I know I told you I was going to write about my breastfeeding experience in this post but when I sat down to think it through I realized it would end up being a series of posts and I wasn’t ready to commit to that yet. Also, the whole scenario still kind of upsets me for a variety of reasons and I didn’t feel like being sad today. Instead I want to talk a little about what you should and should not do if you are visiting someone who has recently had a baby. This is kind of like those “Good Idea, Bad Idea” videos from Animaniacs.
Before I give you my good and bad lists in all their glory I want to say why I’m writing this. When I brought my son home from the hospital I had visitors stay in my house on three total occasions in the first 3 months. Two of those times my mother stayed overnight to help out. Once in the first 2 weeks and once when he was closer to three months and had gotten sick for the first time. The other time which happened somewhere around his 6th or 7th week it was my mother in law and her husband who stayed with us. When she came I was pretty deep into the sadness and anxiety that plagued me through the entire first 6-8 months of his life.
I would say the time from when Nathan was 6 weeks old through when he was maybe 14 weeks old was the hardest for me overall. I was NOT myself. As a function of this my mother in law made some judgements about me as a person based on her 5 day visit. These issues have never been voiced to me directly but instead to my husband so I haven’t really had a chance to defend myself or put this stuff out there to make her understand. I suppose I need to get this business off my chest so I can put it away. I feel that if I don’t write this I’ll have this cloud hanging over my head and no one needs that in their life. Now I want to get this off my chest publicly for two reasons: 1) I think it’s important information for any of you without kids to know if you go visit a friend who has had a baby and 2) I want those of you who have had kids (moms and dads) to add to this because it is not at all fully fleshed out (subtext: I AM PULLING THIS SHIT OUT OF MY ASS PEOPLE). I’m going with top 5 on these two lists to avoid the inevitable million word long blog post.
Ok lets begin with the positive.
GOOD IDEAS WHEN VISITING SOMEONE WHO HAS HAD A BABY RECENTLY:
- Bring them foodstuffs that can be consumed with one hand. These items should also be healthy if at all possible. Granola bars, dried fruit, trail mix, that yogurt in a squeeze container, cheese cubes, and water or other beverages in boxes, cans, or individual bottles. No matter who the person is their baby will require holding or rocking and they will never feel they have time to eat. This is how I survived food wise for the entirety of my time home with my son. My mother brought me a ton of this kind of stuff and it was a life saver.
- Bring them precooked meal things that can be just warmed up. This is as much for the husband as it is for mom. There is not enough time in the day to do everything and cooking was the last thing on my mind. This was partially because I was not hungry at all while I was sad and anxious but also because I didn’t have the predictability to start something. I never knew what the baby would be like that day and I couldn’t risk burning down the house to cook meals. Another option is bring food items with you and cook the family a meal. As long as you don’t destroy the kitchen thus creating more mess I think this will be kind of like winning the lottery for the new mom and dad.
- Help them in some way around their house. Pick up a few things that you know are out-of-place, throw in a load of laundry, wipe down their kitchen really quickly. This doesn’t have to be a big deal but a little tidying up makes the house feel less depressing. If the person has had a C-section you could offer to run up stairs to get them things or see if they need anything big moved around. Little things like this would brighten my entire mood. My mom would clean out the dishwasher for me or put the recycling that was piling up in the kitchen in the bin. It made the house feel less like a mess and me less like a failure. It should be noted that you might want to just do something even without asking if you think you can get away with it. I would always say no when people would offer to help because I felt like I was supposed to be wonder mom.
- If you are comfortable with it, offer to watch the baby for one hour while she lies down. People who have just had babies need to nap. This is not always possible. Having someone walk around an upset baby or take them for a walk in the stroller will let mom grab 1 hour of quiet sleep. This helped me so much whenever I could get it. Sleeping while laying down without the child attached to me was like finding my weight in gold.
- Ask them how they are feeling, how things are going and give them the opportunity to be honest. Ok, I acknowledge this doesn’t apply to every one but my biggest issue with the poor visit I had with my mother in law was that she never asked me how things were going, how I was feeling about being a mom now. I was desperate for someone to talk to about how I was feeling but I was also so uncomfortable bringing it up. I wanted an in. Even as a friend who doesn’t have children sometimes just asking this shows you care and you want to listen. We moms don’t have a lot of adult contact in the first few months and the opportunity to talk even a bit honestly is welcome. I suppose there is a possibility that some women might be offended by these questions so tread lightly. You know your friend or family member better than me and will know if this is appropriate.
Now the bad stuff. Just don’t do this shit people.
BAD IDEAS WHEN VISITING SOMEONE WHO HAS HAD A BABY RECENTLY:
- Don’t remind us our house is a goddamn wreck right now. It’s wonderful to help with a load of laundry or clean up around the place for us. It’s not wonderful to remind us how messy that thing was that you cleaned up. Pulling my husband into the room you cleaned as soon as he gets home from work to tell him all the work you had to do in there to get it clean is just not ok. Neither is calling someone up to tell them how horrible the cleaning job is. This is one of those times you need to do a job thanklessly. If you don’t think you can do a little clean up (or a lot of cleanup if that’s what you want to do) without constantly telling us about it just skip it. I was already feeling horrible and like my house was a mess. Reminding me of it is just brutal. It made me feel like a failure and that brought me down even further.
- Don’t expect me to parade you around town. I was exhausted with Nathan. I was nursing every two hours or more and he needed to be attached to me all day. The idea of going out or entertaining guests seemed impossible. I didn’t want to leave my rocking chair and it sucked when I had to. Just having a grown up be in the house to talk to was all I wanted. I realize people travel to see you when you’ve had a baby but give the new mom a bit of a break. Don’t expect anything more than sitting around and watching TV because that’s just all we’re capable of.
- If you have kids try not to judge our parenting styles. This didn’t actually happen to me directly but it has happened to some folks I know. I will ask for help and advice about the baby but if I disagree with you or do something a little different please just leave it be. Not everyone parents the same way just like not everyone eats their ice cream the same way. This actually applies in other situations as well but I’ll deal with that some other time in some other post.
- Do not invite other people over without asking. This happened to me and it absolutely infuriated me. I actually get pissed about this even when I don’t have a newborn attached to me all the time. If it’s my house I kind of expect you to at least ask me about having other guests come by before inviting them. Telling someone they can come over without even asking me first is mind numbingly aggravating. Tired, cranky, disheveled women (who apparently have horrendously dirty houses) do not want even more visitors. I want quiet time! I want a nap! I want to eat a meal with two hands! I do not want more people in my damn house especially if I didn’t invite them.
- Do not assume you can stay in our house. Just spring for the hotel. Look I like having people visit and my mother was the most amazing resource ever in the beginning. That being said she never stayed more than 2 days and she always offered to go home at night instead of sleeping over. My main issue with my mother in law being here was that she presumed she (and her husband) could stay with us. If I had an option I would have said no. I didn’t want extra bodies in my house right then. It wasn’t personal it was just that I had a night full of nursing to look forward to each night and I needed some time to wind down with just my son and my husband. I didn’t want the stress of having to feed or entertain another human being. Feeding and entertaining the baby was enough stress to make me cry on an hourly basis.
This list is in no way all-inclusive. Share your experiences if you have kids. I need more data! Tell me about your experiences and what you would have changed if you had the option to go back in time.