I am now the minority in my social circle when it comes to people who have kids, and yet I still don’t know what to do when my besties have babies. When a friend has a baby, it’s exciting, and if you know they struggled to conceive or carry it’s amazing to watch them waddle ’round all preggo. I can assure you I check my phone every two minutes for the two weeks leading up to and after the due date. And then the baby is here, and that’s when my anxiety sets in.
I’ve read plenty of material on the internet about what to do and what not to do when your friend has a baby. Articles pop up on my Facebook feed: ‘*Insert name of new mum* likes a post’, or, ‘*Insert name of new mum* shared a post’, and the over-thinker in me obsesses over these posts. I am acutely aware of the increasing cases of PND, and of course I can’t wait for newborn snuggles, but there is much to consider when your friends give birth, and it’s really hard to know what to do.
Don’t call because you might wake them or the baby or both. So you should text, but don’t expect a reply – they’re busy with a newborn. I don’t know how long one is supposed to wait before sending the initial message, so as to seem interested and supportive but not overwhelming. A week? Two weeks? Three years?
I don’t know whether to say “how is it all going?” and wait eagerly for an invitation, or to text and say “I’d love to come and visit your bundle of love, when works for you?”. If I don’t get a reply within two days I’m not sure if that means they don’t want visitors, or if I should wait three days and send another text…
When I do get the green light, I’ve read that I shouldn’t turn up at nap time, at feeding time, at bath time, at the witching hour, or when the new mum is trying to catch up on house work or social media. As a non-mum I really need a specific time to turn up – to the minute, and preferably using Greenwich mean time, because my clocks are set to various times several minutes in the future.
The online resources say that when I do go for a visit I shouldn’t turn up empty handed. I should take a gift for the baby, but not clothes because they will already have plenty of those and they’ll have grown out of half of them, I should take something practical, only I know that the mum is trying to go chemical free, and I can’t find water wipes anywhere!
The articles say that I should take something for the mum, like meals to make her life easier, but she might have a reflux baby so could be off gluten and dairy. I’m already nervous about turning up at the wrong time, and now I’m online at midnight the night before, trying to find a recipe for dairy free, gluten free, sugar free lactation cookies.
Don’t go visit if you’re sick, which is surely common sense, and I don’t like to turn up before babies are vaccinated – just in case. In the days leading up to the much anticipated visit, I’m worried that the tickle in my throat is strep, or that perhaps I contracted Malaria in Brazil in 2012 and it’s been lying dormant until now, and this newborn’s immune system isn’t equipped to handle whatever deadly disease I’ve contracted.
So I turn up, without cookies, nine minutes late, in a face mask after dousing myself in anti-bacterial gel. Then I’m worried that the baby will get drunk on the fumes from the alcohol, and I’ll forever be that friend, who didn’t give the baby whooping cough, but got her smashed on Purell instead.
There’s a long list of things that you can’t say to a new mum, and believe me, I’ve pretty sure I’ve said them all. I talk more than normal when I’m nervous, and I have zero chat when it comes to feeling like your foof is going to fall out, or your boobs are going to explode, or both – simultaneously. In those first few months (years) before I can start doing things like “can you point to the blue block?” and “can you say ‘quinoa please mum’?” I experience genuine feelings of insecurity and like there is a much better person to be a friend to my friend, someone who knows about sleep cycles, and when to feed solids, someone who can share birth stories and knows not to say “don’t touch” and “no, not for you, that’s Aunty’s wine”.
So if you’re a new mum, and you feel lonely and isolated and like nobody is making the effort to come visit, maybe it was because they’ve read the same articles online and they’re too scared they’ll offend or upset you. If you’re a childless friend like me, I know it’s hard, a mere 12 months ago you were sipping mojitoes and now she’s got mastitis and a mummy group and you feel like there’s nothing you can do to help. She’ll be back, she’s just a bit pre-occupied right now, she might be a bit lonely though, so check in and check in again, and send her stupid stories about your day and ask about her new breast pump, and love her baby like it’s your own.
And to the friend, who left me in sole charge of her two week old most precious possession for three hours and didn’t care that I gave him a dummy, you’re one of a kind, and you absolutely made my year, love your work!
Pic from Lottie is Loving