Visiting Tips for Expecting Parents and Visitors should be shared before baby is born. Discussing who to call, when to call and who should come to the hospital or birth center is a very important conversation to have. Our 4th son came 10 days early (to my surprise) and weighted in at a healthy 9 and a half pounds! I was very fortunate to have my 3rd successful VBAC and am grateful our NB is nursing like a champ. This is him at 3 days old in my Boba Wrap. I’ve found that my babies are happiest when they’re close to Mama, and I love snuggling too! I wanted to share some tips from my experience that may help your birth and babymoon be as magical as possible!
As a proud 3-time VBAC-er, I know that having a 2 day versus a 4-5 day hospital stay is a wonderful thing. I’m very thankful to be home with my family and in my own bed. I’ve been very busy multitasking with a newly turned 5 year old, 3-year old, 2 year old and newborn! Even though I’ve had lots of experience with pregnancy and birth, I feel as though there is still so much to learn. One piece of advice that I give to expectant parents is to talk ahead of time about visitors.
The conversations my husband and I have had (now for the 4th time) about hospital visitors got my wheels turning (mentally, not physically, it’s snowing and I’m not driving around in that with my kiddos). The question about who to call, when to call, and who you may or may not want to arrive at the hospital is a delicate matter. We found ourselves trying to balance our wants and needs with visitor demands. Everyone wanted to be called when we were in labor, but then found that the phone wouldn’t stop ringing asking for updates. Second baby, we only called Grandma to limit phone calls. “How dilated is she, did her water break, is she pushing? etc. were consistent calls we got. Despite saying “We will call you when we get news” we still received multiple calls. This is why It’s definitely something that should be discussed ahead of time and passed along to potential visitors to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Moms like me, who had a hard labor, or surgery, and then found themselves with a room full of visitors can identify. With my first son I was induced (which I regret), labored over 35 hours, and ended up with major surgery. I had invited the Grandmas and my husband for the labor (mistake on the Grandmas). They were not supportive as I had imagined, my MIL wouldn’t get off of her F*&%^&g cell phone while I was laboring (despite repeatedly asking her to) and my Mom (a nurse) was very nervous. If I took anyone it should have been a Doula! Then, Shortly after my son was born, I was bombarded with a roomful of visitors coming to “meet” our Newborn after delivery. I was sooooo tired, in a lot of pain, learning how to breastfeed and dripping blood when I walked; not the best time to have a gathering of people. I sat with my boobs out everywhere (by the 4th baby I didn’t care who saw my boobs, but I was a bit nervous NIP with my first), on a giant pad gushing blood every so often thinking..this is bullshit. There was no need for my husband’s brothers, girlfriends, wives, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors etc. to visit me in the hospital.
We didn’t make the same mistakes with baby number two, three or four. After our visitors left, I told my husband 1. that we needed to plan better, and 2. that we must remember to apologize to my sister-in-law! I will admit to being one of the fly-by-birth visitors who bombarded her just after her first daughter was born. I thought, OMG, what did we do to Sarah!? I honestly thought that we were doing a nice thing (by driving and staying at their home right after their first daughter was born) and not perhaps keeping a tired/recovering Mommy awake and depriving her of much needed rest and bonding time with her new baby. As someone who previously bombarded a relative with a newborn, I can understand where visitors are coming from and wish visitor etiquette was explained to me too.
For our 2nd son I got smarter and requested that my husband hold off on phone calls until after I delivered. We waited until my first VBAC was successful, baby was here and I was a bit more put together. I was in far less pain compared to my c-section so we called right afterwards. Not to my surprise, I found that some of the same visitors, who came after my 1st sons birth (and then rarely or never visited afterwards) were determined to invade the hospital again. I thought a lot about this, and after asking other Moms who had a similar experience. I ask the question, Why visit a Mom, you rarely visit, in the hospital when she is tired, nursing and recovering….only to never or rarely visit her or her children again? Some people do it, and it’s not cool.
As I lay in my hospital bed, listening to a Code Blue announcement over the loud speaker, waiting for another crotch ice pack condom from the RN, I started thinking; Hospitals are a hub where new life begins, and for many…where life ends. I believe that some people view birth as they view death, as an event to “pay respects.” Or maybe for those without any experience birthing and recovering, a time of blind excitement and little insight into how Mom and her family may be feeling.
So if you’re a Mom who loves visitors after giving birth, this probably doesn’t apply to you. If you’re thinking along the same lines, or getting ready for a new addition to your family – here are some tips for being kind and respectful, and for eliciting kind and respectful visits from others.
1. Determine pre-birth when friends and relatives will be contacted about the new arrival. Let them know these plans so no one is offended that you “didn’t call when you went into labor.” For us, once the baby was delivered and healthy, all phone lines were a go. You may want to wait until Mom is in her recovery room, nursed and had time to bond with baby.
2. Make sure you agree on when outside visitors are welcome. Immediately Grandma and baby’s siblings might be a good idea, but anyone you’re not comfortable with seeing your breasts or other medical interventions you should wait. For me, nurses stopped in frequently after delivery to lift my gown and feel my uterus for firmness. They checked for bleeding as well. Like many Moms, these are not things I want the neighbor next door there for.
3. Be assertive. (Be assertive, B-E assertive, B-E a-s-s-e-r-t-i-v-e …insert cheer here….) Designate who will be calling to let family and friends know when visiting is okay. Setting appointment times is a great way to ensure that you’re decent and give you time to semi-straighten the house before visitors arrive. Getting a knock on the door when you’re resting post-shower in your underwear – on a home-made condom ice pack – nursing your baby is an unfavorable way to learn you have guests.
4. After you pick a time for visitors make sure they know you won’t be cooking/entertaining for them. Give them a list of a few things that they can do to help. Maybe bringing food or a few items from the grocery store would be a huge help. Maybe there’s something you’re craving post-delivery that someone can pick up for you. Most visitors want to help and are glad to pitch in, but aren’t sure how.
5. Determine how and where visitors can clean their hands. Germs are always a concern with a baby’s’ newly up and running immune system. Have hand gel available and or a washing station to direct visitors to. Make sure to tell visitors that any inkling of illness means they should wait to come over. One would think that visiting a baby while sick is an obvious no-no, but unfortunately (what I call) ‘sick manners’ are not practiced by everyone.
1. A new baby has come into your family/friend circle! What an exciting time! Keep in mind that baby’s Mommy just underwent major medical events, wait for a phone call, or ask when a good time to meet the newborn is. Depending on the parents preferences, you may be welcome immediately, or after a few days pass.
2. When you visit, ask if it’s okay to hold baby, and avoid passing him/her around like a hot potato. Keep in mind that new parents want baby cared for delicately and protected. There is nothing more important in the entire world then this little bundle. Sit down, ask parents how to hold baby (even if you’re an experienced baby holder yourself), and be gentle.There are few things more unsettling to a new parent then watching someone toss their baby around flopping his little head about, insisting that they know what they’re doing.
3. Make sure to ask the new parents what you can do to be helpful. I really wanted a hoagie after delivery. Hospital food was terrible, and despite the fact that I typically don’t consume lunch meat I really wanted turkey with lots of mayo. I was very thankful for hoagie deliveries during my hospital stay and a continuous flow of sprite.
4. Do not show up at 12:30 at night, talk your way onto the maternity floor…and surprise the sleeping Mom who just dozed off after nursing her newborn (yes this happened to me) because you just drove in. It’s scary and kinda crazy.
5. If you’re wondering if you’re sick, sniffling, or just not feeling like yourself – wait to visit baby. A newly functioning immune system is no match for something yours is fighting off. Even if you’re feeling well, make sure to wash your hands before asking to hold baby.
Keep in mind that this baby will be around for a lifetime (save any special circumstances). There are many days and weeks ahead when visiting will be a great time for the family. The immediacy you may feel to pay respect to the new life can apply weeks later. In the beginning, newborns frequently go through a dormant period and spend most of their time sleeping and breastfeeding. After this period passes, Mom may have her hands full and appreciate a helping hand. Swoop in and be the superhero! She may not remember the fly-by-birth visitors, but she will definitely remember you stopping by 3 weeks after baby was born to fold laundry and give her a chance to shower!
Some great ways to help (and get to visit the baby!):
- Bring a cooked meal the family will enjoy.
- Clean – anything really, the bathroom, the kitchen, -if they family is okay with it- stop over with gloves on and a bucket ready to go! Parents caring lovingly for baby slowly watch the house turn upside down.
- Hold the baby while he/she is sleeping, and or entertain siblings so Mom can eat and possibly shower, both if she’s lucky!
- Keep advice to a minimum (unless it’s asked of you). Giving advice is one way we try to be helpful, but the family will eventually figure things out for themselves. Parents are appreciative of non-judgmental visitors and normal conversation (that doesn’t involve poop – many conversations are about poop with little ones).
This may 100% apply to you, this may not apply at all. This is based on my personal experiences and opinions and offers some food for thought. The best way to find out what a new family prefers or needs is to ask them!