When we open our mouths and say things to new mothers, the stakes are high.
Maybe our words will soothe their nagging postpartum anxiety or maybe we’ll offend them so profoundly, our inadvertent insult will haunt them for the rest of their days. We often forget how powerful what we say to our friends, coworkers, daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters can be at such a surreal and vulnerable time.
So, here are ten actually helpful things to say to new mothers, both because these things are universally true and, in a country with such dismal paid maternity leave policies*👎🏻, new mothers need all the love we can give.
You did it. You totally did it!
Having a child is bananas, whether you shove it out of your vagina, open your stomach as a service exit, or endure the rigors of a lengthy adoption process.
Whatever a new mom did to have that baby, she could probably use a little credit. Shake your head and marvel at her. Sure, that baby is great, but your friend has decided to be that baby’s mother, FOREVER. Do not let the new mother go unsung.
You look beautiful.
Because she does! She probably doesn’t look like the way she did before the baby was born, but to be beautiful is not to be the same forever, it’s not to be rigid and unchanging.
She’s a new person now. And sleeplessness, love, worry, devotion, and every hormone in between are remaking her into something that’s aglow with life.
See that in her. And tell her you do!
What a perfect baby.
Look, you don’t have to lie and say that her baby’s cute if he’s not. But you don’t have to point that shit out either!
We see things and we want to say what we see, to assess them, categorize them, convince ourselves that by taking in all of that baby’s physical features, we truly know them. But squint and you’ll see more than the baby’s features. You’ll see a tiny being very new to earth, you’ll hear its sweet breaths and surprising farts, and you’ll likely be endeared to it.
The point is, don’t talk about how her baby looks. Her baby is perfect, and so is she, and so are you.
No, you don’t smell like milk. Nope, not at all. 😊
She does, though. Because, of course she does!
Whether it’s leaking out of her breasts, or through the broken lip of those weird bottles everyone says are the best, or straight out of her baby’s mouth onto – goddammit – your white silk tank top (why would you wear that to go meet a baby anyway?), she is deep the milk weeds.
So, get a grip, and tell your friend she doesn’t smell like anything and move on to another topic. Talk about this bonkers election. Talk about how you’ll never be over avocado toast.