What your first friend with a baby wishes you knew
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.
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.