How often do we feel like this? How often do we worry about saying the wrong thing so just don’t say anything? There are some great blogs written about what not to say to new mums and particularly those with PND. These are often hilarious and brilliantly put together so rather than duplicate those I thought I’d write about what is good to say. Through my own experience I have learnt that words are so powerful and when you feel so unsure as many mums do about your ability in a new role, words hold even more power.
Often the phrase if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all is thrown around but we all know nice is a word that means very little. I think this should be if you don’t have anything kind, real and thought through to say don’t say anything, instead LISTEN! Leave room for them to speak and if they can’t speak then sit with them. Be with them in their pain. This sounds quite scary but for me the times when people have done this with me have been some of the most comforting and precious times.
You can’t fix someone in the time it takes to have a brew with them, they won’t be instantly better after a phone call but you may well have made a significant difference to their day and that could be more important that you will ever know. So what to say or do?
- Anything encouraging. New mums or generally most people need a little or a lot of encouragement. It’s so hard being a mum of a little one. There is so much advice, so many theories and so much you could do, it is easy to feel you are doing nothing well so let them know they are doing a good job. Perhaps let them know that actually just them making it out the house or being dressed when you call round is an achievement when you have a newborn. Recently someone said to me at a kids party, wow haven’t you done well to get here with two little ones. It reminded me that what I was doing was challenging, it had become the norm but actually making it to a kids party on time, with a present and 2 children (one in fancy dress) is not much short of a miracle when your youngest is less than 10 weeks old. We all know a mum doing more or looking better etc but those words from another mum encouraged me more than she’ll know.
- I’m here. Sometimes asking someone how they are, giving them a hug or inviting them somewhere may just be. It can be so lonely being a mum. There is nothing lonelier than being on your own at a baby/toddler group, sitting in amongst some cliquey mums and wondering if you will ever have the ‘mummy friends’ you’d thought you’d have by this point. Knowing that others are there is beyond valuable, particularly when feeling in a low which often leads to feelings of not being liked or good enough.
- Listen. Don’t dismiss their feelings about this massive transition by suggesting every mum has felt the same. They haven’t. Each mum and baby are unique as are their circumstances and therefore everyone need sspace to process. Listen to what they are expressing, allow them to talk, share your experiences if you think it would be helpful but overall just listen. Get a cup of tea and a cake and really take notice. Someone asked me what I found the hardest once and it really allowed me to explore what it was I was finding hard and they listened which was so kind.
- Keep in touch but with no pressure. I find myself withdrawing often from social occasions when I am low, either due to exhaustion from feeling unwell or from feeling isolated. A text to see how I’m doing or what I’m up to can really lift a day. One of the most comforting things I’ve learnt is that I can make a difference to someone’s day relatively easily as I know my days have been changed by simple acts of love and kindness that mean so much. Knowing friends accept that I sometimes have less capacity or need some time out and don’t judge me or fall out with me is a huge blessing.
When you are with someone who is struggling, just remember that today they may feel they are in thhe darkest winter but you may be the first glimpses of spring. A crocus, a daffodil, a cold but sunny day. How special to think just by listening and valuing the people around you, you could have such an impact.