Beyonce was given an 8 carat blue diamond following the 2012 birth of her daughter Blue, Pink was presented with a custom-built motorbike after safely delivering her son Jameson and Kylie Jenner was gifted with a Ferrari after welcoming little Stormi into the world in February. Me? After bringing our firstborn home from the hospital, I stepped through the front door of our apartment to be greeted by a teetering pile of washing, dishes in the sink and an unmade bed.
Let’s be clear; this isn’t a plea for a belated push present (even the term ‘push present’ irks me. Does it mean that those of us who become mothers without technically pushing a baby out are unworthy of gifts?!), nor is this me publicly bagging out my partner for not whipping the hoover around before our arrival (well, maybe just a touch). Instead, think of this as a Public Service Announcement: what new mothers really want after another human exits their body is the time and space to recover physically and mentally. It’s that simple.
Don’t buy her flowers
Look, flowers and chocolate are always a lovely gesture, but I can guarantee that any frazzled new mother will appreciate little pockets of time to herself even more. Pop over (not unannounced – never unannounced) and offer to watch over the baby while she takes a shower or nap. Make her a hot cup of tea and fold the washing (because there will always be washing) while you talk. Whether it’s your partner, family member or friend, do what you can to help the new mum in your life to recuperate.
We rush back to real life
For me, with little family nearby and a partner who had to return to work almost immediately, the opportunity to rest and heal following the birth of our son was minimal. So, when I became pregnant again having moved closer to a support network, I swore things would be different. This time I was pulling up the drawbridge, I was bunkering down. There would be no squeezing my wobbly post-baby body back into my activewear and rushing off to Coles to ‘do a big shop’ – I was convalescing, dammit.
Of course, as anyone with one child or more will attest, the idea of ‘sleeping when the baby sleeps’ is laughable when you have a pre-schooler tearing around the place. Heck, the idea of sleeping ever feels like a pretty alien notion. There is no rest and recuperation when your three-year-old still needs his dippy egg and soldiers. And so, despite my best intentions, I ran myself so ragged during those precious few weeks that I ended up ill, sore and with such a severe eye infection it looked like I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
Rushing back to real life so soon after giving birth didn’t just take a toll on me physically, I felt as though I was missing out on precious bonding time with my new little one – and that hurt more than any bout of conjunctivitis.
Bring back convalescence
It made me question; why don’t we look after our new mothers anymore? In Amsterdam, new mums are given a ‘kraamverzorger’ (maternity nurse) for a week. It’s not uncommon for the kraamverzorger to collect your other children from school, do a food shop and even make special biscuits for visiting family. This, quite frankly, sounds amazing.
But the Dutch aren’t alone when it comes to prioritising the wellbeing of new mothers. The Chinese have zuo yuezi (which means ‘sitting the month’) while being spoon-fed lactation inducing broths, Indian women spend anything between 40-60 days in confinement (bliss!) to protect both mum and bub from infection, while – and this is my personal favourite – the Koreans spend three pampered-filled weeks in bed at their parents’ house while they bond with their new baby.
All around the world women are encouraged to recover from the physical demands of childbirth, yet in Australia you’ll be lucky to get a slap on the back from your midwife and a sachet of stool-softening powder.
Help each other recover
It seems as though, much like extravagant push presents, the opportunity to convalesce in Australia is a right reserved for the privileged. But what if we helped each other recuperate? Instead of visiting your new-mum friend with a two-tier nappy cake in tow and having her wait on you, consider being her kraamverzorger for an hour. Take over a lasagne or offer to take her bigger kids to the park – the memory of that gesture will last far longer than the lifespan of a bunch of gerberas.