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What your first friend with a baby wishes you knew

Melissa Walker is a magazine writer and also author of 9 Young Adult books. She lives in Brooklyn with her family. Find her @melissacwalker or at melissacwalker.com.

What your first good friend who just had a baby is too exhausted and traumatized to tell you

I admit that during my 20s (which lasted into my early 30s), I handled friends having babies less than perfectly. I remember one particular time when I visited a former co-worker, ostensibly to meet her 3-week-old daughter. I put the Boppy Pillow on backward and held the baby awkwardly for maybe two minutes before returning her to her mom’s arms. I then proceeded to hang out for hours, telling stories about crazy nights out and requesting snacks and drinks — “Do you guys have any soda or snacks? Something easy, like chips and salsa.” (Gah.) I left feeling pretty darn good about myself. How gracious of me to have visited my friend, I thought. She’s probably so bored home alone with that baby.

Fast-forward five years to my own firstborn, and I realized just how gauche many of my baby-meeting moments had been. I wanted friends to stop by for 10 minutes, preferably with pre-cooked meals and to maybe sweep a little bit before they left me alone to sleep and cry and try to master breastfeeding in private. But who knew all that beforehand? Not I.

More: Thoughtful ways to help new moms after baby arrives

So here are some things that a brand new mom — the first of her friends to have kids — wants her BFFs to know but is still too shy to tell you.

  • You gotta come to me. I can’t meet for dinner or drinks — you have to meet me at home. My home. I’m on the couch, and my upper body is probably only half dressed, but head on over! I may have some crackers somewhere in the back of cabinet, but if you want actual food (or wine, hint-hint), you should bring it. And share.
  • Please keep it light. I’m avoiding the nightly news right now because I cry at the drop of a hat, so it’s not the time to share a super-sad story about your mom’s cat or fill me in on what’s happening with drones. I am overflowing with empathy, so maybe tell me some jokes and put on reruns of Friends if I can’t keep up my end of the conversation. Laughing together is exactly what I want to do.
  • Help me clean. Look, you’re not going to need to bring your own vacuum (unless you have a really great one), but don’t expect my place to be, like, tidy. If you see a pileup of dishes in the sink, feel free to casually scrub them while we chat. You’ll notice I’m holding a tiny baby. Constantly.
  • On the extremely off chance that you find me showered and looking well rested, don't make a big deal about me being a superwoman. Chances are that yesterday, I was rocking and weeping on a spit-up-stained chair in the dark, and I don’t want to worry about looking like I’m trying to front for your visit.
  • Take conversational cues from me. I might want to talk about giving birth and about the baby and about sleeping schedules and sore breasts. Just let me. I have a lot to process and not that much in-person company right now. I promise I’ll get back to my usual scintillating and outside-world-conscious self soon.
  • Bring me food. No one has time to cook around here. It’s Takeout City, and often we forget to eat. So if you bring me a baked ziti or a chicken casserole, I promise I’ll return your pretty ceramic dish.
  • Ignore the fact that I seem like a stoned amnesiac. I might forget a story that you told me or the profession of the new guy you’re dating or my own name. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you like always, it just means my brain is temporarily devoted to the tiny person I am holding. Constantly.
  • Hold the baby. Did I mention that I’ve been holding this baby constantly? Maybe you could wash your hands (I know, but just do it) and then take her for a bit while I shower? We’ll both feel better afterward.
  • See me. I’m a little bit afraid that I’m not myself anymore. That I’m this lovely baby’s mom, but… did I get lost somewhere along the way? Tell me jokes, notice a very “me” thing that I’m doing, see me as I was and will be again once this baby gets a handle on the whole sleeping thing.

Oh, and if the baby is quiet and I start to nod off, blow a kiss and let yourself out. Thanks, friend. If you go the kid route, I will totally pay it forward one day.

More: The best new-mom advice I ever heard

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