I read the other day that one of the best things you can do when visiting a new Mum, is to offer to take her precious bundle of joy for a walk. Seriously? On what planet is that good advice? 'I'm going to make a sweeping generalisation here, but most new mums I know are not ready to let their new little person out of their sight. Hell, it's traumatic leaving them to go for a wee. We check them every two minutes to make sure they are still breathing. There's no way on this earth that you are taking my new-born baby out into the big wide world and away from me.
Not to mention the fact that when I can eventually summon the energy to get out of these Pj's and do something with my hair, it will be me who takes my baby out for their first walk in their shiny new pram. I've dreamt about it for the last nine months. Every time I had my head down the toilet cursing the phrase 'morning sickness'. 'Morning' my arse. Every time I had to get up in the middle of the night for a pee, or four. Every time I spent five minutes trying to get whatever I had just dropped from the floor. Every time I spent my evenings doing Gaviscon shots. It was all for those precious moments.
So no, I'm sorry, but offering to take my beautiful new baby out for a walk is not in any way helpful.
New mums are in a temporary state of blissful bewilderment. They are in a newborn fog and are not quite themselves. They will reemerge eventually, the friend you know and love, but the person that stands in her place right now might need to be treated a little differently. So here are my rules for visiting a new mum...
1 Do not knock loudly
Unless you want to be greeted by a punch in the face.
2 Don't bring flowers
It always strikes me a such an inconvenient gift for a new Mum. She's just been dealt the biggest whoop ass bundle of responsibility, and that can be pretty overwhelming. Why not add to that by giving her something else to keep alive too.
3 Do not say you are tired
You have no idea what tired is. That time you did an all-nighter and went to work the next day doesn't come close. What your friend is experiencing right now is sleep deprivation combined with a form of sleep torture. Imagine every time you close your eyes an alarm goes off. You have to get out of bed to switch that alarm off. Sometimes the alarm switches off before you reach it and you climb back into bed and lay there worrying about whether or not the alarm is going to go off again. Sometimes it goes off and you can't turn it off. No matter what you try it just keeps going and going and going. Then when it eventually stops and you crawl back into bed you lay here worrying about why you couldn't get it to stop. Sometimes it doesn't go off, but you think you heard it go off so you get out of bed just to check. Imagine that. All night. Every night. Don't say you are tired.
4 Do tell her she did a great job
Childbirth is one of the single most terrifying and amazing and empowering experiences a woman will ever go through. We get nowhere near enough credit for it. Yes, the baby is very cute, but do you know what I did to get that thing out! It doesn't matter whether she chanted her way through some kind of hypno birth or demanded all the drugs in the delivery room. Whether that baby was pushed out, pulled out, head first or feet first, she did an amazing thing that deserves to be recognised. In fact, Dads should put a reminder in their phone to regularly complement their other halves on what a great job they did. Even when the kids are 10. Seriously, we can never hear it enough. I mean, we made another human being.
5 Do tell her she looks nice
The last thing any new mum feels is glamorous. She has a weird jelly-like belly that she is absolutely terrified is never going away. Her boobs are engorged and leak at any opportunity. Her clothes are all either too big or too small. She has stitches in her foo, and is wearing a maternity pad that resembles sanitary towels circa 1980's, and it's so big it makes her waddle. She could do with a pick me up.
6 Do not keep checking your phone
Somebody may have just tagged you in a picture of last nights shenanigans, but the thought of a night out on the town is more than she can handle right now. The thought of our new responsibility can sometimes make us want to run for the nearest bar and start slugging shots of tequila like there's no tomorrow. But we also want to be at home cuddling our tiny, preferably sleeping, person. It causes us a rush of mixed emotions that in our current state can only be handled in one way. Crying. Crying at anything and everything for very good reasons, or absolutely no reason at all.
7 Do not offer to do housework
This kind of depends on your friendship status. Bff's, grab the hoover and knock yourself out. But any lesser status your helpfulness is greatly offensive. We are trying hard to look like we have this gig under control, but under the surface, our legs are paddling like mad, and we are not sure in what direction. "Would you like me to do some dusting?" can be easily translated as "You live in a filthy slum".
8 Do take food
The two individuals in front of you don't really know which way is up at the moment. You are likely to find milk in the bread-bin and a cooked meal in the microwave cold and forgotten about. We are just about managing to make a cup of tea, but are in the process of learning we will not enjoy a hot one for a good few years to come. Making a meal we can simply re-heat will earn you major brownie points. That kind of gift determines which list you get put on when we are ready for that night out; the babysitter or the one we are doing shots with. I know which one I'd rather be.
9 Do not say you never want kids
Unless you don't want to be invited back again.
Most of these rules apply whether it is baby number 1, 2 or 3. Although the visitors do tend to get less with each subsequent child!
If you are visiting someone who has had their second baby, and you are the kind of thoughtful person who brings a gift for the newly promoted big brother or big sister, please be thoughtful enough to ensure that gift makes no noise and has no e-numbers. Now is not the time to be buying a recorder. In fact it's NEVER the right time to buy a recorder.
This post was first published on Life, Love and Dirty Dishes.