Let us know as soon as you’re in labor. Make sure you tell us as soon as baby arrives. We’ll come visit you as soon as baby arrives.
Sorry, but no. We love you and we are so glad you are excited about our growing family, but no.
It seems our culture has fallen so completely from any ideals about the sacredness of the postpartum period that women are now expected to not only quickly recover from labor and childbirth to entertain guests when they get home, but to entertain them while still in the hospital, and hand over their new little ones mere hours after meeting them.
That seems crazy, no?
You carry this little life inside of your body for almost an entire year. You dream about who this little life will become, what he or she will look like and act like. You sacrifice so much physically and mentally while growing this little one, suffer through hours (or days!) of labor (or even weeks/months if you are blessed with an irritable uterus) to bring him or her into the world. Your life undergoes a monumental shift as you become the mother of a new human being brought earthside.
You are exhausted mentally and physically. You are sore in places you didn’t know you could be sore. You are bleeding and starving and sweating and freezing. You are trying to figure out breastfeeding. You are in awe of the miracle of life and just how perfect your little one is. If you’re like us, you’re still trying to figure out a name for the little one.
And then, your gift of an hour of bonding is over, just like that, and the reality of everyone else’s expectations crashes around you. Out go the phone calls and texts alerting everyone that your baby has arrived. In come the requests for who gets to visit first and can we put it on Facebook yet? The nurse helps you waddle to the shower while your husband spends some quality skin-to-skin time with baby and even though the shower feels heavenly on your sore body, and it feels amazing to clean all the fluids of birth off, you are rushed through your reverie by the knowledge that soon you will have guests.
Yep, you may have spent the last day laboring and bringing new life into the world, but now it’s time to put your hostess hat back on and get out there.
You drag on a new hospital gown, or maybe actual clothes if you are an overachiever, trying to decide if your massive postpartum pad is too obvious before deciding you just won’t get out of the bed. You pull your hair up, put on some makeup and shuffle your way back to the hospital bed. Checking your phone, you begin the task of scheduling your parents, your in-laws, siblings and friends for visits, trying to stagger who you can comfortably nurse in front of with who you can’t.
You just gave birth an few hours ago and yet here you are, fulfilling your duty to produce offspring for your family to enjoy.
Okay maybe that’s a bit harsh, but seriously, how did we get to this place where women are expected to allow visitors in their hospital room hours after giving birth? Because this has become a cultural expectation, women feel they have no other option.
That’s how I felt.
I love my family and my in-laws are great. I have no complaints there. But three hours after V was born, we had a good six-hour string of nonstop visitors. One stayed until the others arrived. Some brought food, some brought kids, most brought gifts. It was stressful and exhausting and I told Husband I wouldn’t do it again.
This post encompasses all the reasons why visitors after having a baby should not be the norm. Not only should you be able to focus on recovering from birth yourself, breastfeeding can be challenging at first and you should be able to focus on that without worrying about your BIL walking in.
And that’s not even mentioning that this baby everyone wants to come see, he/she’s your new child, your forever child, and you’ve never met outside of the womb until a few hours ago. Why does it seem strange or like a personal affront that you would like to spend more than a couple of hours getting to know your new child before introducing him/her to your family? You just spent 10 months sacrificing to grow this new life, you’ve earned more than a couple of hours of bonding time.
We’ve come a long way in acknowledging the importance of skin-to-skin contact and an undisturbed first hour between mom and baby. But it seems like after that hour, all bets are off. What if instead we looked at those first few days as sacred, as a space to hold only for mom and dad and baby – to bond, to learn each other, to recover, to nurture each other in peace and privacy? Would we see an impact in maternal health, mentally and physically? I personally think so.
Maybe you relished the visitors while in the hospital. Maybe you loved having everyone come visit. That’s totally fine and obviously your right. But because this has become the cultural norm, many moms feel immense pressure to do so even if their gut is telling them it isn’t what they really want. The pressure doesn’t come from ill-meaning families, it’s just an irrational expectation that has become a norm. And norms are hard to break from.
As a first-time mom, I didn’t want visitors. We compromised to only our immediate families. But then so-and-so and this friend and that mentioned they’d love to come meet baby in the hospital and well wasn’t that just what normal new parents let their friends do? I didn’t want anyone to hold baby except Husband and I. We compromised to only our moms, which then became anyone who asked. It wasn’t what I wanted but I felt intense pressure to conform to what society and everyone else wanted, and in the fragile exhausted and hormonal state that is postpartum, I felt I had no choice.
If there were ever a time to put your own wants and needs first, it’s after giving birth.
So this time around, I’m taking back my postpartum.
No, you may not come visit us in the hospital. No, we will not send you a text as soon as baby arrives. Yes, we do love you.
And yes, please bring me food.