As one preparing to be a mom and as a friend and family member to many new moms, I'm currently standing right in the wind channel of parenting advice. Everyone I meet is eager to tell me just what being a mom entails, and I've come to the realization that no matter how much I read, ask, or prepare, I will never know what its like to be a new mom until I'm actually there.
Through my own limited yet growing experience and in talking with many, many new moms, I've weeded down what I believe are the four most important things any new mom needs to hear. So, if you're close to a new mom, listen up: although us new moms and moms-to-be are inexperienced and have much to learn, here are the four things we really need you to say.
"Motherhood Is Amazing"
We all know motherhood is hard, and no one knows it better than a brand-new mom experiencing it for the first time. Since she's already wading through exhaustion, worry, pain, etc. 24/7, the last thing she needs is others dwelling on the negative or telling her, "Just wait until he's a teenager."
Of course, if she wants to talk about the hard stuff, lend a listening ear, but remember that what a new mom needs to hear is enthusiasm, encouragement, and awe over this wonderful adventure she's embarked on. Gush with her about all the beauties of motherhood and about the sacredness and importance of her calling.
In April 1999,President Nelson quoted a First Presidency message saying, "Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels."
When you see a new mother, make sure to remind her of this glorious truth. She is an angel, chosen by God to take care of one of His precious spirits sent fresh from heaven. Remind her that God knows her, imperfections and all, and that despite her limitations, she is the mother her children need.
My sister-in-law, who just gave birth to her first child a few weeks ago, said, "When I think about how incredible it is that such a big spirit was placed in this little tiny body and that I get to be the one to take care of her and teach her about the world, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude from the Spirit."
Another young mother wrote to Elder Holland, “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that my motherhood is an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent, even if some of His children make Him weep.”
A few new moms might be comfortable talking about the extremely personal details of motherhood, but most are not. Unless she offers up the information herself, please don't ask about how much weight she's gained or how much she still needs to lose. Don't ask to see her stretch marks. Don't tell her she looks tired or smells like milk.
Instead, tell her she's beautiful, strong, and brave. Compliment her on the miraculous feat she's accomplished in bringing a child into the world and in navigating new and unknown territory. Point out the sparkle in her eye as she cuddles her little one. Comment on what she's doing right.
Elder Holland said, "I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you."
The following quote from Marjory Pay Hinckley sums up motherhood and true beauty well. She said:
"I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
"I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
"I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwhiches for a sick neighbors chidlren.
"I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden.
"I want to be there with my chidren's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
"I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived."
"Follow Your Intuition"
The avalanche of conflicting parenting advice from friends, family, doctors, and the internet can be very overwhelming for a new mom. And although it is important to be educated, most of the time the best advice, as one of my new-mom friends put it, is simply, "follow your gut."
The Holy Ghost works through simple thoughts and feelings. President Spencer W. Kimball said in the Friend magazine in 1971, "These heaven-sent instructions or warnings parents receive for their families might be called intuition or the voice of the Lord coming into their minds from heavenly sources to safeguard their homes."
President Kimball said that his own life was saved numerous times through his mother's intuition.
"During my young boyhood, there were many occasions when mother's instructive and intuitive understanding prompted her to know that help was needed. Once on a stormy night she directed my father to go and search for me, only to find that my horse had stumbled and thrown me into a pool of half-frozen mud. My mother had known that help was needed.
"Someone has coined a statement that has great significance: 'God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.'"
So, new moms: no matter what anyone says, follow your motherly intuition. Your Heavenly Father knows your baby best of all, and you know your baby second-best of all. Don't let anyone else's well-meaning advice get in the way of that.
Everyone else: Share your advice when it's asked for, but be sure mom knows that her inner radar knows best, and applaud her for following her gut, even if her approach is different than yours.
"You are Not Alone"
Finally, new moms need to know that they are not alone.Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said, "The fact of the matter is, we really and truly need each other. Women naturally seek friendship, support, and companionship."
That friendship, support, and companionship is especially important to a new mom who suddenly finds herself cooped up at home and walking an unfamiliar path.
A visit, a phone call, a text, and especially a pair of helping hands to do the dishes or run a load of laundry are exactly what a new mom needs.
Avoid the dreaded phrase, "Let me know if you need anything," and offer a new mom specific help, such as, "I made you dinner. When is a good time to drop it off?" or "I have a few free hours on Friday. Can I come take care of the baby while you sleep?"
In addition, new moms need to know that no matter the time, day or night, they have a Heavenly Father who is walking with them and angels that are buoying them up.
In a message to mothers, Elder Holland said:
"Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. . . .
"You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be."
Moms, you are in an eternal partnership with God in raising His children. He has chosen you, and He will not abandon you. Cherish every moment and remember, you are not alone.
Lead image from Deseret News
"In this great, eternal work, mothers have carried the torch of faith and family from the beginning. The need for that torch to burn brightly and dispel darkness has never been greater," writes Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.In this thoughtful book for mothers, Elder and Sister Holland reflect on the crucial role of motherhood in fulfilling the purposes of eternity, as well as the challenges that all mothers experience. Filled with hope and encouragement, their message will resonate mothers in all of life’s stages. Concludes Elder Holland, "To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle, I say, 'God bless you. You are doing better than you think you are.'"