Plan for post-partum family visits?
July 22, 2008 7:32 AM   Subscribe

What's a good plan for post-partum family visits?

Our first baby is due in early November. We feel prepared and are comfortable in infant care (both IRL and in the numerous books we've read). We have flexible schedules and generous parental leave time. We also have a large helpful circle of friends.

Our families want to visit from out-of-town when baby is born and perhaps even be present for the birth. This could be 4-9 adults at once.

First concern: there are particular family members who are very anxious and their anxiety/presence triggers my anxiety.

Second concern: we have a pull-out couch in the living room and a futon in the office/baby room but only 1 bathroom. Plus, hotels? Rental cars? Airport pick ups? We're gonna be the ones organizing all this. And we don't really have seating for more than 6 at a time.


First, do we really need "Help" like people say we do? (We have in-house laundry and dishwasher, 3 grocery stores, 2 pharmacies, and dozens of take-out places within a 8 minute walk. And we've stocked up on baby stuff and frozen food to the gills.) Will I regret not having 4-9 "Helpers"?

And second, how do we tell them that we don't want them/need them around for the birth? (Some are going to be pissed.)

Third, then how can we properly schedule visits to satisfy their need to see the baby "early" and have them also be useful?

Fourth, is it easier to stagger guests or have them all at once and rip the band-aid off?

Fifth, how long is enough? 1 week? 4 days? They probably want to come for weeks.

One thought: Thanksgiving, when baby is 2-4 weeks old. Another thought: just suck it up and let them come and tolerate it when they are here.

Any suggestions are welcome!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone is different, so, as always YMMV. But, when I had my kid, I wanted everyone just to get the hell out. I wanted to crawl in and nest with the kid. "Helpers" really just wanted to see the baby, play with the baby. If someone had paid for a maid service to come in, clean the house using only organic stuff when I was walking the baby around, great.

This social obligation feeling you're having now. If your experience is anything like mine, it will seem laughable when you have a kid. They're pissed? Whatever. You've got a kid you're responsible for. You've got bonding to do. It's the universal excuse. "We've got to establish a schedule and bond and as much as you're important in his/her life, this is time that he/she has to clearly attach to his main caretakers."

If everything goes right, you're going to have more people standing around your crotch than you might be comfortable with. If even a little thing goes wrong, even more.

I found that relatives are particularly bad at calming me. The one good thing of having my mom around is that I screamed at her to "shut the f- up" when she told me to breathe rather than my spouse. But all in all, as much as I love her, her being there grated on my every nerve in a heightened and irrational way.

Stagger guests. Unless the non-birthing half of the couple is eager to drive people around, tell them they have to stay at a hotel, they have to take care of their own transport, etc. Thanksgiving is going to be chaotic for you no matter what. I found 6 weeks to be about that magic time when I was prepared to have people and their filthy, germy hands to touch my baby. (I'm not normally a germaphobe, but having a baby quickly made me one in the beginning.)

It will all work out. Remember, you guys are the only defense for a small, tiny wiggly creature to not get overstimulated and freaked the heck out. And all that creature wants to do is eat, sleep and be held by its parents. Anything else is more responsibility than anyone can feasibly handle.

Good luck and best wishes.
posted by Gucky at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

My wife and I are on the tail end of a month of visitors who came to help with the baby.

The baseline for helpfulness is to make your life simpler, not more complicated.

Given what you've described I would tell your family you want some alone time with the new baby, and then from there set aside blocks of time for each of the sets of family to come. It will be VERY helpful to have people around who can help look after you while you look after the baby. It will not be helpful to have more than two extra adults around at any given time. On the other hand it might be nice to have some overlap so all the grandparents can coo together.

You are NOT responsible for their travel plans.
You are NOT repsonsible for their having access to the the smallest possible baby.
You are NOT responsible for housing them. It can super convenient to have people in the actual house or very close by, but the reason would be for your convenience, not for theirs.

You will be very tired for the forseeable future. Personally, I get grumpy when I am tired. Anyone who will not tolerate you being grumpy should not stay in your house.

Start with this. Email me if you would like more details on my experience. Contact info is in my profile.
posted by mzurer at 7:49 AM on July 22, 2008

First concern: you are pretty much an unavoidable hot mess immediately post-partum, even if you have the most perfect, easy, simple birth ever. It's all about hormones--the pregnancy hormones leaving your body and the milk producing hormones ramping up. Expect a meltdown 2-4 days after birth, corresponding loosely to when your milk comes in. If someone ramps up your anxiety, you really don't want them there.

Second concern: they're grown-ups. They should arrange their own travel. Given the size of your home, sounds like hotels are in order.

1) Only if the help is someone tiptoeing quietly around the house loading the dishwasher, preparing tasty meals for you, and holding the baby while you run to the bathroom. If the help is someone who will be sitting on their keister while you are expected to play Suzy Homemaker and have coffee and biscuits ready, forget it.

My own mom came to visit. Guess who made dinner after my son and I came home from the hospital after 36 hours of labor? Hint: it wasn't her. I'm still not amused by that turn of events.

2) Avoiding confrontation: "Hospital/My doctor's/My midwife's policies limit people in the delivery room to just the parents."

Don't care if they're pissed: "We'll call you after the baby's born."

3 and 4) I don't know about scheduling, but I would think arranging a party might work--have everyone come at once, about 4 weeks after the baby's born for a meet-and-greet. As you mention, Thanksgiving?

5) My mom came for 3 weeks. She came 6000 miles, so there was a reason, but whoa, that was too long. I would think a 3 day visit would be great, maybe 5 if there were other things to do in your city, so you wouldn't be expected to entertain them 24-7.

Good luck and I hope it all goes well for you.
posted by marmot at 7:53 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I let my mother and my in-laws come to the hospital (as if I could have prevented them from coming anyway - not), but I informed anyone within earshot - husband, nurses, doctors, other moms laboring, receptionist - that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was anyone except my husband and medical professionals allowed to have a view of my baby-delivering parts. Be firm about this when you arrive that day. Make sure your partner is aware of your wishes, and hope that he or she enforces them.

There is no reason that anyone other than the people actually involved in the birth (either 9 months earlier, or that day) be present when the baby emerges, unless YOU want them there.

As for the visiting after the baby is born, one semi-vaguely-medical-sounding excuse you can use is your desire that the baby stay somewhat germ-free for the first few weeks. Depending on your family, they may or may not believe you, but most rational people know that new moms can be somewhat irrational, especially about germs, so they will [hopefully] play by your rules.

A very real medical-related reason for limiting visitors depends on your breastfeeding plans (if you plan to bf). Learning to nurse (for both you and baby) usually takes some time, and occurs best when you have some peace and quiet. A houseful of relatives, especially ones who normally cause you anxiety even when you're not pregnant, is not conducive to developing a good breastfeeding bond.

And tell anyone to who asks that there are several very nice hotels nearby, and you may even go out of your way to look up a few phone numbers. Do not let anyone stay in your house who can't be trusted to "tiptoeing quietly around the house loading the dishwasher, preparing tasty meals for you, and holding the baby while you run to the bathroom."
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2008

When I gave birth the hospital made it clear that the nurses would gladly play the bad guy and turn away any unwanted visitors. The hospital also limited the number of people who could be in the room for the birth. See if your hospital will do that for you as well.

Also, I didn't want anyone staying with us during the first few weeks. I just wanted to get the hang of it on my own. You won't need that much help, so don't worry about missing those "helpers."

Congratulations and good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2008

We scheduled a "Meet the Baby" Sunday afternoon event at about the two week mark, and invited friends and family to come by, have a glass of wine, hold the baby, and go. We kept it simple, short, and sane.
posted by Paid In Full at 8:34 AM on July 22, 2008

I think that having their first visit with the baby be at Thanksgiving is ideal. The post-partum mother is hormonally/emotionally in fight or flight mode. You want a safe, quiet home to return to, not one filled with a circus parade of relatives who want to monopolize your long battled for baby. Plus, immediately post-partum you will be bleeding copiously, in some amount of pain, struggling with the breast-feeding relationship, sleep deprived, and in general feel very vulnerable. If a family member pisses you off at this point, you will probably carry a grudge against them...oh, forever. It's better for their sake, your sake, and the sake of family harmony that out of town visitors hold off for at least a week or so.

Helpers are over-rated. As long as you have food, you can let the housekeeping go for a while. Peace and quiet are more important.
posted by Wavelet at 9:01 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Mummy of four, just had my latest three months ago. You would think I was an old hand at this but... you do NOT want extra visitors in your house after the birth. I am free and easy and about nudity (and even had about 10 family members watching each of my births) but nursing can be stressful, especially with your first. You need to walk around the house topless at times so entertaining guests can get a whole new meaning. To avoid them coming to the birth is it too late to say the due date has been pushed back by a couple of weeks? Or closer to the birth tell them the midwife thinks it will be late? If you are worried about "surprise " visitors at the hospital then tell them it is at another hospital. Then don't call until after the baby is born (maybe 24 hours later, maybe a week later). Looking after a new-born sucks up ALL your physical and psychological energy. I had about 15 people in my (less than 1000sf) house during the labour and delivery and hosting them while having non-painful contractions was not fun - I felt they were not there for "me". Cleaning the house an hour before giving birth is not a good use of your energy, I speak from experience. Plus I had to fight the children just to get my birthing ball back. I kept walking around the block just to get away from the chaos. Thanksgiving sounds like a good time to see them - at someone else's house of course (or a restaurant). You do not want to host and no reasonable person would expect you too. You do not need "help" if you are both home. If your partner is returning to work sometime in the first six weeks then you can ask a relative to come over at lunch (BRINGING a lunch for both of you) and then they can take the baby out for a car-ride, walk, hold it on the couch while you have a shower, tidy up etc. The visit should be about an hour and a half and then they leave. Very few people, even mothers themselves, are thoughtful enough to realise what the first few weeks with a newborn are like and forget basics like offering you a drink when you are tied down nursing. You don't need that stress, anyone that wants to visit from far away is responsible for their own travel to/from the airport and and hotel. Be slow about respondingto their phone calls/emails and straight out say: "I will be very busy at that time with dr's appointments for the baby and myself. I can't host the way I used to. I would love a short visit for an hour at lunch on this day. Bring a sub (or whatever you feel like eating)." If they press "I'm sorry, that isn't possible". I agree with jamaro and wave the diva wand - to hell with what they think.
posted by saucysault at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2008

Fairly new mother agreeing with all of the above. If you feel ready to leave the house for a couple of days in weeks two or three, you might want stay over at a relative's house (if available) where you will be the guests and not the host/hostess. Worked for me.

I also didn't mind hospital visits starting the day after delivery (I had a c-section) so I was there for 4 days. Convenient part was no hostess-ing, nurses to play bad cop, and very reasonable complaints that I was tired and needed to sleep (that and the general discomfort of hospital visits kept them short !). This fulfills their need to see the baby early. Then you put off longer "helping" visits for a few weeks till you feel up to it. My family would have been reasonably hurt to wait weeks to see the baby, and very embarassed to tell their friends they hadn't seen or held him yet. This solved the problem for me.

Lastly - don't be misled if your baby is super-sleepy and amenable to anything the first 48 hours or so. This lulls you into a sense of confidence (don't decide based on that that its OK to have guests over). No matter how charming your child, it will get a bit tougher afterward !
posted by AuntLisa at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2008

From my experience with 2 kids and several types of post-partum visitors the best helpers do not try and take care of the baby, they take care of everything else so that the mom or dad can spend all of their time bonding with the new addition to the family. The best helpers assist with cooking and housekeeping, running errands or doing chores that always seem to come up at the most inconvenient times, watching a sleeping baby so mom can get some much-needed sleep, or (most usefully) looking after the other kids if this is not the first. The best visitors don't expect to be entertained, they expect to help. Also, the best helpers don't dispense advice, they simply accept whatever parenting decisions are being made. This is especially true for first-time parents that are always a little crazy and over-protective and most will come to realize it on their own in the months and years to come.

Keep in mind that you may not know right now exactly how much help you will actually want or need after the baby is born. If the birth involves a C-section you will want and need more help than if it is completely natural because you will be in bed longer and need more sleep. When out 2nd child was born we asked for fewer and shorter visits than we had with our 1st because of some of our frustrations. However, my wife needed a C-section with the 2nd and the added burden on us both was significant. Fortunately my SIL noticed and flew down to help out for the 2nd week which was a real life saver.

Also keep in mind that most visitors/helpers want to pitch in during the few days after the birth. In my experience we actually most wanted help between about 2-8 weeks. That is when the adrenaline of the moment has faded and you are at your most tired, but you also want life to return to normal and to stop eating restaurant food but also to catch up on the laundary and the household.

If you do have visitors I would make an effort to make your expectations clear up front. Do not hesitate to insist that they should be there to help with the household and supporting you, not with the baby who has extremely simple needs in the first few weeks of life. Also do not hesitate to demand that they space their help/visits out for your benefit.
posted by Tallguy at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2008

Just went through this. Even with both our families at a distance of four hour plane rides in opposite directions, the new family dynamics were WAY MORE stressful than the newborn. To the point where my own mother left 3 days into her 2 week visit, and I haven't spoken to her since.

Everyone else has already touched on the point - helpers don't really help. They mean well, but they almost always complicate situations instead of simplifying them. Plus, they delay the onset of your new routines.

Your "helpers" are clued into the fact that the birth of a new baby is a huge occasion, and they're also correct that their presence during that time is an enormous honor for them. The problem is that way too many people feel entitled to be there, instead of invited. This is your time, not theirs - though you may share it with them.

From the way you've worded your question, you're obviously more than willing to accommodate others. Be more selfish. Allow visits. Do not allow people to stay for weeks. That length of time carries an implicit assumption that you'd be hopeless without those interlopers. Totally not the case. It's not your job to validate their fantasies about their new roles as uncles/aunts/grandfather/grandmother/etc. etc. etc.

Best of luck. Don't be afraid to hurt feelings.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2008

Speaking as one with a 6-week old baby in my arms, I would have to agree with the advice above. You just do not want your family lounging around the house while you wander around in a sleep-deprived haze with your shirt off because your nipples hurt. As long as your partner is around, you'll be able to take showers, run to the bathroom, heat up a meal, and feed/clothe/diaper the baby. That's about all you're going to want to do. I had friends sign up for evening meal drop-offs after about a week which meant that they could stop by and see the baby and we got some freshly cooked meals. Anyone who wanted to come by was advised to check in with us first to see if there was anything we needed from the grocery store or anything else they could pick up on the way over. Family was given advance warning that we did not want to have anyone else in the delivery room and though some of my family tried to ignore that directive, the staff at the hospital happily enforced it.

It's just a really really hard time right after the baby is born and introducing more chaos and responsibility and demands on you is the last thing you'll need. It's nice to have someone (one or two at a time maximum!) come over and do some laundry or load the dishwasher, or take the dog for a walk but anyone who visits should be a help to you, not a hindrance. Your schedule will be crazy and unpredictable though so visitors should be well-advised of what your needs are and not expect that their schedule will be followed. You are the queen.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2008

Guests While You're In Labor
Most importantly, I suggest that you and your spouse/babydaddy/birthingpartner make - and stick to - a joint decision on who, if anyone, can 'join you' in the room or at the hospital for your labor. It's important that you back each other up on whatever you decide.
My STRONG suggestion is that you not have anyone. No family. Nobody until baby arrives. If this is going to irk your in-laws (or whoever), then you can just be passive-aggressive and not call them until the baby's arrived, and brush it off with a 'we were busy and forgot to call'.

Baby's Arrived! How to visit?
Talk to your nurses about making them issue the cut-off.
We had all four new grandparents at once during visiting hours, and my mom had sworn she'd only stay for an hour at a time, but we had a full 3 hours of all four of them in there with us, in that little recovery room. It was, in retrospect, WAY TOO LONG and it's difficult to impossible to kick people out yourself, so get a nurse to do it. One-hour visits at the max. They have to then leave for an hour, and then they can come back. What do they do for an hour, stuck at the hospital? Who cares? Here's an option: they can go fuck themselves. You need a nap. (More seriously, there are probably magazines somewhere.)

Whether you even have time for hospital visitors will depend on your particular labor situation, and I'm sure you've heard plenty of stories of how births often don't go as planned. If you end up with a c-section like I did, you'll be in the hospital for a few days, but if you have a relatively routine vaginal delivery, you could be home later that day, like my sister was.

Once You're Home, Where do people stay?
1. They do not stay with you. This is the rule. The exception to this rule is ONE person who already knows the layout to your house/apt. and can and will cook, laundry, everything - like all those other answers say. Another reason to not have guests is that the baby screams 24 hours. This will likely disrupt your guests' sleep, and then you have grumpy guests, which is even worse than unhelpful guests.

2. It sounds like you're used to being in charge of the travel plans for these people, and you aren't ready to put that on them yet. Here's the thing, though: unless you have a scheduled c-section in advance of your due date, you do not know what days to book the hotel, and by the time you do know, you'll be in no shape to get them booked. Send everyone the numbers and websites for a few top contenders and apologize in advance that you won't be able to book their rooms while or after you're in labor; they'll have to do it themselves.
If you really think they can't handle it, and you are far and away the only organized person, etc., look into getting a travel agent to help you, so they can call him/her to get the bookings.

3. I'm sure the numerous books you've read have instructed you to keep an ongoing 'helper list' posted on the fridge for the first 1-3 months post-partum. Things like:
load dishwasher
run dishwasher
put away clean dishes in dishwasher
run laundry load from blue basket on warm wash
defrost lasagna
grocery shop off list also on fridge

This list can be great, but here are some hints: make the tasks bite-sized, like task-appetizers instead of task-entrees. Be very clear how you want what you want done, or your favorite wool sweater will fit the baby instead. If you plan on lots of different visitors, I suggest you label the outside of all your kitchen cabinets with painter's tape: "plates and bowls" "glasses" "tupperware" etc. so people can put stuff away for you.

4. You may not need help, but if people are going to visit, put them to work. Wavelet is right re: helpers, food, and housework - you don't need helpers if you have food. (and paper plates)

5. It's really hard to cut off visits at home, even if they aren't staying with you. I failed at this miserably. Maybe your spouse/babydaddy/birthpartner can be forceful and make them leave because it's REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET SOME ALONE TIME if not to sleep then at least to not have to deal with guests.

6. Fish and guests stink after three days. A week is a very generous compromise. If you can get them to give you a day or two off in the middle, like, they go to a museum or zoo or something while they're in town, that would do you a load of good. I failed at this, too, even though I made an entire entertainment brochure for visiting family. It went ignored as they spent marathon days visiting.

You'll be more tired/ragged at 2-4 weeks than right at the beginning, I think. That's 2-4 weeks of no solid sleep. It's up to you how you want to play it, though.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:24 AM on July 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Welcome to your new job - having a healthy baby with 2 sane parents. Your parents, his parents, miscellaneous cousins, aunts and others are not your concern at this time.

You could probably use 1 or 2 truly helpful people to stop by occasionally or stay if you feel unwell. These are people with the skills, knowledge and compassion to be helpful and these people are rare. Four guests in your house? No.

Don't lie about the date or hospital. You're an adult and you don't need to lie to establish your boundaries. Get used to telling your family no when it's in the best interest of your child. Your mental health is in the best interest of your child. There's a lifetime of "why aren't you bringing my grandson to my house for Christmas?"in your future. Learn to deal with it now.
posted by 26.2 at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2008

PS. If you can be as forceful with your family as some of those other posters encourage, I say go for it. You will be get tired and fed up with their shit, I promise you. On the flip side, I don't know how to instill this in someone who hasn't been there; if I had read that when I was in the middle of my pregnancy, I would have just shrugged and figured I'd be different.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2008

Oh, I forgot something I intended to mention.

When your family starts with the guilt, remember that you are responsible for a helpless child. Your family is not helpless. It'll give you courage to remember that you need to care for the person who cannot do anything for themselves.
posted by 26.2 at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

To your first question: Do we need "help" like people say we do?
Answer: Although none of us sees the future, I'd say no. It's about being prepared, having a plan b, and being willing to have cereal for dinner sometimes. Naturally, there may be unforseeable complications (a longer-than-expected recovery), but as long as you're resourceful people with a reasonable amount of disposable income, I'd say address that need when it arises.

Also, for the sake of redundancy with other posters, these helpers don't sound like help at all. My suggestion is to get there first (meaning, post-pregnancy life), assess what you think you can handle, then open to doors to whomever you feel comfortable with. Also, I don't know how you feel about germs - I'm no germ-phobe, but having a ton of people around a new baby during flu season is reason enough to have people hold off buying their buying plane tickets just yet.

One other point: Personally (as mom to a toddler), I think 3-month-old babies, 6-month-old babies, 12-month-old babies, are way more interesting and interactive than a newborn. I felt that my friends/family who didn't see the baby till 3 months old "knew" her a lot better than those who showed up on our doorstep week 1.

Good luck - the first weeks with a new baby is a delicate time, and is a good time to learn that you need to care for yourself too.
posted by dreamphone at 11:34 AM on July 22, 2008

AT THE MOST you may need ONE person to help you around the house when the baby is home. That person CAN be the spouse, or ONE of the mothers, or ONE very good friend.

PARTICULARLY if you are trying to establish nursing, the last thing you need is a ton of stress juggling relatives. I would recommend that no one come until the baby is at least a week or two old. Trust me. You will be ready to kill people.

AT the very least they should make their own travel plans, BOOK HOTEL ROOMS and only come over when you say they can and leave when you tell them to!

If you have local friends who can help you get stocked up on frozen meals and stuff like that or are willing to help with laundry, cool.

But for the love of all that is holy, tell the mob to stay home. At the very least your poor baby won't be needing all those extra germs, and you certaintly won't want to have a cold immediately postpartum.

-signed, Konolia, mom to three and grandma to one.
posted by konolia at 11:46 AM on July 22, 2008

We're gonna be the ones organizing all this.

Problem one. You are the new parents. You do not need to be organising, let alone worrying about putting people up and whatnot. You will be exhausted, and you will most likely be wanting to focus on your new kid. If they want to visit, fabulous. They're adults, and they can sort that shit out.

First, do we really need "Help" like people say we do?

It depends. Help can be nice. One of my wife's oldest friends, bless her, showed up, quietly cooked a meal, cleaned half the house, looked at the baby, and then buggered off again. That was helpful. My parents waited a couple of weeks for us to settle, visited, did a bunch of stuff around the house. That was helpful.

Some relatives, on the other hand, came around, demanded catering, and wanted to play with the baby while we did housework. That was not helpful. Your relatives sound like they fall into the latter category.

"Help", is, unfortunately, sometimes a trojan horse for people to hang around and do the fun stuff while you do the hard work. Screw that. Parents do the hard stuff, we get first dibs on the good bits.

And second, how do we tell them that we don't want them/need them around for the birth? (Some are going to be pissed.)

It's a private moment, not a floorshow. I'm actually unsure how you can put it beyond "The mother isn't comfortable with that", because even the least considerate people we had understood that one.

Third, then how can we properly schedule visits to satisfy their need to see the baby "early" and have them also be useful?

We simply had all visits arranged through me, it was clear early on they were for short durations. The hospital can be quite helpful here, actually, since the maternity ward staff can be very happy to ensure mother and baby aren't distressed.

They only need to see they baby for a half hour each, tops. It's a baby. It cries, sleeps, and eats. What's to see?

Fourth, is it easier to stagger guests or have them all at once and rip the band-aid off?

Fifth, how long is enough? 1 week? 4 days? They probably want to come for weeks.

I'd stagger them - and as for how long, well, they can stay in town how long they like. How much time they spend at your house is another thing.

You guys need to bond with your new kid, you need recovery time, and you need your kid settling into the routines of its life in the big, weird, scary bright place. Honestly, be as tough and hard-arsed as you need to be to keep the two of you and the wee one happy and well, and if some people can't understand that it's a baby, not a party favour, tough shit.
posted by rodgerd at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Had my first baby almost five months ago. Lots of great advice above but I want to emphasize a few points:

- The mother of a newborn (or about-to-be-born) baby is Queen. For at least 30 days after birth, her word is law, she gets what she wants, when she wants it, and doesn't have to explain herself to anyone else, dammit (other than her partner, but in my case we were always on the same page about things.) If she doesn't want anyone else in the delivery room, her word is law.

It is really important to establish new patterns of interaction with extended family members. You and your partner are having a baby and making your own family, and that family comes first, always, and it's best to make that crystal clear from the get-go.

- For God's sake, stagger the visitors.

- In order to earn stay-with-you privileges, any visitor has to be very clear that they are here to take care of mama, so that mama can take care of baby. They are not here to hold baby so that mama can go do stuff. If they aren't clear on that, they stay at a hotel.

My mom came for a week. She did not cover herself with glory. (She fell into the second category above.) The stress affected my milk supply, and the week she was here my son only gained a few ounces. The next week, my fabulous MIL came out (she's in the first category) and my milk supply bounced back and he gained 10 ounces in 7 days. There is a real, tangible, impact to stressing out a newly breastfeeding mom, and you want to avoid that.

- Anyone who comes to visit and wants to stay for more than 30 minutes has to bring food as the price of admission.

-Anyone who comes to visit and wants to stay for more than one hour has to do some housework: laundry, vacuuming, walking the dog, what have you.

Congratulations and enjoy your baby!
posted by ambrosia at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would just like to add that at my local hospital, they have a little form you can fill out. It dictates who you want allowed to visit during labor, and even whether or not the staff can acknowledge that you are in the hospital in the first place. Get a birth plan; put this stuff on it.

As for guests - JUST SAY NO. I don't mean no guests period - I mean, say no when you think to yourself, "no."

I think the idea of making guests call first to see if they can pick you up anything from the store is a great one. And just in case you have family that likes to drop in unexpectedly, I would issue a very clear warning well ahead of time that you will not be accepting guests that you are not anticipating. Then, if someone knocks at your door and hasn't called first, either don't answer it, or answer it, say "sorry, can't visit now" and shut the door.

I also like ambrosia's suggestion:
- Anyone who comes to visit and wants to stay for more than 30 minutes has to bring food as the price of admission.

-Anyone who comes to visit and wants to stay for more than one hour has to do some housework: laundry, vacuuming, walking the dog, what have you.

My close friend had a baby, and one thing I loved was that when the new baby was sleeping, her mom said I could go into her room and watch her sleep in her bassinet as much as I wanted, as long as I was quiet and didn't touch her. Of course this may be because I was also helping out with laundry and watching/entertaining the older 2 kids.

The only thing I can say from the guest's perspective - try to give your guest at least a few minutes of baby time as early as possible, if you can and it doesn't inconvenience you or baby. If the baby's awake when the guest first comes in the door, and you can hand them the baby for even a few minutes, I think you'll get chores out of them without resentment or complaint, rather than having them wonder if you're even going to let them hold the baby. Not that their resentment or complaints are justified... I'm just saying it might make for an easier visit. (I say that from the experience of having a mean half-sister who has never liked me, and was always happy to let my parents hold her baby, but when it was my turn, suddenly she found some reason to need the baby back and tried her best not to let me hold her. It really hurt my feelings.)
posted by IndigoRain at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2008

I had my daughter just about 2 weeks ago, and I have had a lot of family/friends visiting.

Caveat: I had a very easy childbirth experience, and was on a hormone high for the first 4-5 days at least.

We were expecting a lot of relatives, and not having done this before, I anticipated that I wouldn't be able to handle more than one (adult) house guest at one time, and that the house guest would have to be a full-time cleaner and dishwasher. My mom and MIL both were/are happy in that role. Each get to stay with us about 2 weeks (at separate times). My mom is holding baby now while I'm typing with 2 hands. Her first days here, Mom cleaned the kitchen and bathroom from top to bottom. Third day, she did 3 loads of laundry. My husband and I haven't washed a single dish during the time she's been here. Yes, I love her very much.

For other visitors (sister-in-law and nephew, sister-in-law's parents in-laws and bro and sis in law), my husband and I arranged for sublets for them within walking distance. We're hoping to be reimbursed for most of the cost, but if we aren't (esp for sister-in-law) it's not a big deal, because we are really happy to see them.

I had 4 visitors in the hospital, on the second day (baby was born late afternoon). It was great to see them at the time, but in retrospect, I REALLY wish we had said no hospital visitors. Our baby turned out to be jaundiced and dehydrated, and I think I would have been more focused on nursing her if I wasn't handing her around to visitors and/or trying to entertain them. Once we realized we had a problem, I called expected visitors and told them that they couldn't see her for a few days until we were home again.

So far, the only semi-problem has been that our smallish apartment has turned into the "home base". It's OK in some ways, because I can't walk very far yet, but it has sucked in other ways, when there's too much commotion for me to take a nap, or when I'm expected to be socializing instead of zoning out in the other room. Today, I told our people that I needed 2-3 hours mid-afternoon in a quiet house to nap/relax. Of course this was graciously agreed to by everyone.

Having anyone there besides my husband during delivery was TOTALLY out of the question for me. My sister-in-law offered, but I just said no. I anticipated, and found during the experience, that I do childbirth best with only totally-necessary people around.

Several friends have stopped by over the first few weeks, both at the house and in the park near our house, where I've been spending hours of the day hanging out. If it's nice weather, it is really great to have visitors meet you at a nearby park. It's doctor-approved, as long as it's not crowded or anything. Not sure if you'll have a pleasant fall where you are.

So... advice: know yourself, know your guests. Only extremely helpful people should stay with you. Be as explicit as you can about how much visiting/socializing you can handle, and feel free to change your mind as you go. And be wary of ANY hospital guests at ANY time.

Good luck with the birth, the baby, and the visitors! I hope you have a wonderful experience. Even though visitors will bring with them some stress, they also can offer a lot of wonderful love and support that you can really appreciate at this time.
posted by tk at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2008

everything has been pretty well covered, so I'll just tell you what I did, five months ago when my baby was born.

We hired a doula to stay with little man overnight, from 10pm-6am. We did this once a week for a few weeks, and it saved our lives.

If any of your family is willing to do this for you, having them out to visit during a very beautiful and extremely stressful time in your lives will be worth it.

Also, even though your freezer is stocked, when friends bring food over, it is really nice. We dined like royalty for quite some time, thanks to generous friends. And now I really know what to do for parents of new babies.
posted by pinky at 7:17 PM on July 23, 2008

Nthing the put down your foot about visitors vibe!

The best advice I got (but failed to follow for reasons both beyond my control and pigheadedness) was as follows:

The first week stay in bed.
The second week stay on top of your bed.
The third week stay near your bed.

I had a tough time healing from delivery and an even tougher time building up a decent milk supply for nursing and I wish I had followed the above guidelines. Next time for sure (although it will be tougher with a kid running around as well).

By no means do you want to be dealing with family members and overnight visitors during these early weeks. The hormones, the healing, milk production, potential complications (we had jaundice issues), et al. all are more difficult with extra folks around. If you do windup with unwanted guests try to follow the in-bed guidelines and make a retreat in your home - i.e. no visitors under penalty of death (or expulsion) in your bedroom...

Another great rule for visitors - no one gets to visit the first month without bearing food!
posted by rosebengal at 2:53 PM on July 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

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