Your friend just had a baby.
She’s your first (insert word: high school, college, childhood) friend to go through this massive life change, and it freaks you out to think that someone your age could be a mom now.
Maybe you aren’t sure what to say or how to act. You’ve been friends for so long, and you love her, but your friendship is quickly changing. She doesn’t answer your texts like she used to. She doesn’t have time to talk you through your ongoing dating drama — and who will be your sounding board now? Even though she says she still cares, she’s always distracted with feeding or consoling or changing a diaper that looks more like an air bag by the time that kid’s filled it up. And as cute as her baby is, and as happy as you are for her, you just can’t relate.
You have grad school exams and roommate arguments, and she’s barely sleeping enough to hold a conversation. You don’t want to take up any more of her time, and you have absolutely no advice or understanding of virtually anything she’s dealing with. (And there’s just so much talk about poop. Is that normal?)
You want to help. You want to be useful. You want to be a good friend; you just don’t know how. You don’t even know if your friend wants you around any more. (She does.)
Well, hypothetical friend, you shouldn’t be expected to immediately understand how to help your friend (and your friendship) through this transition. And truth is, she might not know how to ask for help. She might not even know what she needs or wants — it’s new to her, too.
So in an effort to help, I’ve come up with 10 things you can do and 3 things you should NOT do for your new-mom friend.
1. Bring food. Offer to grab a pizza on your way over, or ask if she wants anything in particular. It’s hard to get out of the house with a baby, so swinging by with some one-handed food — granola bars, apples, plenty of water — is very appreciated. Bring over a bag of groceries and stock her cabinets, if you’re feeling extra generous. Also: A fruit (and chocolate?) basket is way more useful and appreciated than more flowers.
2. Also, does she need face wash? Jumbo maxi pads? Nipple cream? Diapers? Be direct: “Hey I’m at the grocery store/CVS/the mall right now, what do you need?”
3. Bring a gift for her, not the baby. A favorite candy, a DVD, a new magazine. You could be a real superstar and sign her up for a monthly subscription, like Glossybox. But don't feel weird if you can't show up with gifts in hand. Money is tight, she gets it.
4. Offer to go on walks with her. She’ll want to get out of the house and get some fresh air, and it will give you time to catch up while the baby is harnessed down and (hopefully) napping.
5. Offer to run errands with her. Sure you might not be getting mani/pedis or going out for margaritas like the olden days, but you can accompany her to Target and be an extra set of hands.
6. Work around her schedule. Understand that this is a very short, very demanding, very exhausting time period that she’s in. She’s in pain, she’s hormonal, she’s literally never been this tired in her life. Go easy on her. It won't always be this difficult.
7. Offer to watch her baby while she takes a shower. Maybe even encourage her to straighten her hair and put on some lipstick. She’ll feel like a new woman.
8. Snap lots of candid photos. (Like you weren’t going to do that, anyway.) She'll deeply appreciate having those moments captured. And if you can print them out or make a little digital book for her? Well A+ for you, friend.
9. Be patient. This phase will not last forever, and before you know it, you’ll see your old friend emerge from the hazy fog of new motherhood. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll both change in your unique ways, and your schedules will keep conflicting and your time together will diminish. That happens as we get older. But if she’s important to you, you'll find a way back to each other.
10. Show her you care. Even if you’re states away or just super swamped with your own newly grown-up life, a little text every now and then will brighten her mood. No need to put pressure on her to respond or to make plans. Just be there for her, and know that no matter how glowing her Instagram feed is or how blissed-out she seems on Facebook, it's difficult to be a new mom. Lonely, isolating, exhausting, confusing. She could really use a friend.
And now for the DON'Ts.
1. Don't take it personally. It's not that your friendship isn't important to her, or that your problems aren't important...it's just really overwhelming to juggle this brand new life of hers, with all of the responsibilities and expectations and priority shifting going on. She might not want to do the same things she used to — and that's okay. Maybe you think she's totally annoying because all she talks about is her baby and how amazing being a mother is, and you're feeling a little left out. It's okay to feel that way, too. Be honest when she says something hurtful or insensitive. But try not to take it personally.
2. Don't go on and on about the wild parties she's missing, or humble brag about your oh-so-free life. No matter how much she loves being a mommy, it's hard to hear about the familiar world she's missing out on. And if you're doing it to counterbalance her endless talk of poop (to answer your earlier question, yes, that's normal), don't be passive aggressive, either.
3. Don't give unsolicited advice, or stress her out with the What Ifs and If Onlys. She gets enough of that from her family.
All you really have to do is show up — physically or virtually. Be there for her.
Preferably with a pizza in hand.