How to be a Friend... and Postpartum Parents Need AMAZING FRIENDS
I grew up with five best friends. From ninth grade on, we referred to ourselves by an embarrassing group nickname and have held steady since. Now, embarking on our 36th trip around the sun, our lives look much, much different but, we have remained as tight as ever. Shockingly, time has not tested our bond.
Over the past four years, five out of six of us have had children. That means there have been lots of babies to visit, flowers to buy and meals to prepare. I learned how to be a better friend with every baby that has graced our lives. Here are my tips on how to be a great one to your newly postpartum bestie:
Show up. Whether it’s to the hospital or their house in the first few weeks of the baby’s birth, be there.
This is a sad one for me. When I had my son, I was in the hospital for seven days with a c-section. Barely anyone came to visit me. Family, of course but only one friend. I thought before I went in that I wouldn’t want visitors at the hospital, but it turned out that that would’ve been nice. Check in with your friend first, of course.
Don’t come empty handed. Bring something to help. Whether it’s a dinner, flowers, a new baby outfit, whatever. Bring a little something for the new parent. They have been through a lot, and sometimes homemade mac and cheese is what you need to take your mind off of your episiotomy. Even if you’re short on cash, sweat equity works! Offer to throw in a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher or vacuum. Anything that will make their life easier. Even when you think you have nothing to give, you have something.
Recently, my closest friend had her first born and when I went to bring dinner over, she was sitting, topless on the couch, holding her pump.
“Where’s your pumping bra?” I asked.
“The basement.” She was tired.
I pulled my old one out of a plastic bag of old baby stuff I had used when I had my son and was bringing to her. I helped her put it on and showed her how to set up the pump, showed her how to use the pump so she got the most milk and talked to her about a pumping schedule.
Check in. When each of my friends had babies, I texted them every day. Most days this was in the morning, just asking, “how was last night?” Parenthood, especially in those early days, can be very isolating. Checking in on your friends and letting them know you’re there is extremely important.
This is the main way my group of friends support each other these days, since we all live so far apart. It’s great though: we get to share pictures of the kids, and all take turns on checking in with the newest mama of the group. There’s never a day when we don’t chat.
Be respectful. Just because you nursed until your kid was 18 months old doesn’t mean that is the only way to feed a baby. Same goes with sleeping arrangements, and going back to work. Literally, unless someone asks you, no one cares what you did. So be respectful and accept your friend’s choices. If you do hear them say something that is legitimately harmful or potentially harmful, then yes, speak up in a thoughtful way. Your personal opinions being violated isn’t one of those times, though. Remember, you can’t unsay things. So is offering up unsolicited advice about breastfeeding to a formula-feeding mom the way you want to damage your friendship?
Out of the five of us, three breastfed and two pumped and supplemented with formula. When one friend decided she wanted to pump instead of breastfeed, two other friends decided to have a “pep talk” with her about the benefits of breastfeeding and how much better it is to “bond with your baby.”
When they told me they were planning that, I told them they should probably just keep their mouths shut and, hey, that’s not the only way you bond with a baby. I didn’t breastfeed my son, and if he could move back into my body, he would. He’s obsessed with his mama. So, there’s that.
Remember your friend. Too often, once you actually have the baby, you are persona non grata. From the minute the child is born, you don’t really count anymore. And while you are responsible for every single thing, from physically producing this baby’s food to helping them sleep at night, the rest of the world kind of stops seeing you. Remember that your friend was a person before they were a parent. That they had interests that weren’t just their child. That they weren’t defined by their ability to parent.
Right before my friend had her daughter, I said, “once that baby comes out, you don’t count anymore.” And we laughed. Her, because the thought was so ridiculous. Me, because it’s so sad and true that it’s hilarious. “But don’t worry,” I said, “I won’t ever forget about you.”