Before I became a Birth Doula, anytime I knew someone who had a baby, I was always so excited to see the new baby. Now, I am ashamed to admit it, but once a baby was born, I would ask “When can I come see the baby!?”. When the new family would come out in public for the first time to a gathering or back to worshiping with us, I would eagerly rush over and crowd around to see the baby. Now that I’m a Doula though, that has changed.
For nine months a woman’s body grows, nourishes, and provides life for a new little human. She then goes through hours of hard work and labor to bring that little life into the world. Then once the baby is born, has to face days, weeks, or even months of healing and adjusting. Her husband too might have to go through an adjustment period of lack of sleep, lack of a regular routine, and a learning curve of dealing with a small, little, fragile human. Some mothers experience Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, which can make all these adjustments seem impossible and even harder to overcome. Some mothers have to go through extensive surgery in order to bring their little one into the world. Others have had to face life endangering medical conditions.
So why are we focusing so much on the new baby and not on the parents who are putting in all the hard work?
It takes a village to raise a baby, and when your friend or family member has a baby, you become part of that village. How can you do your part?
It starts first right when the baby is born. It is becoming more and more common for families to withhold a birth announcement because they fear being bombarded with phone calls and unannounced visitors. So when you hear that your friend or relative has had their baby, take a few moments or hours before you reach out to them. Start first with just a heartwarming text message. Congratulate them and ask how the parents are doing first, then ask about baby.
The second way you can do your part is when you see the baby. I know it’s hard, you just want to get your hands all over that teeny squishy baby! Try, though, to sit and talk with the parents first. Inquire about them. Ask them how they are doing. A dear friend of mine said the following:
“After having my son, I realized that no one pays attention to the mom. You are suddenly referred to as “so-and-so’s Mom”. It’s like losing your identity, and that’s really hard especially as you are getting your body back to just being yours. You don’t want to lose your sense of identity.”
So after you’ve conversed with the parents, let them know that you still care about THEM, then do you get to see and hold the baby?
Well… maybe, it depends. If you were invited to the new family’s home, please don’t make the new parents cater to you. The new family is running on minimal sleep, lack of routine and order, and most importantly, the new mother is healing. Please don’t make her get up and get you a snack or a glass of water. Did you know that the wound a placenta leaves after it leaves a woman is about 9-10 inches in diameter? That is a VERY large wound and needs rest and time to heal!
So if you’re at your friend’s home to see the new baby, either decline water, or if you’re close enough to the family, tell them you can get your own water! Oh, and while you’re up, you might as well wash the dishes that are in the sink, or unload the dishwasher. Do something that shows the new parents that you care care them, that you’re here to support them. When you support them, you’re also supporting the baby!
Could you also show up to see the baby and bring a meal for the new family? Even if you aren’t a good cook, a store bought rotisserie chicken and a frozen Mac and Cheese never hurt anyone!
Ok, so now you’re probably wondering: “I’ve talked to mom and dad, I’ve loaded the dishwasher, and I brought over two You Pick Two’s from Panera, now can I please hold the baby!?”
Sure, you can, but only if the parents are ok allowing you to hold their baby. Just like how I’ve seen parents withhold a birth announcement, I’ve also seen parents withhold “holding privileges”. There could be a list a mile long as to why a family might not be comfortable with you holding their newborn, and in my experience it usually boils down to one of two things:
- Fear of the baby getting sick.
Now, if your friend declines your request to hold their baby, please don’t take it personal. The fear of a newborn getting sick is very real for many families, and it most likely has nothing to do with you! Chances are somewhere out there, for very valid reasons that the parents have, there’s someone else they might not want to hold their baby; and if they let you hold their baby that other person might find out and get offended!
Anxiety too can be a huge factor. After a woman has a baby, her body goes through so much when it comes to her hormones. Postpartum anxiety is a real thing, and it can manifest differently for every woman. Your friend might be dealing with serious “what if” thoughts that she can’t get out of her head that makes her hesitate allowing another person to hold the baby.
I was compelled to write this blog as a way to try and help more people to see the other side of new parents and babies. Yes having a new little one in the crew is exciting, but we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture which is to focus on the family as a whole.
- Remember to still love on your friends too. Make sure that they still feel like they matter to you.
- Offer practical help before being asked.
- Don’t be offended if you can’t hold the baby right away.