When I had my first child, I wanted all the people to come visit me in the hospital. I was very vocal about it — and all the people did, in fact, come visit me.
It took me a few months to get over it, too.
I had no idea how utterly exhausted I’d be. When my newborn babe was sleeping, I couldn’t nap, because I was throwing a party and I didn’t feel like I could take away my invite. How rude would that be?
I don’t know what I was trying to prove, but I wouldn’t admit it was too much for me. Until you give birth, you have no idea how you will feel or what you’ll be in the mood for afterward. I wasn’t even trying to be “on.” After the first guest left, I gave up on that. I was just trying to be present and not close my eyes as friends and family sat and held my baby. I wasn’t able to let myself go and fully relax because I knew within an hour or two, more people would gather into our hospital room because I’d asked them to.
When my second came along, I figured I could handle it better. After all, I was a mom now and running on less sleep is kind of our thing. But I was wrong. So wrong. By the time we went home, I had nothing left.
The cherry on top was that my toddler wasn’t very fond of his new sister. I hadn’t gotten the rest the nurses had suggested because I thought I’d be fine and wanted to share the moment with family and friends. Once I knew I’d overcommitted, I regretted it (again), and didn’t feel like I could say no and cancel plans (again).
For my third child, I decided to do it differently. We told family and friends that we’d call them if and when it was okay to visit. The pressure was off — and instead of trying to carry on a conversation with a glazed-over expression as people came in and out of my room, I sat and watched Christmas movies on the television while pounding huge containers of fruit and not talking to anyone. It was wonderful and I loved it.
I did have my sister bring my two kids in for a visit since I did miss them so, but other than that, we kept things really quiet and stayed as long as the hospital would allow us. I can tell you I felt a lot better coming home from that birth than I did with my first two.
My friend Stacy said she learned her lesson about visitors after her first child. So with her second one, she changed her voicemail to announce that she and the baby were fine and added the date, time, and baby’s weight and height. At the end, she said she’d call when she was ready for visitors.
“It worked like a charm and I went home feeling so much better and rested than I did the first time around,” she said.
Another mother of two, Elizabeth, told me many people just assumed she was open to having visitors after she gave birth. But like Stacy, she told everyone that she would let them know when she was home and ready for company.
“I didn’t want people waiting outside my door while I was pushing,” she said. “I didn’t want someone sitting watching me while I was trying to nurse, and I wanted to be able to sleep, eat, and poop when I wanted to and not feel like I couldn’t walk around in my hospital nightgown if I needed to get up and stretch.”
The thing is, even if you are around someone you are comfortable with, some of the things that happen after having a baby are extremely private to some women. They want to have the freedom and privacy to take care of things as they come up — and not feel bad for ordering a pizza when they’re starving, instead of feeling as though they have to feed everyone in the room like it’s a party.
Ashley Olen, an OB nurse and childbirth educator, says you should do whatever makes you feel comfortable but highly recommends having her patients designate the first few hours with their baby and partner only. This makes it easier to utilize the nursing staff. Olen also adds, “When the baby is being passed around, it makes it harder to read their feeding cues.”
Another helpful hint Olen offered was to decide ahead of time who is an “at-home visitor” and who should come to the hospital, as you cannot get that precious family time back.
However, some women feel differently. Such is the case with Patricia, a mother of three who wanted all of her close family members their to celebrate the moment with she and her husband.
“My mother is extremely helpful and kind of acted as the gatekeeper and kept everyone in line and got me what I needed,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without her.”
This situation can go many ways. While some women love having lots of company, especially someone who can really tune into you and your needs after the birth of your child (or during), it’s important for you to speak up about what is comfortable for you — even if it hurts other people’s feelings. Your health and wellbeing trump that.
As for me, I am team #novisitors. I wanted to feel differently and gave it a fair shot, but it’s just who I am, and I’m okay with that.