As a self-sufficient, educated, career-driven, and independent woman, for most of your adult life you have been able to take care of yourself. You have gotten so good at it, in fact, that you can take care of yourself, your husband, your two dogs, and your sister, who never seemed to get her act together.
Oftentimes, it is easier to do things yourself rather than asking someone else to do it. (Typically you can do it faster and, frankly, you can do it better.)
When asked the question, “Can I do anything for you?”
You automatically answer, “No, I’m good” (even if you are not good).
You don’t hesitate for a moment when you see that someone needs your help. You may even go above and beyond the call of duty and take extra special care of that person in need.
But now you are about to have a baby, or you have just had a baby. Now, your most important job in the whole wide world is to feed this baby and keep him alive. In order to do that, you must also take care of yourself.
Now, mama, is the time to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
So, if someone says, “Can I do anything for you?”
This is the response. Repeat after me. “Yes, thank you very much. It would be so helpful if you could __________.”
Fill in the blank. Instead of giving you examples of things people can do for you, which is a really, really, really long list, I am going to give you the list of things people can’t do for you.
Other people cannot:
1. Breastfeed for you.
(And the vast majority of the time having someone bottle-feed the baby isn’t helpful because you would still need to pump. So, unless you are on a plan that involves bottles or you are leaving the baby behind to go somewhere, bottle-feeding is not helpful).
But, it is helpful if someone brings you water with a bendy straw and holds it next to your mouth so you can drink while you are breastfeeding.
2. Perform your personal self-care.
Postpartum can be icky and uncomfortable, so you probably should handle your own lady business without too much help.
But, it is really helpful to have someone hold and calm the baby for you while you bask in the loveliness of your peri bottle.
3. Sleep for you.
Nobody can sleep for you. It is your job to carve out time to sleep. There are a lot of things you may try to do instead of sleep. All of those things, with the exception of the two tasks above, can be done by someone else and should be done by someone else.
4. Eat for you.
Nobody can eat for you, so you need to do that yourself.
But, someone can cook you food or bring your food. Your hubby can make you a few sandwiches before he leaves for work and put them in the fridge. Someone can hold the baby while you eat.
There you go. There are four things that others cannot do for you. Everything–and I mean everything–else can be outsourced.
Another note on asking for what you need:
Be really clear, assertive, and persistent to healthcare providers who you know could be helpful but aren’t being helpful. Sure, they are busy, but people are also inherently lazy, so if they don’t have to teach you or demonstrate how to use the breast pump, they won’t.
A few examples:
If you are in the hospital and you need to pump, the nurse will bring the hospital-grade pump and pumping kit into your room. If she attempts to put the kit on top of the pump, still in its package and leave, say, “Excuse me, would you mind showing me exactly what to do with this high-powered milk extracting device before I place it on my bare skin?”
If you are returning to work and you are having the conversation with your boss about when and where you will pump, do not expect him to lay out the red carpet and adapt everyone’s schedule. Simply tell him what you need: “Hey, Fred. When I come back to work, I will need a clean place to pump that isn’t the bathroom that is shielded from view, ideally with a lock. I will be hopping in and out of there a few times during my work day, but no worries; it won’t effect my productivity. Where will be the best place for me to do that?”
If you are at home sitting on the couch after nursing the baby for three hours straight and your husband calls from work and says, “Hey, hon, some of the guys are going out after work. Would you mind if I go out, too?” say, “Actually, honey, I think it is best if you come home tonight. If this baby doesn’t get off my boob soon, I am going to take him to the fire station and leave him there. So, if like having a son, I don’t recommend going out with the guys from work.”
Just kidding, that would be what I would say. You should say something less sarcastic, passive aggressive, violent, and dramatic; for example, “Honey, I know you would really like to go out with your friends, but I am feeling really overwhelmed and exhausted today. I could really use your help tonight. Can you please come right home?”
See? Direct, mature, to the point. Ask for what you need. Just try it.