As the Mama of three grown children, and Nana of soon-to-be three grandchildren, I’ve worked hard to develop a healthy role in the lives of my children and their families. As we Mamas learned firsthand, new parents usually don’t know what to expect and first-time grandparents have something to learn, too! I believe the best thing we can do for our loved ones is to offer empathy and support. It’s important to be patient and be available, especially when our children are having children of their own. When my children ask for parenting advice, I am always happy to listen and offer guidance, while respecting and believing in their ability to best care for their children.
When my daughter, Rebekah, was in her sixth month of pregnancy with my grandson, I invited her to attend two informational sessions on pregnancy and postpartum related depression and anxiety at the state health department where I work. It turned out I was really glad she came with me because Rebekah lost one of her childhood friends on the weekend between the two sessions. I am so thankful my daughter and I had learned about pregnancy and postpartum related depression and anxiety together so I could support her during such a difficult time.
It was helpful for us to be reminded that feelings of sadness, frustration and guilt are not always just the “baby blues” and pregnancy and/or postpartum related depression and anxiety is real, common, and can be devastating without treatment and support.
Rebekah and her husband, Nick, had a birthing plan in place that did not include family members in the delivery room. While I was a little surprised to hear their plan at first, I reminded myself how I wanted to respect Rebekah and Nick’s wishes as that is the best thing you can do as a Mama-Nana. With my daughter’s approval, I came to the hospital with a plan to simply “be there” for them without being in the delivery room. I was available for food, coffee runs and whatever they needed from me. Within a few days of coming home, my grandson made a return to the hospital’s NICU where he stayed for three days. It was another emotional turn of events for my daughter and her husband, but by offering to help at the hospital to provide emotional support and sustenance, I felt I was able to play a meaningful role in the birth of my grandson as well as help with their recoveries afterwards.
My relationship with my adult children, their partners and the grand-babies has grown exponentially along with the size of our family. This Mama-Nana hopes to be a voice that encourages everyone in the family to be supportive of one another, turn to one another to vent, inquire, and have fun and be silly whenever you can, no matter how hard times can be! As a Nana we get so excited to care for our new grand-babies but we must also remember that pregnant and new mothers need love and support, too.
They may find it hard to be honest about their feelings and accept help in the beginning. That’s okay, we can still be supportive.
- Encourage her to get help from a professional.
- Help her find a support group and local resources.
- Spend time listening without needing to offer solutions and advice.
- Look after the baby or older children, or discuss other childcare options so she can have a break.
- Take a simple action like cooking and cleaning without taking over these activities or expecting anything in return.
- Encourage her to take care of herself by eating, resting, walking and limiting alcohol use.