How to support a new mum- a guide for her partner, friends and family


There are a lot of stereotypes out there that pregnancy is a sweet, blessed time, and the biggest struggle for a woman is choosing a name for a new baby. Labour- painful, but she will forget the pain as soon as you cuddles the baby. The first days with a newborn- easy! Baby only sleeps and feeds.
All inaccurate.
There isn't much honest information about the first few weeks postpartum out there. Trust me- it can be a horrible experience for a woman. This is the time when her partner, her family and friends must show a great deal of support. I have divided this blog post into two parts- one for friends and family, and one for a partner/ husband of a new mum. The one for partners includes a detailed graphic description of what is a woman going through in that specific period, so please skip that part if you're sensitive. 


A GUIDE FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY OF A NEW MUM
All women go through the pregnancy, labour and postpartum slightly differently, but all go through a lot physically and mentally. All new mums need some help, and they need people around them to be gentle, kind and supportive.


ASK BEFORE YOU PAY HER A VISIT:
No matter how much she loves you, she is in this new, crazy mood state right now. It is advised to visit and help out, but make sure you consult the time with a new mum.

RUN SOME ERRANDS FOR HER:
New parents, especially new mum won't have an opportunity to go to the post office, do grocery shopping, buy additional nappies, walk the dog or vacuum the house. If you have spare time, even half an hour, offer your help in a gentle way. It may just mean the world to her. 

BRING HER FOOD AND REFILL THE WATER
New parents don't have time to cook, and they are probably hungry and thirsty like never before. A home-made meal would be a lifesaver, but if you pick up something in a store, they will love you just as much.

PLEASE, DO NOT SHAME HER
If you have the knowledge, and you want to help (and if the new mum wishes to accept your help), do help. But please, please do not tell her that she looks bad, that she isn't doing a great job because her baby cannot settle, or that you don't understand how she can be struggling with breastfeeding. These words, even if they're coming from a place of love, hurt badly. I had the chance to listen to people's opinion,  who were standing me around sipping on coffee and telling me that my milk was 'wrong', or that breastfeeding should be easy. None of them has ever breastfed a child. 

RESPECT HER PRIVACY

I know that most likely you will want to take a lot of photos with the baby and new parents, but before you do- please ensure that they all are happy with it. 
Most of the new parents will appreciate having some extra photos of the baby because they usually have other things on their minds. However, some of them may not want anybody but they photograph their newborn.
One thing goes without saying- please do not publish the photos of somebody's child on social media without the parent's consent. 

WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE HOLDING THE BABY

Some parents will not feel comfortable to ask you to do that, but it is important to wash your hands before holding/ touching the baby.  

BE THERE FOR NEW PARENTS

If the new parents have pets or older kids, they may need some help in looking after them. If you take their kids for a walk, or read to them, or even play with them for 10 minutes, it will help the parents a lot.
Be there for them, they may need somebody's help and presence, and sometimes they just need a pair of ears to listen to them. 





A GUIDE FOR A PARTNER OF A NEW MUM
If you've always wanted to prove how strong you are and how much you love your woman- the pregnancy, labour and especially postpartum is the chance for you to do that.
The more kind, gentle and supportive you are, the easier you make it all on her. She has gone through a lot. During the pregnancy, she most likely experienced bothersome sickness (improperly called 'morning') and nausea, headaches, back pains, insomnia, cramps, tender breasts, mood swings, fatigue, and many others. Some of these symptoms may have lasted for nine months. 

My labour was extremely painful (I would give it 700/10) but fantastic. I had a great midwife assisting me, but for many women, labour was a nightmare. Some of them had to go through a C-section, which means that probably the pain during the labour was not as intense, but afterwards, they were going through hell.


Right after the delivery, baby and new mum have an hour or two for the skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. Then mum can shower. I vividly remember how my legs were shaking after 36h hours of labour. I needed a  hand to hold me while I was getting in and out of the shower. I remember that afterwards, my son fell asleep, but he stayed up for 70% of the time we spent in the hospital. 


The emotions, the fear of hurting the baby during labour, the fear of accidental dropping the baby, the exhaustion, the discomfort of a body who just delivered a human being. Often- the struggle with breastfeeding. Hormones go crazy. Zero privacy in the postnatal ward. I promise, at least 70 people saw my breasts during my three days long stay in the hospital. Your woman may have bleeding and sore nipples because it takes time for both the baby and mother to learn to breastfeed. The postpartum bleeding may occur up until 6 weeks following the delivery. It doesn't feel like a being on the period. It feels like swimming in blood. She will need to change her pads and shower way more often than normally she would. It takes time to heal the perineal area (perineum is the area of tissue between the vagina and anus) for women who had a natural delivery, and the tummy wound for women after C-section. Toss in the sleep deprivation.

Furthermore, a vast majority of new mums is affected by baby blues, some suffer from postpartum depression. If their partners and families let them down, they may not cope with it. 

I am not trying to scare you. I just want to tell you what is your partner going to go through, because she may not feel comfortable to tell you. Please remember that this is your baby too, so looking after it is also your responsibility



TALK TO HER
First of all, talk to your partner during her pregnancy a lot. Check in on her. Ask her what she is afraid of, how you are going to manage to share the responsibility after the baby is born. Continue checking in on her after delivery. 

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Educate yourself. Read. Talk to midwives and doctors. Sign up for the antenatal classes with your partner. Don't leave it till the last minute. If you're close to your mum or sisters who had a baby, ask them what they wished their partners did for them in that difficult time. The more you know, the easier all gets.

BE PRESENT

Some countries cultivate the tradition of 'baby shower' after the baby was born. The father, his male friends and family members are going out and getting drunk. It often happens right after the delivery, which basically means that the father is not available for at least one day. I can not even find words to describe how much I dislike this tradition (I mean, I can find the words, but don't want to use them on my blog). It is just selfish. 
You must be there for your partner and your child. It is a responsibility, not a favour. You must be soberIn the first days after the birth of your baby, try to come straight back home from shopping, or work. 

MAKE HER FEEL LOVED
All of the changes in her body and mind are going to happen whether anybody wants it or not. This is something we all have to accept. She really won't need you to comment on her looks. If she breastfeeds- she produces a liquid gold, the healthiest medicine in the world. She gives your child the best thing in the world, and even if she doesn't look attractive with a breast pump in one hand, and a baby in the other- remember that this is why women have breasts. Her body needs time to heal, it needs time to get back to shape. Trust me- the stretched skin and 5kg extra bother her more than they bother you. You don't need to mention that to her. 
Instead tell her that you're proud of her. That she is doing an amazing job. You probably already feel this way, but you need to express it. It will mean a world to her. 

ENSURE SHE HAS EVERYTHING SHE NEEDS
I am not talking about anything over the top, because new mum's needs usually are: food, water, shower, sleep and time for herself. She may need you to get some more maternity pads, painkillers, or her favourite tea. Ask her, make her feel comfortable. Breastfeeding mums may spend hours nursing a baby in one go (it the evening I would nurse my son for nearly 7h in one go, but all kids have slightly different needs).

SPEND TIME WITH YOUR CHILD
I know many fathers who say that they are planning on bonding with their child once he already walks and talks. First of all, they don't know how much they are missing out on, second of all- when you decide to start the family and have a baby, you are a father no matter if the baby is healthy or not, teething or not, whether he sleeps through the nights or not, whether you and his mum are together or not
The more time you spend with your child, the stronger your bond with will be. Trust me- women too don't know how to talk to a newborn or how to entertain it at first. We all have to learn that. 
The new mum is still a woman, a human being that needs time for herself, who has needs and the right to have time away from the child.

IT IS NOT THAT SCARY
I know that the idea of labour and having a child may be scary (especially after my graphic description), but it is not that bad. It is just a phase that you need to pass through together. It is quite a difficult time, but it is genuinely a beautiful time. Try to enjoy it as much as possible. Don't waste your time on Instagram or playing video games, they can wait. Don't allow yourself to miss out on this amazing time. 

IF YOU DON'T KNOW, ASK
You can not read your partner's mind, and nobody knows all the answers. Don't be afraid to admit that you don't know something, I am sure that your partner would prefer if you asked, rather than avoided looking after the baby.

LISTEN AND BE THERE FOR HER

She may want to share with you how she feels now, or how she felt during the labour. She needs you to be all ears. If she cries, be her shoulder to cry on. She will appreciate it more than ever before. 

SOME THINGS GO WITHOUT SAYING
I assume that as a man living in the 21st century you already know that cleaning, cooking, or doing laundry isn't called 'helping out' but 'taking part in running a household'. Please, do not expect a mother 48h after the labour to be serving you a 3-course dinner. 
Also, in terms of sex- your partner has a right not to feel up to having sex after the delivery. It can be dangerous, too. Do not force her, she needs to feel ready to have intercourse. 

REMEMBER ABOUT YOURSELF

I know that some fathers work their socks off to ensure that the baby and new mum have everything they need. You too may feel anxious, depressed or stressed. Try to recharge your batteries, or organize help. Maybe your friends or family members can look after the older kids, or do your grocery shopping. Stay hydrated, stay positive. I know that the arrival of a baby is a lot for dads, too. 


Get ready for a ride in a rollercoaster, for ups and downs, for good and bad days, but first of all- for an amazing journey and the most unique, beautiful unconditional love. Have fun and enjoy every moment of it. You will do great! x

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