things. I was new at the whole childbirth thing. I don’t necessarily consider myself a pro at it now, but I do have more confidence in myself and I do know more about what I would like for my child. And that makes all the difference.

My advice is to know what you want for you and your baby going into it. Read books, talk to other moms, discuss is with your doctor and with your partner. Imagine your ideal birth and work toward it. But don’t be inflexible. Understand that that, while it’s natural, giving birth isn’t necessarily easy. If it’s your first pregnancy, you really have no idea how you’ll feel once you’re actually in the moment. And if it’s your 4th pregnancy–well, every pregnancy and labor is different. So just go with it. There are many different ways to reach the end goal we discussed earlier, and none of them are wrong.

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Lesson 17: Don’t forget your first babies

As the time for your new addition arrives, don’t forget the first babies you ever had—the ones with fur and 4-legs. Make sure you have somebody lined up to care for them while you’re in the hospital. And make sure to give them lots of love and patience, as adjusting to a new baby isn’t easy for Fido!

The day before we came home, Bo brought one of J’s blankets home from the hospital and left it out for the animals to get used to his scent. It seemed like a cool little trick, but I’m not sure if it helped or not. It made us feel better though!

Here’s our pooch, Abbie, resting on my very pregnant belly before J was ever born. Dogs know there’s a baby in there, I’m sure of it!

Abbie and Baby Bump

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Lesson 16: Nesting

I can’t say whether or not the nesting instinct was real for me. The problem with me is, I’m always “nesting.” On any given day you can find me cleaning or organizing something. So whether or not the nesting instinct kicked in, I couldn’t say for sure.

There was one day, when I was about 6 months pregnant, when I decided that my spices needed reorganizing so, with the help of Pinterest, I came up with this little jewel:

Nesting

Pretty cool, huh?

But that’s really not so uncommon for me. For instance, just last month I asked for a deep freezer for my birthday for the sole purpose of doing this:

Nesting

Which led to

Nesting

and then

Nesting

And that’s how I spent my birthday. That’s how I wanted to spend my birthday. I am a sick person.

And I am not pregnant.

But there was one day in March, when I was 38 weeks pregnant, when I found myself climbing up on counters, chairs and step-stools so I could clean hard-to-reach places. I cleaned all the blinds and windowsills in my house, I polished the cabinet doors, cleaned the tops of the cabinets, and even scrubbed down the top of the refrigerator.

Was I nesting? Maybe. I went into labor the very next day, 2 weeks early, so it’s very possible. But it’s also possible that my typical crazy just kicked in. It happens from time to time.

If I was nesting, I wish my instincts would have been more practical. When my water broke very early the next morning, I refused to leave for the hospital until I had the laundry in the dryer folded, another load going in the washer, and the dishwasher cleaned out. So I waddled around the house with a towel stuck between my legs getting those things done. Polished cabinets just aren’t very useful when they’re not filled with clean dishes.

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