Whether you have your baby at hospital or at home, the coming days and early weeks are not only a chaos of nappies, sleeplessness and feeds, but also a social whirl.
Putting on a show
Friends and family can’t wait to greet the new arrival and you may well be keen to show off this new bundle. However, don’t feel obliged to be the host and hostess with the mostest – your new baby is the best show in town!
I remember when our son was born, I was so keen to keep our visitors comfortable that I was forever sending Andy out to buy huge gateaux. In fact, most people came bearing cakes and biscuits – experienced parents who knew that a trip to the supermarket or a baking session was probably unlikely two days after the birth.
Guests who stay too long
If you are the first among your friends or your generation of family to have a child, it might be less obvious to visitors that they shouldn’t stay too long or expect a big meal. However, anyone you know well enough to have round in those early weeks will not be at all put out by a polite suggestion (preferably when their ‘appointment’ is being made rather than once they’re on your sofa) that a stay of a couple of hours max might be a good idea. Not knowing the reality of groggy parenthood, they will be happy to be guided by you or your partner. If you do want to spend hours talking then great, but you’d be amazed how recovery takes some doing. Just like shopping trips, the early weeks are best kept for events and challenges which aren’t too long. Being the centre of attention with your new prize can be deceptively arduous.
Equally, decide with your partner what you think is a good schedule. He might be filling up the diary with hourly visits when you are feeling droopy, or he might be overly protective, putting off visitors when you are beginning to fear the world has forgotten you.
Don’t plan too far ahead – you might end up as I did, spending an entire day in bed with a desperate baby on the day my milk came in. Happily, just when we were about to call our friend Ross and cancel his visit, Lloyd suddenly got the hang of full-on feeding and within half an hour, he and I felt bright and ready to face the world again!
When mum comes to call
Depending on your relationship with your own mother and/or mother-in-law, inviting them round can be a blessing or a curse. They may not realise it themselves but they might make you feel you have to be on best behaviour which is the last thing you need when you’ve get leaky milk and sore bits! If you do feel like this, then it’s best to invite them around at times when your partner or another friend is there to make cups of tea whilst doting grandparents can coo over the new grandchild.
Even women who have a slightly difficult relationship with their mothers can find that, during pregnancy, the relationship improves as each finds a new way in which to relate each other.
If you get on with your mother, mother-in-law or other relatives who can visit for the day (don’t feel obliged to turn your home into a guest house if there’s limited space or you treasure your own breathing space) then think about what you want from the day. Experienced grandmothers or friends with kids will perhaps come straight in and head for the pile of washing up, or get lunch on the go. If you don’t think your own mum or in-law in likely to be like this, try to plan a day that’s easy. Where you can get a salad together beforehand so you can just say ‘lunch is in the fridge’ rather than sitting feeling guilty that you are breastfeeding whilst guests are getting hungry. Or, for that matter, sitting there stewing that your mum hasn’t spotted how pre-occupied you are or offered to help.
When you’ve just had a baby, even those guests who are used to coming for the night or a weekend shouldn’t expect to treat your place like a hotel. If you’re happy to have visitors then great, but even if you have the space, you might not want to politely negotiate an unspoken bathroom rota when you’re up at all hours or wanting to spend half an hour in the bath soothing your stitches!
Before the birth, it is a good idea where possible to broach the fact that you want to wait and see about overnight visits. This way, visitors can get their head round what’s likely and deal with any feelings of being put out. Perhaps they can use the opportunity to discover a nearby B&B!
If you are uneasy about telling them, ask your partner. He can say, “I’m sure she’d love to have you but I’m worried it’ll be too much,” – keeping your feelings at a distance. Or get a sister or brother to tactfully suggest to your parents that they might want to give you some space.
Of course, you might live too far away from your parents or in-laws to make daytrips an option and cost might prevent them from staying at a local hotel. In this case, you might want to suggest they come after a few days or a couple of weeks to give you time to get into the swing of parenthood. Also, think about space. If they have to sleep on a sofa bed, make sure your own bedroom has the comforts you want around you for lie-ins or quiet time with baby. Having some territory to your own at this exciting but exhausting time is important.
Also bear in mind that fathers and fathers-in-law from a different generation might feel uncomfortable with you breastfeeding! Some don’t mind it, but in my experience, the true horror comes when you flagrantly change a pooey nappy in front of everyone. You might have quickly become accustomed to them, but your parents have probably erased them from their own memories of your babyhood!