Hmm ...so what is Ayadat عيادت?
There is a word in Urdu, ayadat عيادت, that refers to visiting someone who is unwell. Over time, I feel that as a community we have forgotten the purpose of this concept and the etiquettes that go along with it. I went through many challenges right after I had my baby and it made me feel that we really need to have a discussion about how to visit new parents (as well as people who are sick). When we visit a family that is taking care of a newborn, we need to remember that we are actually going for "ayadat" not just to congratulate them. We need to keep in mind that the first few weeks are when the mother is going through a healing process. Her body changed in so many ways to make room for the new life and is now trying to go back to its original state and that process takes time.
The mother- Her whole body is aching. Her internal organs are shifting back including the uterus. The open wound inside the uterus, where the placenta was, will take 6 weeks or longer to fully heal. She is at risk of infection and hemorrhaging. She is going through perineum soreness and dealing with those painful hemorrhoids. She still has vaginal bleeding and unhealed tears that eventually the stitches will heal. Let's not forget the wonderful hormonal changes that may bring about baby blues. Small things may overwhelm her and she may feel like crying. It's like her body is missing the little baby that it fell in love with and carried with so much care. She cannot fall asleep properly because her body is too alert for the baby. In fact, she may not have slept for a few hours straight since she gave birth. Oh! before I forget to mention, she may have forgotten to take a shower as well because nobody reminded her. She has no idea how to nurse the baby, so her brain is busy learning a million new things at the same time. That is not easy my friends!
The Visitors- Congratulations! "When can we come to see the baby?" "When can we come to see the baby?" "How come we haven't been called over yet?". "We are coming to the hospital""Do you not want us to come to see the baby?" "Why are we being treated like this?"
The change..? Now that we know what exactly is happening inside and outside the mother's body, let's create new traditions together! =)
* Call - the parents to congratulate and ask how they are doing?
* Acceptance- please don't dismiss their emotions. Create a safe space for them to share all kinds feelings and thoughts.
* Food- Drop off healthy and nutritious food and snacks for the new parents.
* Outdoor Help- Offer to buy groceries for them so they can rest
* Indoor help- Offer to help with laundry and house cleaning
* Pain Management- If you are a woman and close to the family, offer to help the mother shower and give her aching body a massage.
* Babysit- Offer to watch the baby for a few hours so the parents can rest
* Self-care- Bring the mother some personal care products to remind her of self-care such as skin care, hair care, nice clothes, a movie ticket, a gift card for date night, a gift card to get the so needed massage.
* Emotional Support- Send them positive and encouraging messages telling them they are doing a wonderful job. Build on their newly developing self-esteem as parents.
* Reminder and Reassurance- Remind the new parents that feeling overwhelmed at times or anxious is okay and that it is all temporary.
* Positivity- please avoid giving advice unless asked for and keep criticism away.
* Drama- kindly leave family dramas at home and do not create any new ones. Let's keep the atmosphere as happy and friendly as we can.
* Most importantly, do not forget about them after your initial "congratulatory" visit and do not take anything personally. Call/text/leave a message often, so they know they are not alone. Make dua for the mother's fast recovery and a smooth transition for both parents.
Together, we can change how we provide post-partum care for one another. There is great reward in being compassionate towards other human beings especially those that are vulnerable. Together, we can lower post-partum depression and anxiety rates. The sooner we follow preventative measures for a stronger community, the sooner we can start earning the rewards that Allah (swt) has saved in store for us. InshAllah.