Q: A friend of mine is having a baby soon. How can I be most helpful and supportive of her?
A: The first few weeks after delivery can be challenging and difficult. One of the things that I am always telling people is that the mother's job is to take care of the baby and everyone else's job is to take care of the mother.
I mantra: Someone has to take care of the mother so that the mother can mother the baby.
Besides helping her with the physical challenges of daily living such as needing food, a clean place to live, sleeping in a safe place, and rides to office visits, she will also need emotional support. Dear friends are the ones you know you can depend on in times of need. Those needs are not only physical but emotional as well.
Sometimes people make believe they are listening, but they are really just waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can say what they are mentally rehearsing.
Really listen to your friend when she is talking. Try not to interrupt her. Many mothers need to vent and you may hear her say something that might alert you to help her get help.
Check out places that offer help to new mothers and find a place that you know she will feel comfortable if she is having a problem.
Try not to give her too much advice. It is common to want to immediately give advice and "fix" other people's problems. Unless she specifically requests you to "fix" something, listen and remind her there places where she can get answers to her questions. Most people just want to be heard. She may solve her own problems as she is talking.
Becoming a new mother is a process, not just an event. There is a lot of trial and error in becoming a new mom. Trust me, that trial and error sometimes last a lifetime.
Knowing that it is OK to make a few mistakes here and there, no one is perfect, and we all learn as we go is what gives us the confidence to carry on. Remind her that she is learning as all mothers learn, over time.
Most importantly: Listen. Always know your presence is a present to someone in need. And then you can run the vacuum, get groceries, do some laundry and make her meals.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.