The closer it gets to my due date, the more and more this subject seems to be coming up. With ladies in my due date buddy forum, with people in my infant care class, with family and friends. From the moment you go into labor, until the moment the “new” wears off your newborn, it seems like everyone around you wants to clamor for a piece of the new baby action. Family and friends want to be in the room for labor, and some even for delivery. Many want to come visit you in the hospital before you head home (even if you’re only there for a matter of hours.) More people want to come see you after you make it home.
It’s a touchy subject. Parents often have very specific feelings about whom they want around, when, where, and how. Everyone else, of course, has their own expectations as well. Sometimes, these ideas are in conflict with what the parents want, and sometimes, people get very offended and upset when their vision of their role in your new baby experience isn’t in line with yours.
Among all of these different expecting-parent groups, there has been some degree of drama or tension over who gets to be in the room for labor and delivery. Whether certain family members get to come stay with the new parents immediately following the birth and how long they’ll be there. Who gets to be a baby sitter and when baby sitting duties should start. Whether parents have the right to set their own parenting rules, or whether parents should change to accommodate someone else’s beliefs or experiences. (You think I’m kidding, but it’s completely true.) What should visitors do while they’re in your house when you have a new baby.
Some of my biggest new-baby-visitor-related fears have been that, 1) tons of friends and family members will want to be in and out of my hospital room during labor and possibly even delivery, 2) friends and family members who have been hanging out in the waiting room will swoop in and take the baby from Kellen and me as soon as the baby is born, before I’ve even gotten the chance to breastfeed and bond myself, and 3) there will be a constant stream of people in my house in the days following the birth who want to sit on my couch and hold and snuggle with my baby (without using hand sanitizer!), interfering with our breastfeeding schedule, doling out incorrect parenting advice, and monopolizing my baby while I’m stuck running around playing hostess and doing the umpteen bajillion chores I haven’t been able to do otherwise.
Because most of this stuff is based on my personal hang-ups, I’ve had to make sure Kellen understands exactly what I want and don’t want (and what’s going to contribute to my stress and rage levels going through the roof) and actively enlisting him in helping me enforce those boundaries. I still have concerns that Kellen won’t notice when I’m about to blow up because someone has overstayed their welcome or it’s time to breastfeed, and I can’t get the baby away from a visitor and to a quiet space where I can breastfeed alone without any onlookers. But. I’m sure this is something we’ll have to discuss again (and again) as things come up.
My parents are flying in from Texas and planning to stay for the first week or so that Isla is here. However, they’re staying in a hotel, and I know my parents. They’re not baby hogs. My mom will spend the entire trip running around the house, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, making grocery runs, and generally making sure that we want for nothing. She’s not a baby person, so she’ll only ask to mind the baby if I need a shower or a nap. My dad will help her out and mostly stay out of the way. If Kellen and I need alone time, they’ll bugger off. They’re not super needy, and they’re mostly coming to visit to help me, not to play with a baby.
I’m a little more worried about Kellen’s family, since there are some baby hogs on that side. We’ll have to see how that goes. They’re generally pretty socially aware people, though, so I’m hoping they’ll pick up on my cues without needing a lot of pushing.
My general advice, though, to people who want to come visit a friend/family member who is having, or has just had, a new baby? Respect the parents’ wishes. They’re probably physically exhausted (especially mom), stressed out, and in emotional overdrive. The last thing they need is someone waltzing in and screwing with whatever tenuous form of equilibrium they’re holding on to by their fingernails. Don’t give out parenting advice unless it’s asked for, and don’t argue with them about what they’re doing–unless it’s putting the child in immediate danger–because they seriously don’t need the hassle. Ask before you come over. Bring something useful with you if you do come to visit (I recommend food for the grown-ups.) Follow their rules, no matter how ridiculous or overly-paranoid they might seem. Ask whether there’s something you can do for them. Don’t monopolize their baby, unless they genuinely seem to want you to hold the baby for an hour or two at a time. Use copious amounts of hand sanitizer. If they hurry you out, act less than excited to see you, or even tell you that “now’s not a good time, maybe you can come by later,” don’t get offended. It’s not about you. They’re still trying to figure out how to be a family–or just how to survive–and one more personality may be just a little bit more than they can handle.
I just feel like the focus in the first few weeks following the arrival of a new baby should be about the parents. Yes, new babies are cute and fun, and everyone wants to bask in the new baby awesomeness, but there are two very exhausted grown-ups attached to that infant who have needs, too, and sometimes that cute little new baby will benefit more from what you can do for its parents than what you can do for it. Just something to think about.