Proactive support for new mothers

July 24, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’ve been busy editing our book over the past several weeks, and in the process have been reading stories from dozens of women. Some of them endured intense physical and emotional trials in their journey to motherhood. Several suffered from (and overcame) postpartum depression. It has reminded me of my own difficulties in adjusting to motherhood with my first baby. At the time, I checked out a book from our local library called Mothering the New Mother. It brought me strength and hope when I felt overwhelmed. As a result, I declared it my new personal mission to ensure that all the new mothers around me knew they weren’t alone in their struggles. It has been almost eight years since then, and I have certainly not followed-through with those good intentions nearly as well as I should have. But today I am feeling a renewed drive to reach out to postpartum women and strengthen them. This post is partly for my own reference (to give me a kick in the pants to get moving), but I hope it inspires you as well.

When a child is born, so is a mother.  She will never be the same again. Conversations with new mothers can, at times, focus at length on how beautiful and precious her newborn is and not enough on the new mother’s needs.  Having a baby can be a very difficult transition, even for mothers of two or three or more. The physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens new mothers face can, at times, feel too overwhelming to bear. But friends and family can be proactive in lifting these burdens. Here are some ideas for those wanting to help:

Ask gentle, probing questions.

  • “How are your moods?”
  • “Are you eating?”
  • “Are you sleeping?”
  • “Is your baby colicky?”

Assume she needs help, and act on good intentions.

  • Bring food unexpectedly (and not just dinner). “I’m coming over at lunchtime to feed you and your kids.” “Here’s a basket of fruit and quick snacks. I know how hard it is to find time to eat with a newborn.”
  • Attend to her other children so she can focus on resting with her baby. “We’re going to the park, can I take your older kids?”
  • Get her out of the house. “Let’s go get some ice cream while your husband puts the kids to bed.”
  • Randomly call or email.  Stop by to let her know you’re thinking about her.  If she lingers at the door talking with you, ask, “Do you need some company? I’ve got some time.”

Give visual reminders of your support.

  • A vase of flowers or house plant, a card with encouraging words, or other simple gifts can bolster a struggling mother and remind her that loved ones are thinking of her.
  • These may be even more appreciated as time passes and the new mother’s support recedes.

Pray for her.

  • If you find yourself thinking about a new mother you know, consider that God may be prompting you to aid her. Get on your knees and pray for her.  Even if she’s not struggling, it won’t hurt.
  • Tell her that you felt impressed to pray for her.  She may need to hear that unseen forces are at work on her behalf.

What has helped you most as you have adjusted to life with a new baby? What loving acts brought you strength and hope? I’d love to hear stories.