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Postpartum guests? When and how to entertain baby’s first visitors.

I’m not due until the summer, but I’m already getting anxious about dealing with visitors once the baby is born. My family and a number of friends (some of whom I haven’t seen in years) have already expressed an interest in being there when I get home from the hospital. They talk about it like it’s this huge social event. Some friends are telling me support is key, so bring onthe family and friends. Others are telling me to fight them off and take the time to be alone with my baby. My instincts tell me that I should put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the front door. But what do I know? I’ve never been in this situation before. What is the best way to deal with postpartum visitors? – Party Pooper

Dear Party Pooper,

Both of your friends make good points: You need support and you need time to be alone. What’s tricky for expectant parents is figuring out how to get help without turning the house into the postpartum equivalent of a wedding reception.

It’s a huge moment, coming home with your first baby. Feelings of incredible pride and joy are not uncommon. Your family and friends are understandably really excited to cheer you on. And you may well want to be cheered. But along with all the joy, mothers can feel many things – protective, euphoric, sore, freaked out, relieved, wired, pleasantly spaced out, shocked, exhausted, numb . . . There are endless combinations. And not all of those states of mind are compatible with a big group of friends and family. It is hard to predict exactly how you will feel at any given moment.

So you want to think about two things. First of all, how helpful will this “guest” be to you? Is the relative or friend the type of person who will just find the coffee filters? Or will she poke around the kitchen helplessly until you get up off your aching butt and walk her through the coffee-making process? Is he or she the type of person who will overwhelm you with parenting advice within the first hour of being at home? You want someone who’s helpful . . . but not too helpful.

The second thing you want is flexibility. You are totally within your rights to set up boundaries. For example, you can say that you’ll be spending the first day, or week (or two) settling in, and after that point, you’ll be thrilled to see people. If your loved ones feel hurt or left out, explain that you’ll feel much better sharing the excitement once you’ve had a little time to recover from the birth. You can make an exception for grandparents (or whoever) IF YOU WANT TO. But even then you can set limits. (The fact that you’re thinking about all of this now is great. Usually, it doesn’t hit the parents until Uncle Joe is asking you where your extra rolls of toilet paper are kept, and it’s too late for that “Do Not Disturb” sign.)

Sometimes it’s hard not to host even when the most generous people come over to help out. Here are some ways to help make visits as stress-free as possible:

- Put a clear time limit up front to avoid extended stays.

- Don’t feel obliged to let anyone hold the baby unless you want them to.

- Don’t feel compelled to schedule visits before you are ready.

- Don’t dress for visitors. (Some even suggest staying in your PJs/robe.)

- Keep refreshments to a bare minimum.

Have a question? Email parentaladvisory@babble.com

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