Having a baby is such a magical and emotional time… you’ve spent 9 months with little one rolling around inside you, glimpsed them on the scan pictures, done all sorts of preparation classes and the countdown is on for you to meet your baby…
But one thing is starting to worry you, possibly even stress you out to the point where it’s not healthy. Visitors! Everyone else is also really keen to meet the little one.
Visitors should never be a point of stress for new parents so I thought I would share a little wisdom that my own mum shared with me…
- Becoming a parent is really tough both physically and emotionally.
- There’s so much to learn and many changes to discover and figure out together.
- There are (usually*) three most important people – mummy, daddy and baby. This is a new family and everyone has a new role to become accustomed to. Additional people can upset the fragile balance that is developing.
- Everyone else should wait to visit until they are invited.
I’m really fortunate that my friends and family were able to respect these things. It meant that me and my husband worked together to make everything run as smoothly as possible. I believe it empowered us to take control and grow into our new roles. I’m so so so proud of my husband: he has been an absolute rock for me throughout the pregnancy, delivery and our first year with little.
He learnt how to help relax me and keep calm, he took control of everything medical and allowed me to be confident in him ensuring everything went as best to our wishes as possible, he caught our tiny baby (just) and cared for her needs right from the start – so much so that I had to get coached by him on nappy changing on day 3! He reassured me and helped me to get through those insanely hard first days of breastfeeding. He also went home on our second night in hospital to take care of himself and be ready and rested for us on the next day. He came back with our first “daughter” card and gift and happy presented them to us with such a big smile on his face. When we went home he got everything set and helped us into our new routine: we had a steep learning curve to apply everything we had learnt in the safety of the hospital. That time flew as we both became more comfortable and totally besotted with our amazing little girl.
At the end of day 4 we looked at each other and pretty much both said – it’s time to let our parents come and meet her. WE were ready and next day (after driving for 3 hours) my folks arrived. They didn’t stay in our house, they came for a short time and then went off to let us be for a while, they took our “help us with this” list and quietly got on with things about the house and gave us the space to be the parents to our baby. This gave us such a powerful message… YOU TWO have got this. YOU TWO are doing a great job. YOU TWO are what your baby needs. WE are happy to be allowed to be a part of this and will be here on YOUR terms. This is the greatest gift that anyone can give to two new parents.
Over the course of the next month we had a steady stream of visitors who really listened to our wishes and didn’t crowd our space or overstay their welcome. My parent’s in law drove two hours, had a cup of tea and chatted for one hour and then left and went home (they did stop off at the beach afterwards) – on that day this was perfect, I was so tired after being up all night. My husband was ready and primed to kick out any visitors who overstayed their welcome but he didn’t need to.
Those first few weeks, especially while my husband was on paternity leave, were so important to establishing our new lives and becoming Mum and Dad.
My suggestions for visitors:
- Don’t ask to come and visit. Wait to be invited.
- Stay for a very short time and be mindful of any subtle clues that you need to leave i.e. Mum looks ready to sleep, Baby is hungry and Mum isn’t getting her boobs out!
- Get Mum and Dad a drink or snack. Even better… bring them a dinner/cake and then leave them to eat it in peace.
- Make sure Mummy is comfortable sitting… the advise of doctors is that we shouldn’t sit if we can lay down… it helps with healing those tender parts. You may have to sit on the floor or a less comfortable chair while Mummy lays down on the sofa.
- Wash up, empty the washing machine, clean the toilet, hoover the carpet, wash the car (especially if it had a delivery related dowsing!)… or take a look at the “to do list” – just pick something and get it done, Mum and Dad will thank you later.
- Top tip – get two reporters notepads (one for upstairs and one for downstairs)… Write down anything and everything that needs doing or getting. You will be so sleep addled that memory is a long lost friend for a while. Hence the up and down notepads! Any visitors should be able to check the list and see how they can help you.
- If asked to leave or postpone… don’t take it personally and don’t demand any explanations. Babies are unpredictable, labour recovery is challenging and sometimes arranged visits need to be adjusted to suit the moment.
- Do not offer advice or make any judgements about how the new parents are doing things – they will ask if they would like any suggestions. Quite a lot of what parents are doing now is due to the updated changes that are suggested by the Health Visitors and Midwives.
- If Mum allows you to hold the baby you are really honoured… but do give Baby back if Mum holds out her arms or asks! You do not want to mess with the Mama Bear!
- Don’t post pictures of baby on social media unless specifically told it’s ok – I’m still reluctant to allow this to happen (sorry family).
- Do not stay in the new family’s house… unless they are lucky enough to own a mansion and you can stay in the west wing! Mum, Dad and Baby need their own space.
If you are reading this story and expecting… congratulations. You are already an awesome parent and you have got what it takes to take care of your baby. I don’t know where this comes from but you will dig deeper than you have ever delved before into your reserves of resolve. It’s tough but it is worth it and you just have to ride the rollercoaster and laugh when Daddy gets pee’d on or Mummy squirts milk across the room!
If you are shown this story and you are “the visitor”… congratulations. You are going to be the most supportive person to the fabulous new family because you are willing to listen to their needs and do what they would prefer. There are lots of different ways of parenting and the new family know that they can come to you for advice if and when they need it. I know my Mum has bitten her tongue on many occasion as I worked out how best to do things for myself. I’m so glad she gave me that space to learn and grow from being her daughter to being a Mummy of her granddaughter.
Top tip to communicating with family and friends – set up a Whatsapp (other messaging services are available!) group of everyone who wants to be kept up to date (and who you want involved). Then you can post key things to one place and everyone gets it all at the same time. We have a Baby Updates group that is now a lovely compendium of pictures, videos and messages. We kept it to close family only but that’s a personal choice. We found this a much more secure and safe way to share without it being all over the internet.
* This story is written from my own type of family. I love the diversity of families that exist now and I’ve met some amazing parents since becoming a mummy. I hope you can adjust the words as you read them to fit your type of family.
Much love for all ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜