Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Post-Birth Guests


I got a lovely e-mail from a kindred spirit in Australia, talking about how to navigate visits from family after birth.

Here's what she said:

The first weeks and months and year even, are extremely wonderful but also challenging for so many reasons you have already identified. However, managing the relationship with parents and in-laws can be equally wonderful and fraught (much like-wedding planning). All sorts of assumptions and expectations and stress around the new baby and our own upbringings can really make that transition from son/daughter to parent and from parent to grandparent extremely difficult. For example, our birth centre recommended no visitors for the first 24hrs to let baby and mum rest and for everyone to get to know each others smells and bond. I am very close to my mother, but this request was really difficult for her to understand. Also, I have a great relationship with my in-laws, but so many of the things they do with our son really irk me and I think they are challenging or doubting our parenting decisions. Really, they are just helping and adore their grandson and I have to keep reminding myself of this. I also imagine that living away from family means that in-laws and parents will be visiting for extended periods of time which brings a whole host of other issues into play.

Like I said, I just think this is something that begs thinking about before the sleepless nights arrive. We are for good reason focussed on the bonding and sleeping and breastfeeding and our relationship with our partner, but often forget about the extended networks (and associated stresses) that make up a family and it is good to reflect (with matt) and possibly have a strategy or personal mantra to help get through some of those new challenges.

My family is in Florida and Matt's is in Indiana. That means we have to plan when family comes to visit.

Initially, I was thinking that Matt and I would want about two weeks together with our new baby alone, so we could establish ourselves as parents and bond. However, we recently interviewed a doula, and she recommended that we invite family right away, so that we can have help with cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.

I've talked about this issue with my mom and my "bonus mom," and they both seem amenable to whatever Matt and I want. It's just so hard to know what we'll want before the time comes! Because they'll have to book flights, take time off from work, etc., we can't exactly wait and see what we want. Therefore, I would appreciate any insight you all have! Would you prefer to have family come and help right away or would you rather have alone time to bond with the baby and get your bearings?

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18 comments:

The Great Askini said...

I asked my mom to come for the first week post-birth. On one hand it was really comforting to have my own mommy there as I navigated mommyhood. However, I was too exhausted (and a little scared) to direct her to do anything. So there was a lot of her holding the baby while I did laundry. My advice? Make sure either you or your husband would be comfortable asking any guests to help.

On another random note, my doula suggested, as part of our baby shower, bringing a blank calendar and asking the guests to pick a date where they would bring food, come help, or just come visit. I didn't do that but next time around I will.

Anonymous said...

I say invite the family!!! My mommy stayed for 3 weeks and was so so so helpful. I never imagined that such a tiny person that sleeps 18 hours a day could make me so exhausted by my son did. My mom helped with housework, cooking, or just letting me get a much needed nap. She was amazing.

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Anonymous: Was your partner home with you and your mom for those three weeks? If I were going to be by myself, I would DEFINITELY want a mom there, but since Matt will probably be home for at least two full weeks, I'm wondering if it's too much to have three adults. Then again, I know infants are hard, hard, hard. But on the other hand, our house is very small! It's only 2 bedrooms, 1 bath.

LauraC said...

Our situation was a little unique in that we had a week in NICU where someone else was caring for our babies. But it wasn't until we were caring for them on our own that we really got to know them.

We gave ourselves 5 days at home with a post partum doula a couple of hours each day before inviting guests/family. I would absolutely recommend this. This gave us time to get to know our babies a little bit so we had more confidence as first time parents. Family is so helpful but mothers have already been through it, and they often jump in to help.

At the very beginning, we liked wading through a few days of craziness so we were able to confidently say to our moms - Nate likes being held all the time, Alex is happy hanging out doing whatever.

And since we hired a post partum doula, we had someone to help us with meals, getting breast pump parts, and answering questions without getting all up in our business.

I think each person is different but I know those days made a huge difference in our confidence level. Then when full time help arrived (we had houseguests for TWO MONTHS!!) we were so glad to see them and had a better idea of our needs by then.

The other thing that's tough is you have no idea when the baby will be born. I at least had a maximum date!! We didn't book any plane tickets until the babies were born.

Anonymous said...

Have some friends cook up a couple freezable meals as you near your due date, stock up on fluids and take a few days post-birth to be to yourselves. Your families will be falling over themselves in joy to help out with the new arrival, but I think it's important to establish "your family"-- you, Matt & baby... whether that takes the form of just the 48 hours immediately after birth or a full two weeks.

#2 due in Feb '11 said...

This depends on your relationship with your mom and Matt's mom. My mother and mother-in-law are wonderful, and having them over when post-partum was wonderful. You just need to be able to direct them as to the best way to help you; as in, I will care for the baby and get used to being mom, you can help care for me by preparing meals and helping with laundry, cleaning, walking the dog, etc. Remember, the first few days it may be hard for you to get around, especially if you had a difficult or long labor, or any tearing. Since my husband was helping me at night (he got the baby from the bassinet, brought him to me, I breastfed and burped, then he changed the diaper and put baby back down) he was almost as much of a wreck from lack of sleep as I was. It was great to have breakfast ready for us, the dishes washed and put away, the loads and loads of baby laundry taken care of, the dog hair swept off the floors, etc. Thank you mom and MIL!

Schmei said...

I'm not a mom myself, but my sister just went through this, and here's the wisdom she gave me:

First: Consider typing out a list of tasks that folks can do at your house when they're there. Sis was in the hospital longer than expected and there were 6 (!!) people at her house for four days. That list was great for us: when the new parents finally came home, their house was clean, garbage and recycling taken out, fridge was stocked, dog was very happy from lots of play time, garden weeded, etc. The list helped us direct our nervous energy and our need to help out somehow.

Second: you may not want family around in that first week, but you will likely want some kind of help. Is a post-partum doula an option? Sis and bro-in-law went it completely alone for 8 days - while sis's hormones crashed - and they almost lost their minds: friends dropped in with dinner for a couple of hours at the crucial moment for them. Consider scheduling dinner drop-offs (with very clear start and end times) or some _short_ visits from someone to help maintain sanity. (The calendar idea above is brilliant)

Third: it depends! My niece was born early, was a terrible sleeper and had some tummy issues at the start, and so I think things were even tougher than normal in some ways. On the other hand, sis's mother-in-law moved in for a week early on and helped with _everything_. Will your relatives be comfortable waking up at 3am and taking a turn walking the floor with a screamer? If so, ask them to stay with you for a week after Matt's back to work!

Finally, I think it's good to remember that your family will generally WANT to help. I'm grateful that I was able to spend a week assisting with caring for my infant niece - it's a gift of time, energy and love that I was happy to give and I'm glad my sister sat down with me to schedule that time before the baby arrived.

Davanie said...

I am wondering how you are going to plan flights around the birth when you don't know exactly when the baby will be born.
In grad school, I was taught to think of the due date as more of the month that surrounds the due date. Just in the past 6 months I know of a babies that were born one month before the due date, another was two weeks before and another one month after the due date (yes, a month(!)). All were perfectly healthy.
I'd suggest flying family a bit after your due date that way there's less chance of the baby not arriving before your family has to fly out again. If the baby is earlier or 'on time' then you'll have some time to yourselves before your family is in town.

Roxanne said...

After my SIL gave birth, my mother in law stayed with them for a couple of weeks. One day my husband and I went by for a visit and we were all able to help in some way - letting her rest, making lunch, cleaning up. And even though dad was around he was busy as well, running errands and such and tired too. I know it will be hard to decide, but it seems like it would be hard to make a wrong decsion.
If you end up with an extra adult, you could probably find a way for them to help, but if you need some alone time with Coconut, I'm sure they could give you a couple of hours to yourself as well.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sara, I'm the anonymous whose mom stayed for 3 weeks. Yes my partner was home as well, but he and my mother get along wonderfully. And since my maternity leave was unpaid my mom staying allowed my partner to not have to take time off to help with the baby. So when he came home from working all day me, him, and the baby were able to hang out without me being worried about dinner, or laundry, or showers. My mom was great about needing to "go somewhere" everytime my partner came home from work. My partner also helped throughout the night as well he was super tired in the morning too. Mom was a great help but I can see your concerns our house was a little bit bigger so she could go off and have some privacy or give us some. Good luck to you and coconut and Matt!!!

Jessica said...

My sister just gave birth to her second child back in May. She had a home birth with a midwife and doula. She was in hard labor for 44 hours and in my opinion, there were too many people there. In addition to my sister and her husband, my sister's first child (9yrs), both of our parents, myself and my husband, my sister's friend, the midwife, her student, and my sister's doula all were there. It was pretty intense for such a long labor. I think it made it hard for my sister to focus. Eventually my husband and I left to give her some space so we missed the baby actually coming out. We came back as everyone else was leaving and essentially cleaned up from the party. I did all the laundry from the birth and their personal laundry too. My husband did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. I held the baby while my sister took a nap and her husband went our to get us all some food. Nobody was staying at their house because my family all lives nearby and my sister's husband's parents are coming for a visit for the first time this fall.
I know that having me and my husband there the day my niece was born to clean was very helpful for my sister. Their house was a total disaster after having all those people there for two days straight and from all the mess of labor and birth. Plus, my sister and her husband were too exhausted to do anything and just wanted to be with their new baby!
I like what these other comments have said about telling people how they can help specifically, otherwise people just end up sitting around causing more stress.

Oh! And CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Carrie said...

As others have said, I think it really depends on your relationships with your families. The only solid thing I have to say is that whenever they come, they have to be willing to be 100% flexible and do what YOU need. If people think they're coming to hold the baby the whole time, that's just not going to happen. I ASSURE you that you will need help with cooking and cleaning, at the least.

Meg said...

Also, try to be as clear as you can be stating your needs: ie, I'd like you to come, but we'll need some time alone, so please get a hotel. Or, we'd like you to come and help with chores. Or, come hang out, not sure if I want help with chores or not. Or whatever.

It's key to remember that it's a huge transition for family members too, and knowing where they stand helps. Our families are having the first baby this fall, and while we're trying to wrap our heads around the aunt/uncle thing, we also can't figure out what's expected of us at all, which makes it much more stressful.

Stephanie said...

We've had plenty of friends who's parents booked tickets in advance to show up and stare at a very pregnant woman, not very fun for the mama to be! That wasn't going to be me so I asked my mom to wait until he was born and then book her ticket for a week or two after. Since our little buddha was 10 days "post date" we were very glad that we gave ourselves this time. We took 7 days of solo family time before inviting in family to stay. It was great to bond as a family and learn a few tricks before having guests. Plus I was exhausted and sore and really just wanted to lay with my new little guy in bed all day.

We didn't really worry about cleaning or cooking since friends in lieu of gifts created a food calendar for the first month we were home, we had casseroles, soups and cookies for weeks! Once they did come we gave clear instructions on where and when we needed help (grocery shopping, early morning baby walks so we could sleep, laundry, etc.)

Stephanie said...

We've had plenty of friends who's parents booked tickets in advance to show up and stare at a very pregnant woman, not very fun for the mama to be! That wasn't going to be me so I asked my mom to wait until he was born and then book her ticket for a week or two after. Since our little buddha was 10 days "post date" we were very glad that we gave ourselves this time. We took 7 days of solo family time before inviting in family to stay. It was great to bond as a family and learn a few tricks before having guests. Plus I was exhausted and sore and really just wanted to lay with my new little guy in bed all day.

We didn't really worry about cleaning or cooking since friends in lieu of gifts created a food calendar for the first month we were home, we had casseroles, soups and cookies for weeks! Once they did come we gave clear instructions on where and when we needed help (grocery shopping, early morning baby walks so we could sleep, laundry, etc.)

redfrizzz said...

perhaps you should look into hiring a birth doula AND a postpartum doula. The postpartum doula is there to help with the cooking, cleaning, bathing, diapering, and breastfeeding firsts for the new family. And, if you do have family visiting, she can help you and Matt navigate the logistics and feelings of those dynamics.

diana said...

There's a lot of awesome advice already, and I'm probably not going to say anything new.

Many people have told me to avoid having guests after the baby is born, both at the hospital and at home. However I really love my step mom, SIL and MIL though, so I want them to be there. My husband won't have an extended leave after the birth, and I want all the help I can get. My step mom is coming out for the birth and for at least a week afterward. My MIL and SIL live closer and will be able to stop by as needed during the week and weekends. They'll be able to help us figure things out, as well as help out with daily tasks so we don't have to be bothered with it.

I would want to limit visits from anyone who I knew would add stress or who would argue/debate the choices my husband and I have made, like cloth diapering, sleeping in our room and breastfeeding. I only want people around who will be unconditionally supportive of us, at least in the first 2-3 weeks.

Hanna said...

Congrats!! I think it's good to think about your regular interactions with your parents, and how they normally make you feel, and then decide based on that. As others have said, you definitely don't want people around who are going to cause stress and dissension.

My sister and her husband had her first baby in December, and both sets of parents live far away. She didn't feel like she needed/wanted any parents to take time off to be sure to be there are the birth, but she did ask me to be there (since I lived 10 minutes from her, it was easy for me to be available). She was very explicit with both sets of parents that she wanted to have them schedule times to visit separately from each other in advance--one set in early December and one in mid December. She wanted to avoid fighting over the baby and feeling overwhelmed with so many people in the house.

I think it was definitely helpful to have someone around to help--in her case, I coordinated with their friends in the area to make sure they had meals every day for the first month, and I went to her house every day to help with dishes, laundry, etc. But I think it was definitely nice for them to have a stretch of "alone" time as they adjusted to being a little family together.

Maybe you have friends in the area who can help with specific things like laundry, dishes, and coordinating meals? This is something that (now that you are aware of it) you can offer to do for other friends who are new parents.

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