The transition into motherhood can be a daunting one, and I think culturally our focus tends to be on the new life of the baby rather than the changing life of the woman who’s just emptied her womb. And that’s understandable right? Babies are so cute and squishy and fresh and tiny. Their lives are ones to be showered and celebrated. They are so easy to adorn. New mothers are different. New mothers are powerful and vulnerable and open and raw. Their lives have changed irreversibly in a matter of moments and how do we cope with this in society? We encourage them to return to normality as soon as possible, for all our sakes. To get their bodies back, to go back to their old jobs, to keep doing the things they did before they grew the babies. To make as little fuss as possible Why? Because it’s easier for us that way. It’s easier for us to not address the life-changing art of becoming a mother, and to nurture her through the intimidating physical and emotional challenges it brings.
I am writing this blog post because I work with pregnant women and new mothers every day. I see them preparing for their births studiously – taking all the classes, breathing all the breaths, buying all the stuff. And then I see them become mothers and I see them change. I see them trying to cling onto who they were before. I see them holding back tears because they can’t bear to reveal vulnerability as if it were the plague. I see them doing whatever they can to keep one foot in the shoes they used to wear. I know because I did all that too. It’s survival. It’s primal, it’s raw, it’s fueled by love and often by fear. It’s crazy and it’s amazing all in one moment, and I reckon it needs to be acknowledged by us all a bit more bravely.
One of my good friends has just given birth and I am committed to letting her know we’ve got her back. When people have babies we buy cute stuff and take it round and cuddle them and leave, and I want this to serve as a reminder to nurture the mothers around us – the motherhood, the sisterhood. When your friend has a baby, think about her – about the woman she’s become – the part of her spirit she’s left behind – the new parts she’s scared to embrace – and let her know it’s okay. With this in mind I have put together a little list of thoughtful gifts you could take for her, rather than the baby and rather than a plant/flowers/something else to look after. They might not be things you’ve thought of before, because they are collated to encourage a new mother to “don’t” rather than “do”. To sit back and take it slow, to transition into motherhood gradually, one moment at a time, with tons of goodness and mindful rest that is quite frankly essential to getting your head around this new job spec. I am telling you now she will love you for it.
Food, food, and food
Everyone’s heard (or given) the “fill up your freezer” line, but how many of us really do it? Similarly, you’ll have probably heard that taking round a hearty meal to new parents in exchange for baby cuddles is good etiquette. Now that’s all well and good, and definitely do it if you can, but what if you’re a ghastly cook? Disappointment/poisoning is not what we’re going for here, so COOK has your answer! Buy the new parents a COOK voucher for a delicious home cooked meal that can be delivered to (almost) any kitchen nationwide! If the new mama you’re buying for is breastfeeding, you could also check out the amazing BooB Smoothies which help promote the production of breast milk and are available for delivery.
Pretty printed positivity
When you’ve just had a baby it can be easy for your house to become a muslin/mitten factory overnight, so what about getting mum something that makes her feel good and is nice to look at on the days she’s stuck in the house because everyone keeps pooing/crying? I adore these prints by the talented Becki Clark – if you drop her a line you can even ask her for a custom print that’s made especially with the new mum in mind. For bonus points, get it framed so that mum doesn’t have to! If you’re creative you could even make something yourself. Handmade gifts always seem more special now that Amazon Prime exists!
Nice smells and stuff
I’m not going to lie, the first weeks of motherhood contain an enormous amount of milk, poo and sick. It can smell a bit rank. So why not treat mum to some niceness that’s going to help make her nest smell amazing and promote a sense of peace and calm? NEOM is one of my favourite brands and they have wellbeing ranges that include scents to sleep, instantly de-stress, boost energy, make you happy, and calm & relax – erm, all of the above anyone? I love their Cocoon Yourself candle which is an amazing blend of mandarin, ylang ylang and chamomile, AND it’s almost half price in their sale at the moment. I’m also a big fan of this Badger Balm which is great for upping mum’s chances of a good night’s sleep, even when the odds are against her.
Obviously I’m a big advocate of mindfulness for mothers and that’s why I designed my YESMUM cards – positive affirmation cards that use mindfulness and positive programming techniques to help adjust mindset and strengthen emotional wellbeing. There are 31 cards in a pack, so mum keeps them on her bedside table, turns over a new card each morning, reads aloud and embraces for the rest of her day. Each card serves as a reminder that she’s doing a great job and encourages her to ditch the guilt and anxiety-breeding comparisons. Another nice idea is buying the new mama a little journal and some nice pens so that she can stop worrying about sleep-deprivation-induced forgetfulness! The Happiness Planner have some gorgeous products that fit the bill perfectly.
TV on tap
Just to prove I’m not an anti-tech pocket-watch wielding hippy, why not get mum something she can enjoy during endless hours of breastfeeding? I remember watching countless episodes of Desperate Housewives on my phone in the middle of the night. If only Netflix had existed five years ago! Imagine how happy your mate would be if you bought her an Amazon Fire Stick so that she could literally pop the laptop on (in whichever room she’s in!) and watch whatever she likes without having to subscribe/search/buffer/plug in loads of wires. And it’s only £35 which is what you’d probably spend on flowers. Much better value IMO. Failing that, buy her a box set.
I’m pretty sure there was a time when men used to buy their wives a piece of bling after birth, but apparently that doesn’t happen any more. Every woman loves receiving jewellery though right? It’s just for her and acts as a tangible reminder of someone’s feelings towards her. In that case, why not take the new mama something gorgeous like one of Cult of Youth’s mega MAMA chains? They are available in silver, gold and rose gold, and you can pick from Mother, Mama or even her little one’s name. Made by a mama too, so that makes it even better in my book. Also gorgeous are the semi-precious stone necklaces by Wanderlustlife, all handmade in the UK, or if the pal in question had her baby some months ago, you should check out Lara and Ollie who make really cool teething necklaces for mums to wear and babies to chew! Epic idea right?
Books that aren’t just about babies
I never really get the “what to expect” baby books, because the whole point surely is that you have no idea what to expect, and no one does. Babies aren’t robots and aren’t programmable to perform to a book’s milestones and schedules, however much our culture tries to enforce it. So let’s leave mama to use her trusty instinct when it comes to her baby, and instead buy her something to read about the sisterhood of new mothers. Three of my favourite books for new mums (that aren’t preachy and share personal and thoughtful insight) are Hey Natalie Jean by Natalie Holbrook, How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing Your Cool by founder of Mothers Meeting, Jenny Scott, and of course, One Day Young by photographer (and mama) extraordinaire, Jenny Lewis. If she’s more of a news fiend, she might find that life with a newborn leaves her constantly feeling on the back foot of current affairs, in which case buy her (or subscribe her to if you’re feeling generous!) Delayed Gratification – a news publication that waits for three months to pass before returning to the news, picking out what really mattered and returning to events with the benefit of hindsight. It’s really pretty excellent.
The Imperfection Pot
This is genuinely one of the most lovely things I’ve come across! Designed by Adam Buick for The School of Life, The Imperfection Pot is a simple ceramic pot that serves as a reminder to be mindful. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of wabi sabi, which finds beauty in humble, imperfect and easily overlooked places, it was made with a free hand which has resulted in the appearance of subtle flaws. Rather than ruin it, these imperfections are the key to its charm. They encapsulate – and promote more widely in life – an attitude of generosity and acceptance. It is designed to help us in the tricky but necessary task of accepting and even learning to appreciate our imperfections – as well as the flaws of others. It provides a counter to our yearning for perfection, which can be relentless, and is something to turn to for support and inspiration when our unreasonably high expectations of ourselves and those around us threaten to get out of control.
Unashamed mother merchandise
Motherhood might be a tough gig at times, but it’s also pretty damn amazing. It’s certainly the best club I’ve ever belonged to, so why not remind mum that this is not the end with some all-out unashamed mother merchandise? There’s plenty out there, but my favourites by a mile are the excellent goods by Mère Soeur – this travel mug would be perfect on those first pram-pushing park walks, especially combined with this TeaPigs Fennel & Liquorice tea which is caffeine free and perfect for milk-making mamas. There’s also the awesome apparel by Selfish Mother (you must’ve seen plenty of celebs sporting the famous Mother tee right?). Not only are her tees and tops super cool, but all profits from sales of Mother designs go to Women for Women International – an amazing charity that helps women in 8 war-torn regions rebuild their lives through training programmes.
The ultimate box of treats
If you just can’t decide what to go for, then Don’t Buy Her Flowers is TOTALLY your answer! DBHF is the brainchild of my talented friend Steph and offers thoughtful gift boxes for new mums. The idea being that however lovely it is to receive flowers, it’s basically something else to look after, which isn’t massively ideal when you’ve just had a baby and inevitably run out of vases. Imagine opening the door to this lovely lot! Her packages start from £17.50 and include all sorts of loveliness, from magazines to Moet (and all that’s in between).
Now just to clarify, I’m not against flowers. I mean who doesn’t love getting posies from the postman? But maybe gift them a few months down the line when the stem-bearing visitors have dwindled and your pal needs that happy reminder that she hasn’t been forgotten. Even better, check out JamJar Flowers and Edie Rose whose beautiful blooms come prearranged, meaning all mum has to do is smell and smile.
…And as a little bonus idea for my London mamas, why not book your mum mate a reflexology session with mobile therapist Hannah, a postnatal massage (which she can take her baby to!) with Beccy or a family photoshoot with the mega talented Emily Gray Photography. You’ll be in the top mates book for a long time to come.