Whether you’re preparing to have a baby, you’ve just delivered, or you’re at home with a newborn, the first question many friends, family and loved ones may ask is “When can I come see the baby?”
For me, this was HUGELY overwhelming. I both wanted to soak up the time as a new mother/new family AND to share my new daughter with everyone, and I felt so conflicted on what that looked like. I often said yes when I meant no, and I felt like it was important for me to look presentable and to entertain visitors, both of which added immensely to my new-mom stress and emotions. Had someone, anyone I trusted (my doula, my husband, my parents) said to me that I could put myself and my baby before others, I maybe would’ve had the foresight to worry less about hurting peoples feelings and more about how I actually felt.
I’m here to be that person for you!
Parents to be and new parents, please listen when I say - this baby, this family, it’s uniquely yours. There is no right or wrong answer here. The most important part of making these choices is what feels right for you, in the moment you are experiencing. Your feelings around visitors may change as you recovery from childbirth and your baby grows, as the weather ebbs and flows, and now, as COVID-19 recommendations change, and that, friends, is absolutely OKAY!
I encourage people to think through different scenarios about visitors before the baby arrives, and to talk to their partner and their families so everyone is on the same page. Here are some conversation starters:
After I deliver the baby at the hospital/birthing center, I want to feel ________. This does/does not involve having any visitors.
In the first few weeks after the baby arrives, I want __________.
This can include type of support, in home/external help, visitors, etc.
I’d like our extended circle to wait at least ______ amount of time before meeting the new baby.
When people visit, I would feel most comfortable if they _________.
Come in the house or visit outside
Wear a mask or don’t wear a mask
Hold the baby or don’t hold the baby
Bring food or don’t bring anything
Wash dishes/do laundry/help around the house while they’re here or don’t do any of those things
I’d like visits to last _____ amount of time (can use feeding/nursing/pumping/nap/shower as a boundary setting time)
These are people that I’d like to invite into our space during this vulnerable time _________
These are NOT people that I’d like to invite into our space during this vulnerable time ______
What about when people don’t respect your choices?
Well, in one word - tough! No, in all seriousness, this was extremely difficult for me once I began speaking up for my own wants and needs postpartum. Most people really do mean well, but they either don’t recognize (or have forgotten) that you have just gone through a MAJOR life event in birthing your baby, and you are not only recovering, but adjusting to parenthood and your new family. Having visitors to your house, looking presentable, working about nursing/pumping with visitors, having to feed other people, etc - it’s exhausting and overwhelming and some of those things honestly made me as a new mom feel resentful to others.
Agree with your partner on a code word or standard response to people when they are asking for things beyond your comfort level - whether that’s on the phone or in person. Having an “out” always made me feel like I was still in control over the situation, which as a new parent was critical since I didn’t feel like I could control much else.
How to communicate when things need to change.
Life with a newborn is unpredictable. Today, you may schedule a visitor for the weekend and then the morning of you may feel totally different. If your baby had a difficult night, the baby is struggling with feedings, or is overtired, or YOU’RE overtired, or any other number of things, you may no longer relish the idea of seeing a friend or family member. If you’re no longer up for a visit, it’s okay to say “Not today!”
How? As soon as you realize it’s not going to work, reach out to the person who was going to come over. Whether it’s a quick text or phone call, or a longer call to chat, just let them know that today isn’t the best day for a visit. Tell them that you want them to meet/see the baby/you when everyone can enjoy the visit, and unfortunately that’s just not in the cards for today. Most people will understand this right away, and be happy to reschedule their visit. If they begin to make you feel guilty or stressed about your decision, I recommend saying something like “I can’t wait until we see you! We’ll chat more about the date and details soon. I’ve gotta run! XO”
Saying yes to offers for help.
When you do end up having visitors over, they may ask you if you need anything, if they can bring anything, if they can do anything while they’re at your house, if you’d like the to hold the baby while you shower, etc. I love these friends and family members who not only want to see your new little, but also to support you and your family. I think it could be helpful to have some things in the back of your mind ready to respond to these questions - yes/no answers or even specific recommendations such as “Oh my gosh, could you bring over some fruit? I’d love that” or “I’m dying to eat a hot piece of pizza. If I have one delivered for us, could you hold the baby while I eat.” People who have not recently had a baby or who have never had a baby may not know what to offer or how to offer it, so your suggestions will enable them to actually provide you help in the way that you’d like it.
& Finally, if you’re looking for help in the days postpartum that doesn’t involve entertaining friends or family members, postpartum doulas are a great support for you, your partner and your new baby.