So your friend just had a baby! You totally love her and want to do something to help her out with this major life transition. Because you're not a total jerk, it actually matters to you if your gesture of kindness legitimately helps and doesn't just serve to make you feel like a better person.
So let's take the guesswork out of the "how to help my friend who's a new mom" conundrum. There are two possible scenarios: You have kids of your own and can remember all the things people did that were totally not-at-all-helpful (or maybe you need a refresher course), or you're currently childless and could use some guidance.
It's of the utmost importance that you function as a support person now and don't do or say anything to judge your friend. Right now she's shocked as hell to discover that she's leaking this gross bloody stuff that actually has a name (lochia) that she had never heard of before, she's suddenly responsible for keeping a tiny person alive, and her hormones are JACKED. Or maybe she just adopted a baby, which would mean she's dealing with another variation on the "What the hell just happened to my life?" theme.
Enter you. You, my friend, are there to help support her and make her feel like a human being again. You're there to check your own agenda at the door and be there for her. Here's your roadmap:
1. Bring her some food.
This is maybe the most helpful thing you can do for a new mom. She is now responsible for feeding a new baby approximately 53 times a day, and there's no way in hell she can feed herself, her husband, or anyone else without some serious help. Don't ask her if she wants you to bring over dinner. Just. Bring. It.
2. Start a meal delivery train for her.
Are you sensing a theme yet? I wasn't kidding: feed this woman and her family. There is nothing that will make her happier or more relieved than not having to worry about making anyone's freaking dinner right now. Don't make her reach out and beg -- by organizing it, you'll make her feel less uncomfortable, and you'll also maximize the duration of the food deliveries by spreading them out over a few weeks or months. There are tons of easy online signups for bringing meals to new moms. Google it.
3. Don't make the visit about you.
Feeling insecure about your BFF's new role in your life, a la Miranda and Carrie on "Sex and the City"? Tough sh*t -- this isn't about you right now. You can renegotiate what your friendship looks like after the new mama has had a chance to figure out exactly how her life has changed. She's shell-shocked right now. Don't expect a single thing from her yet.
4. Don't offer her advice unless she straight up asks you for it.
Save your inspiring tale of how you got your baby to sleep through the night at 3 weeks old for ... well, nobody actually wants to hear that. Don't start raving about how getting her baby on a feeding schedule right this minute is the key to her sanity. Just listen. If she asks you about your own experience or wants to hear which bottle or diaper brand you liked best, then by all means -- speak up! But don't assume she wants to hear about your sister-in-law's new baby's Sing 'n' Sign class. She's overwhelmed.
5. Give her your expensive old baby stuff.
Except maybe your breast pump, because if she's a first time mom she's read allthebooks and has learned that experts recommend you never, ever share breast pumps for gross and scary reasons. She'll feel like a jerk for turning you down. But you should absolutely give her your pricey brand-name glider and Ergo carrier. Bring over the boutique onesie collection that cost more than her hospital stay. But maybe hold off on bringing yet another pack of receiving blankets. What are those things for, exactly?
6. Don't brag about your own experience.
Or your sister's, best friend's, or any other mother who ever existed. Now is not the time to wax poetic on how your firstborn literally never cried, nursed like a champ, and slept like an angel. Do you see her the bags under her eyes, the glazed expression on her face, her filthy hair, and gross T-shirt? Her nipples are probably bleeding, too. This woman does not want to hear it.
7. When you bring her dinner, pack some breakfast, too.
You hadn't forgotten about bringing food already, had you? Toss in some energy bars, muffins, or easy snacks she can eat throughout the day. As you wonder whether it's overkill to throw in a bag of salad, loaf of bread, or batch of cookies, repeat after me: I am saving this woman's life with all this food she does not have to prepare.
Ask her how she's doing. She may feel like she has no idea what the hell she is doing. She may have postpartum depression. She may not be bonding with her baby the way she thinks she should be. Maybe all she can think about is the fact that her ladybits are ruined forever. Don't assume that she's completely blissed out. (Maybe she is! That's totally awesome. And you should absolutely gush about how great her baby is.) Open the door to sharing -- it's up to her if she walks through it.
9. Pretend you don't notice her kid's baby acne.
Or the unfortunate receding hairline her old man-baby is sporting. Don't ask her things like, "Should his head still be cone-shaped?" And under no circumstances should you say something like "That's weird," when she talks about her baby's eating, feeding, pooping, or Wiggles video preferences. No judgment. NO. JUDGMENT.
10. Don't rain on her parade.
Nobody who just had a baby needs to hear that "this is the easy part!" (Cough, it totally is.) Don't share horror stories of your potty training hell, your irrational threenager, or your tween nightmare. Save it. STFU. If it's her first kid, she's gone from taking care of herself to a life of exhaustion, baby feeding, and ass-wiping overnight. She does not need a snapshot of what lies ahead.
Your friend will be so grateful to know that you care. She'll appreciate the fact that you remind her that she's still a human being, not just a mom. So come with the intention to support her and cheer her on -- and don't expect a thank-you card. And for the love of God, don't forget the lasagna.
© 2015 Stephanie Sprenger, as first published on Scary Mommy.