You've carried. You've labored. You've delivered. And you're finally home.
Now comes the hard part for many first-time parents:
The first two weeks of parenthood.
The first two weeks of parenthood can also mean the first two weeks of grandparenthood. And auntiehood. And unclehood. And Godparenthood. Everything is new new new for parents and eager friends and family members. So begins the rush of incessant calls, surprise visits, and constant monitoring of the new family’s every move as if the baby is here for a limited time only and that date is about to expire.
While the experience might be all excitement and smiles for many taking on these new roles, it’s likely to bring on anxiety for a new mother in the throes of recovering after giving birth.
The rush along with a new mother's surge of hormones that can bring on volatile waves of emotions -- magnified, of course, by the lack of sleep -- can make some mothers feel like they’re losing control.
To all those who mean well, us new mommies love you. We need you. We know you’re excited. But here’s what we really need you to understand:
If you’re going to help, don’t hover. During our first week home, a few folks offered help around the house while I took a much needed nap. I agreed. Help to a new mother means throwing a laundry load in, maybe a sweep or vacuum, warming up a quick meal. But it might not mean the same for those offering. I woke up to find said helpers hovered over the crib staring at my sleeping baby -- that’s what they were doing the whole time I napped. Watching a sleeping baby is what a baby monitor is for. If you’re not comfortable helping, if the idea of tidying up a house that’s been turned upside down by some seriously maladjusted sleep-deprived zombies doesn’t sound like something you want to do, it’s perfectly okay not to offer.
Breast is best, but maybe not (yet) around guests. For me, feeding time was the private quiet time between the rushes of new baby excitement. Although those first two weeks are unpredictable, I tried my best to schedule visits between feedings. It wasn’t always easy, and it didn’t always work. Breastfeeding is challenging for some mothers. It can be painful. It might require patience and focus, and sometimes having others besides a partner around can feel uncomfortable. While all of this might not bother visitors, it may bother new parents – even if they don’t come right out and say it. Be considerate of visit times set by new parents.
Keep health, hygiene in check. There are the simple hygiene rules to follow – wash hands, cover mouth when coughing – but it’s just as important to make sure larger health issues are also addressed. Newborns are highly sensitive to any germs and viruses while their immune systems are developing. They’re likely to catch whatever contagion a visitor brings. Many diseases that are serious and even fatal to newborns can be prevented if those around them are vaccinated. Do you know whether you’re up to date on all your shots? For example, the number of people with whooping cough in the U.S. is the highest it’s been in 50 years. The disease is easily prevented by a vaccine but according to a recent study, 61 percent of adults don’t know the last time they were vaccinated against it. Help new parents feel assured by making sure that all vaccines are up to date.
Happy tummy, happy mommy. Feed us and we’ll probably have you around more often. Simple as that.
New dads, get on board. Okay, so this one is not necessarily geared toward visitors, but because new dads often serve as the fielder of texts, emails, calls, and drop-ins, it’s appropriate that they too understand how important their role is during the first few weeks. New dads, if your partner is not up for having a visitor, respect that. She labored. She delivered. She’s exhausted. And the hard work is not over. Any and all other family members can wait. When it comes to your side of the family, it’s your job to communicate this.
What would you like visitors to know?
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