There are so many things people don’t talk about. So many things unexpected that needn’t be. Before becoming pregnant I didn’t know of any possible normal oddities other than nausea, stretch marks, and swelling, and I honestly thought nausea was always in the morning.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I learned that it could be nothing or (as in my case) all day every day for months. Thankfully, I was spared stretch marks and the worst of the swelling. I learned about hives though, and bloody noses. Heartburn and insomnia. More effects that the forgetfulness of hormones has erased in the creation of rewired brain power to be more alert for saber tooth tigers and less inclined toward complex thought.
Recovery, too, isn’t discussed. What is discussed surrounds sleep (or the lack thereof.) Let me say this: it’s not the sleep. It’s the feeling like you were run over by a truck. It’s the recompression of your abdominal wall, the realigning of your intestines, and literal loss of an organ, and the contractions to return your uterus to its usual operating size. Meanwhile is the swelling and the leaking, the hemorrhage scare and the mastitis scare, the dripping pools of sweat and the shivers so strong your uterus hurts.
It’s all of that, and the fact that none of us either know or remember or are comfortable providing actual help.
So let me say this: if you’re visiting a new parent (and if the baby isn’t three months, they count, and if the baby is difficult, they always count), remember three things: bring, do, and leave.
Bring something. A covered dish, a muffin, a lemonade. It doesn’t matter, just bring something.
Do something. Casually start folding the towels on the couch you’re sitting next to while you chat. Clear the dishes from the coffee table and run the dish washer. Ask if you can take out the trash.
Leave: Unless you were invited for hours or are seriously cleaning house and cooking, after about thirty minutes, you should start to excuse yourself. Maybe you’re risking the only nap the parents might get that day. Maybe maybe maybe. If they want you to stay longer, they’ll say so.
Some where along the way we’ve lost much of the knowledge we had as a village. We’ve lost the elders’ wisdom being shared and listened to. We’ve lost the tribal knowledge of breastfeeding, newborn care, and maternal care. I believe, resoundingly, that we can find it again if we only, each of us, find our voices.
Good reminders, all.
I wish I’d known them before, and recently we had visitors who were…oblivious. They weren’t the first, so I needed to get it out.
Sorry about the oblivious visitors… And I agree wholeheartedly about elders’ wisdom. Your photo of the Arizona Ash brought that back to me.
My grandparents planted one in their backyard in San Antonio. I remember as a Kindergartener helping my grandfather gently get the sapling out of the coffee can and into the ground. He showed me how – and not how – to water. He named off all the birds that came to nest in the birdhouses we hung in the tree.
In high school, I remember sitting under that tree on summer evenings and listening to my grandparents’ experiences as kids; my grandfather in a prisoner of war camp and my grandmother waiting back home for some news of him.
In college, my grandmother and I would climb the tree and talk for hours about the classes I was taking, what I was learning, and her gently grounding me with the idea that sometimes, college is all about figuring out what you don’t know and moving forward from there.
What wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them. I’m glad the tree sparked happy ones for you.
I sure hope your recent weeks have been good for you and that recovery is complete by now! And don’t worry. As soon as everything is firing on all cylinders, and baby is sleeping for 5 hours a stretch (yaaaaay!!) something will happen to mess that all up (hint: the 3-month growth spurt is a sanity-buster for nursing moms).
I miss ‘The First Days’ but then I don’t miss them. I don’t remember a whole lot for 6 years in fact (with four back-to-back), but I do remember the ‘moms’ who would come for a visit, then say unexpectedly after the baby was nursed, “Go ahead. Get out for a bit. The baby’s been fed, the toddlers are playing…I GOT this. I’ll call when she’s ready for the next meal.”
Priceless. And way better than a nap.
Of course, the call would never come as my aching breasts would let me know when the break was over, but HEY. A couple of hours to not be needed was a great sanity reset.
Community is so important when a new baby comes into the mix. And little things like folding a load of laundry or spiffin’ up the kitchen or entertaining the energetic toddler while the baby sleeps are huge, like you said. Sorry that your over-stayed visitors didn’t get the memo.
“Everything is a phase” helps me a lot. I don’t lose hope during the hard times and don’t get caught up in thinking the good times mean we’re out of the woods. I’m glad you had that support, that sounds lovely! Recovery going better now. Fever, chills, and such have passed. I am greatly looking forward to being cleared to go for a walk and carry my daughter in a few days time.