When I imagined myself giving birth and recovering from that process, I didn’t have a clear idea of how I would feel, but I did know that I might want some privacy. I imagined myself breastfeeding my new infant and having six adults sitting there watching, and I felt pre-embarrassed. That’s all I could think about when the grandmothers-to-be expressed their excitement to visit the baby on his or her first day of life.
I wasn’t looking for their help in advance. I felt a strong urge to “do it myself.” I politely declined my grandfather’s offer to pay for a night nurse.
When the baby arrived, my desire to control did not end. And I am not a controlling person. I simply wanted to be the person to feed and soothe my baby, and a little bit of personal space in my home, as I spent a fair amount of time in a bathrobe. Consequently, I did not feel as strong an urge to provide dinner for the adults in the house, to put clean sheets on the bed, or to answer the phone. I know that many women feel the need to be good hosts and daughters whenever they have visitors. I did not. I felt like I was in recovery and everyone else needed to take care of their own needs, be it ordering food or finding towels.
Each of us has non-negotiables in our lives, as well as triggers that make us crazy. It can be helpful to focus on that framework when planning for post-baby visitors and support.
My husband and I knew we needed to adopt the mantra “Never refuse help.” So I had to learn to find ways to say “Yes, please” that made me happy while providing a way for excited family members a chance to participate and spend time with your new family . Some examples:
Dad and I want to come and help after the baby is born.
Yes, please, Mom. The thought of making dinner that first week is overwhelming to me. If you are volunteering to be the temporary chef, I’d love that.
Yes, please, Mom. If you can take the first two days and allow the other grandparents to have the next two days, I think everyone will be happy.
Yes, please, Mom. We want to spend the first couple of weeks getting adjusted by ourselves, and then we’d love to have you visit and help.
While it is hard to ask a visitor to your home to take out the trash, here are five ways to put willing hands to work:
- Grocery run: Try to keep a list so that when someone asks if you need anything, you can help them help you. Be specific about brands if you’re picky.
- Diaper changing: Grandmothers with baby fever are often willing tushie wipers and love to master our modern-day diaper technologies!
- Doing and folding baby laundry: Since babies go through numerous outfits each day, plus burp cloths and blankets that get spit up on them, it is an ongoing task.
- Food preparation: Cutting up fruit and vegetables so that they are ready for use in cooking or for snacks is an easy job. Cooking and freezing a lasagna for future use is priceless.
- Rocking a content baby: Even if you aren’t comfortable handing over a fussy newborn, one that’s sleeping can be rocked or held by a visiting friend. That’s when mama can jump up and check her email or take a shower.