Being a birth parent is hard. It is isolating. It is exhausting. It is frustrating and so much more! We need to start being honest with birth parents and their partners too, of course. Yes, it is earth-shattering and glorious too, but it is essential to the sanity of birth parents everywhere that we do a better job of discussing the many challenges of becoming a parent.
Sure, not every birth parent will experience the crazy rollercoaster of raging emotional highs and lows and not every parent will have difficulty; but personally in fourteen years of maternal child health private practice and public health work in Northern New Jersey and New York City, I do not know any birth parent that has not struggled physically, emotionally or psychologically on this beautiful and complex journey.
Breast Or Chest Feeding Support
We are telling birth parents what classes to take, what gear to buy, which care provider and birthing place to choose, but we are not taking them out to lunch or dinner and being truthful about our own experiences. We need to tell them what was hard and how we survived it. We need to give them information on all the nearest support groups like La Leche League, the number to a local IBCLC, and even the number for a great therapist who specializes in helping birth parents navigate the postpartum period. If you live in Hudson County, NJ, where I practice, our local La Leche League group is amazing and meets in Hoboken and Jersey City each once a month. LLL of Jersey City even has a monthly evening meeting for lactating parents who work outside the home. Pregnant parents are welcomed to LLL meetings. LLL meetings are open only to lactating parents. I believe every parent who births should have access to nurturing and knowledgeable professionals to ensure their healthy mental state while navigating this new and overwhelming role as the primary care giver to a newborn human.
What To Get Your Pregnant Friend
I, for one, refuse to buy anything on a registry list for anyone I know. Instead, I would rather pay for postpartum doula hours, a gift certificate for a lactation consultant, arrange for nutritious meals to be delivered after the birth, get them a gift certificate for a grocery delivery service in their area like FreshDirect, make a meal train for the first six weeks, pay for house cleaning, pay for a wash and fold service to pick up and deliver their laundry for the first 4-6 weeks after the birth, or find a greatly recommended mother's helper on one of the FaceBook parenting groups local to the new parents and gift them as many hours as you can afford (you can even get multiple family members or friends to pitch in and multiply those hours). For parents in Hudson County, you can check Hoboken Mommies or Jersey City Moms for local resources.
If you know someone who just gave birth, whether it is a relative, friend or neighbor - even if you barely know them - please take the time and text, call, or email to let them know that you understand the insanity of it all. Tell them that you are arranging for two days worth of meals to be delivered. Let them know that you are bringing over a care package and that you will only stay for 15 minutes, unless they are all alone and need a nap, in which case you are happy to stay for three hours so they can eat a meal, feed the baby, then sleep soundly while you nurture the babe in your arms.
Giving Birth Is The Hardest Thing We Do As Humans
Next time you see a pregnant person or a new birth parent whom you know, tell them that it is harder than anything that they will ever, ever do; but that in their darkest moments they must remember that they WILL make it. Let them know that they are stronger than they had ever imagined possible and that having their heart fully exposed for the rest of their living days will make their life sweeter, kinder, and more colorful than they could have ever known.
If you approach parenthood with intention and the reverence it demands, the experience will gift you an opportunity to know your truest self and you will be inspired to make our world a better and kinder place. If you have read this far, please know that I understand your joys and pains and I salute you for embarking on one of the most courageous of all human experiences.
I SEE YOU and all that you do and give!!! XOXO