18 March 2016, by Lim Peifen
Ever since Luke came into my life, I’ve made it a point to offer words of encouragement to other friends who have just given birth, whenever I can. The actual events in the first weeks of my motherhood journey are now a fuzzy distant memory, but I do still remember how overwhelmed, helpless and alone I felt. My husband did everything he could to be sensitive, supportive and involved, but the challenges of motherhood are only truly understood by mothers, so communicating with friends who are mothers often made me feel much better. I am very grateful for mum friends who are kind and thoughtful, who were always considerate and gentle whenever I asked for help. Having benefited from the tact of my wonderful friends, I feel I should share a few tips on how mothers can constructively encourage new mothers.
I usually start by sending a message on What’sapp, because no new mum welcomes the relentless ringing from an incoming call, especially at the most inopportune of times, like while trying to enter let-down mode during breastfeeding. It is important to sound positive but not pressing, so I begin with “Hi! How are mummy and baby?” This greeting that is also a question serves to encourage a response, if the recipient wishes to respond. However, in order not to cause any additional stress, I add a note after the question to make it OK even if she doesn’t reply: “Just wanna say enjoy your new adventure! ”
Should the conversation continue, I bear in mind not to complain or compare. New mums need motivation, we need energy, we need to be able to laugh amidst the tears. We do not need negativity while dealing with an uncompromising, incomprehensible wailing baby. We do not need questions like “How much does your LO drink?” or “Has your baby (insert milestone) yet?”, only to be followed by comparisons with other babies. Offer tangible help, like food delivery services, because new parents need to eat and have no time to cook or buy food. It’s best not to visit uninvited though, because having to tidy up the house and entertain visitors is another thing a new mum, who is seriously sleep-deprived and most likely still not back in shape, doesn’t need.
Keep conversations short and sweet. Remember that newborns are constantly needy, and any moment they are not needy is the golden opportunity for mothers to get some much-needed rest. Unless she obviously wants to continue talking, I will, after a few exchanges, politely end the conversation with something positive, like “Keep up the great work!” or “Mums are awesome!”
A word of advice about offering advice: try not to. In my own experience I often found well-intended advice from various sources confusing and stress-inducing. If a new mum asks you for advice, share your experiences from a personal point of view as an anecdote but not a hard and fast rule (please do refrain from “You MUST” or “You SHOULD” and the likes). Most importantly, remind her that every baby, and every mother, is different.
A few kind words can have a great positive impact, even more so from one mum to another. Let us always remember that we are never alone on this journey of Motherhood, and remind others that they, too, are not alone.