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.