This article is by guest author, Mallory Leone, NC.
Mallory Leone, NC is a nutrition consultant with certifications in holistic nutrition and sports and exercise. She is also trained in motivational interviewing and coaching techniques that change depending on her client’s individual needs. Mallory has been studying under Dr. Jolene Brighten since 2014 in Dr. Brighten’s unique approach to medicine, nutrition, and healing and works closely with Dr. Brighten and Dr. Wollman on every case.
I'm Not a Mom: Here's What I Did To Prepare For a Loved One's Birth
Waking out of a deep sleep at 3:21 am on Saturday morning, I stumbled, disoriented to the phone. Whenever I’m expecting an important wake-up call or have an alarm set, I’m sure to place the phone across the room so I don’t accidentally shut off the clanging early morning pings.
“It’s time,” whispered my cousin wearily. “Baby’s coming.” She’d been in labor at that point for three days.
Weeks ago, I began to do my part to prepare for the birth of my cousin’s child – the first baby of his generation with my cousin being the first of my closest relatives or friends to get pregnant. Completely out of my element, I joked with my husband about how ill-prepared I was to help welcome a human in the world while simultaneously beginning a full-scale research project into things you can do for new mothers.
My biggest concern was that I would somehow be in the way or that I would cause more stress than I could possibly help relieve. But she wanted me there – some of the only family she’d have there, and I was determined to help out.
5 Ways to Help a Loved One Postpartum
Ask what you can do.
I definitely wasn’t about to assume anything. There’s a fine line between being there to pick up slack and assuming someone wants specific things. I had a list of things I was willing and able to accomplish while I was there, but what good is frozen turkey lasagna if your loved one doesn’t eat meat?
I made sure to ask if she wanted…
- Me there for the actual birth (yes)
- The birth filmed/photographed (yup!)
- Who else she wanted in the room
- And when she’d want some quiet time.
Of course, there are some things you’ll have to feel out and surmise on your own.
At 1am on the night the baby came, my cousin could have talked for another hour, but I made the call that everyone should try to get some sleep. After baby came, I snuck out of the room after a little while to make sure my cousin and her boyfriend could have some alone time as a family.
When it came to food I could prepare for the freezer, I asked about dietary restrictions and just things that she doesn’t like.
Cook all the food.
As a nutritionist and self-proclaimed cook, I knew this would be my chance to shine.
Do your research beforehand on healthy freezer meals and make a big shopping list. Lasagna, lactation cookies, muffins, enchiladas, prepared chicken, beef, and lamb in marinade – all of these will keep well in the freezer.
Depending on the time of year, you could also clean, chop, and freeze herbs for tea and easy cooking as well!
Pick up the slack.
It may be hard for your loved one to ask directly for something or to ask for help. Especially when it comes to things like cleaning, running errands, or taking out the trash.
I know I said “never assume,” but here’s one area where it’s pretty safe to assume mom will want help. The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to never ask mom if she wants you to hold the baby while she cleans. Nope. Instead, get your plastic gloves on and start scrubbing while mom bonds with the baby!
Have a lot of compassion.
This may be way too obvious, but momma is exhausted during and after birth. In some cases, deliriously so.
In the days after my cousin’s birth, she would give a direction or ask for something, only to totally forget about it an hour later. As a non-mom, it’s important to internalize the fact that not only are there physical and emotional repercussions of pushing a baby out of your body, there are mental ones as well.
Suddenly my cousin is thinking for two, feeding two, and managing the bowel movements of not one, but two humans.
Cut a sister some slack!
Think of fun ways to pass the time.
While mom’s brain is preoccupied with baby, think of some movies or TV shows you can watch together in those first weeks where baby is mostly eating, sleeping, and pooping. A good gift for mom might be a new soft pair of pajamas.
Another good gift for mom is this awesome free eBook created and curated by Dr. Jolene Brighten and friends (I’m in there too!). This is a limited time offer, so be sure to download as soon as possible. I really want you to have this!
My cousin's little boy was born at 4:21 on a Sunday morning. I watched the whole thing, just feet away. The pushing, the look of concentration and determination on my cousin’s face as she rested between ever-closening contractions. The crown of baby’s head, covered in black wavy hair as he began to crown, the laughter, tears, and cheers from the room as he wailed for the first time, and bearing witness to those first moments, mother and child, skin to skin.
What an honor to be a part of this special moment. I hope you get to see something so beautiful, so raw in its human-ness one day. In many ways I feel that birth, like death, is kept from us – kept sterile, mysterious, and even scary – where doctors know the details and us lay people are at the mercy of hospital rules and regulations. I had so many questions about the process and (even as women!) we’re often left to educate ourselves about the ways our bodies work and the details surrounding birth and postpartum.
This whole experience meant a lot to me and makes me want to support our moms in any way possible.
Even after exhaustive research, you’ll likely have questions. I hope this little list is a good start for you as you help your friend or family member navigate her first days after birth.
And please feel free to share any tips you’ve learned in the comments!