When I had my first baby, I was clueless about what babies really needed and also clueless about what I would really need. I ended up with an emergency caesarean birth and when I got home from the hospital, I was a mess. Certainly, I was in love with my tiny baby but also reeling from the shock of it all. I was in pain daily, struggling with breastfeeding, not sleeping and unable to get about much.
I had people wanting to come and meet my new baby and see me and I agreed in a haze. Most people just came over, sat on the sofa and chatted, drank tea and had a cuddle with the baby. They brought cute outfits and toys as gifts for my daughter. These were all appreciated but piled up in the unused nursery whilst baby slept on my chest each night as I laid awake stressing about why she wasn’t sleeping.
What I really needed
I realise what I needed was someone to look after me. People offered to hold baby whilst I showered or napped but in truth I didn’t want to be away from my baby. Being with her was the only thing that made me feel safe. Knowing I could soothe and feed her with my breast and that she would sleep peacefully and happily when laid on my chest felt like the only thing I could do well.
I didn’t want people to hold her, I wanted people to hold me! I wanted people to feed me and clean the house and cuddle me and care for me. I wanted to feel loved and mothered as much as my baby was. I had lost my identity and felt useless and sore and messy. My baby had everything she needed in me, she didn’t need clothes or toys or comforters, as cute as they were, they weren’t needed. It was me who had no clothes that fit comfortably over my scar, I needed comforts and snacks, soothing and food.
The parents need someone to care for them
There were 2 special people in particular who helped me realise this, and that was my mother and my Husband’s Aunt. My mother came to stay with me when my husband went back to work and she cared for me and my house and she fed me and did the shopping and the washing and brushed my hair and helped me look after myself. She gave me lifts to the health visitor and she helped me get comfy when breastfeeding.
Not once did she make baby her priority because I was her baby and she knew that by loving and caring for me I would be the best mother for my baby girl. My husband’s aunt also came round and cooked me a huge home made lasagne and she cleaned the kitchen and made me tea. She was also the one person I remember bringing a gift for me in hospital; instead of things for baby the bag contained little gifts for me like lip balm and hand cream and perfume and chocolate. It was only little things but it meant the world to me to be given some little things that helped me care for myself and feel human again.
This time around
I’m due my second baby any day now. This time round I will be holding firmer boundaries around visitors and gifts. People can come and visit once I’m ready and I won’t be afraid to say no. Visitors will need to be prepared to look after me, help with chores, and make their own tea!
They can hold baby if I offer, but only if I feel comfortable with it. People can help entertain my toddler and if they want to bring gifts, then gifts of food and practical help will be all we need. New parents don’t need any baby clothes or toys or anything else. New parents need love and support and chores to be done. They need looking after as parents so they can look after their baby. They don’t need advice either, nor do they need to know what worked for your baby.
If you really want to help
If you want to really help a new parent then these are the things a new parent really needs:
- Provide evidence and information on realistic expectations of infant sleep and breastfeeding. Research facts for them.
- Find local services you can signpost to.
- Don’t ask to hold the baby, wait to be offered. Parents may not feel comfortable with others holding their baby yet.
- Make them tea.
- Do the washing up
- Run the hoover round.
- Put a wash on
- Run a bath for mum and baby together.
If you can, support and love and care for the parent. They can feel empowered and confident to look after their baby.
If you really want to buy something, ask what they need!
Don’t buy the baby toys and clothes, ask what the parents really need. Paying for a weekly shop, or buying the parents self-care gifts, might be worth so much more to them.
- Vouchers for a postnatal Doula to come and help them
- A place on a BabyCalm workshop to help them learn more about real baby facts
- Perhaps a stretchy wrap sling or arranging one through the CalmFamily Stretchy Wrap Hire Scheme
- The BabyCalm book.
Gifts don’t have to mean buying things! Baking a cake or a few meals to put in the freezer will often be appreciated and remembered more than another baby grow.
Mother the mother
If we mother the mother then she will be able to mother her baby. Nurture the father, or partner too! Let them know they are appreciated and supported, so they can better look after the mother and baby. Baby has everything they need already. It is the parents that need caring for.
If you’re a new parent or about to be one
Remember what is really important for you and your family.
Advocate for your needs.
Hold your boundaries to protect yourself from burning out.
Feel confident saying no if you need to.
Also feel confident saying yes to offers of help and cleaning and food.
Don’t feel you have to keep up appearances or pretend you are coping if you aren’t.
You are not supposed to bounce back and be glowing and happy all the time. It’s great if you are, but if you’re not there is no shame in that. Reach out, accept support and be brave enough to stand up for what you and your baby really need, now and always. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to raise a mother.
Roma Malone- CalmFamily West Norfolk
Roma has a 2 and a half year old daughter named Belle and a newborn (by the time this article is published!) Exciting times! She is passionate about psychology and fascinated by the brain, and loves to spend time with her family. She is also a big fan of rock music and cooking.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in