The Best Baby Gift of All

One week ago our family welcomed a new addition– our great-nephew Evan was born in California amidst much excitement.  We’re thrilled to have our first great-nephew and my brother is double thrilled to have his first grandson.  While it will be awhile before we get to see him, he won’t be without company.  My sister-in-law hopped on a plane as soon as my niece’s water broke; by the time Mom and baby arrived home from the hospital, a houseful of more family was there.  Which is typical for the majority of births in our society, right? Doting grandmothers arrive to help out; friends and other family members flock to get a first glimpse of the tiny new life.  It’s what we do when a child is born.  It’s tradition.

Is it just my husband and me, or is there anyone else out there who thinks our society needs to re-think this whole time-worn welcoming process?  Let’s start with labor.  No, I wouldn’t want things turned back to when husbands and other family paced nervously in the waiting room and weren’t allowed anywhere near the childbirth experience– but it seems that once births were allowed to be more “open”, things have gotten more and more over the top, to the point where it’s now common practice to see a labor room literally packed with well-wishing friends and relatives, men and women and children.  Many with cameras!  I looked at a friend’s photo album a couple years ago and asked, “Didn’t that bother you?” And she said, “Oh, there was no keeping them away.”  But does anyone ever think that when a woman is in labor, maybe a lot of guests are the last thing she wants to deal with? I remember with the first labor, I felt like someone was kicking me in the lower back with a boot that had a corkscrew attached to the toe, kicking and twisting in the corkscrew, every so many minutes…if someone had walked in with a video camera, I might have thrown it against the wall.  Kick! Twist! Aargh!! Smash.  And besides, who has on makeup or even a bra when they’re in a hospital gown? How could I have remembered the breathing exercises and “creative visualization” I spent weeks learning, if a lot of guests had stopped by?  I was truly grateful for the two guests we had, but they were very respectful of our privacy. A few sweet words, a few hand squeezes, and they left.

What about the first few hours after giving birth? With our first child, we were pretty naive about this.  The baby was born, and Andy called up everyone he could think of to tell them.  Our first visitors arrived within minutes.  And the “sign-in page” in the baby guest book kept growing.  I remember one of Andy’s guy friends was standing looking at the baby in her hospital “crib” in my room at the moment I was helped out of bed for the first time, and escorted to the bathroom after my C-section delivery.  Only I never made it to the bathroom– I peed on the floor instead.  Needless to say, by the time our second child arrived, the nurses were our only guests.  I liked the head nurse so much, I gave her a rose from one of the flower arrangements we received…

Not only do I think births need to be more private, I also think new parents should consider the option of handling that first week on their own.  Well, at least for child #1.  I know, I know– Radical! Shocking! And I might not be promoting this had Andy and I not stumbled upon this gem of advice unexpectedly– but Allison was born two weeks early, so my mom’s plane tickets didn’t coincide.  And my mother-in-law, who lives only 20 minutes away, has always been of the mindset of “I’m here to help, just ask” but has never wanted to be too invasive (thank you, Martha!).  So our tabby cat, Clancey, and our next-door-neighbor, Gene, welcomed us home from the hospital.  Andy played Elvis Costello’s “Allison” on the CD player, and we spent the first week with our new baby totally, blissfully, on our own.  Andy and I learned about caring for our newborn together, with help from our What to Expect books and what we remembered from our childbirth classes…I remember feeling an overwhelming love for him as he helped me recover and helped care for our baby, and I think he felt good about himself for mastering a new challenge.  Once Grandma came and took charge, the magic was gone…but I will always remember that first week and wish that others could go through this same bonding experience.  (Not every guy gets a long paternity leave at his job, but even a day or two could be special!)

One more thought about privacy– I think non-family stopping by the house to see the baby should wait at least a week, maybe more.  I mean, think about it– a new mom’s hormones are in a complete upheaval, she’s learning to care for a baby, both parents are sleep deprived and may be dealing with hearing a lot of crying–and they’re expected to entertain visitors every day?? Who came up with this insane tradition? I remember hearing a knock at the door for the 15th time and just wanting to hide in my bedroom.  I was stumbling through getting used to nursing, going through a few health complications, trying to take naps– the sign on the door should have read, “Shh!  Baby Sleeping and Mom is, Too!!”  How can you keep your house “guest ready” with a new baby in the house?  How can you yourself be “guest ready”?  I will never forget the time a single guy from our church stopped by for a visit…I’d had a particularly rough day with migraine headaches and felt like crap…he was a new member of our Sunday School class who’d signed up to bring us a meal…after he talked to us for a half hour, we said something like, “Well, we’ll sure enjoy this later tonight, thank you!” and, looking surprised, he said, “Well, we’re all eating it together, aren’t we?” Huh? He pulled up a chair at our kitchen table as my head pounded and our private evening went out the window…

I know, I know, it’s a weird line new parents walk…if the new parents tell people, “We want to be alone,” they run the risk of appearing rude and ungrateful.  And if people have the good taste to ask, “Do you want me at the hospital?” “Is it okay if I stop by the house?” the new parents worry that they’ll hurt someone’s feelings if they say no.  But it’s never too early for parents to learn how to take control,  to take care of themselves and to learn to say no tactfully.  Maybe our society could start a new tradition to help that out– a baby “announcement” party when everyone can come take a look, and the parents can kick back and enjoy themselves– held whenever they feel ready, that is!

5 thoughts on “The Best Baby Gift of All”

  1. It’s called a “Sip & See”- the “announcement” party you mention at the end of your post. Isn’t that cute? People come over to sip champagne and see the new baby. We’re going to wait until he’s at least 2 months, but I missed one of my baby showers due to bed rest, so our friends are throwing us a ‘sip and see’ instead. Fun.

    And I have to say, I agree with a lot of your post. However, I, personally really wanted my mom there the day I delivered. Ryan was the only person I wanted with me in the delivery room (the c-section ended up dictating that anyway), but we always knew the birth of our son was something we wanted to share alone. It was so special that way. That being said, childbirth is such a beautiful thing that mothers and daughters can bond over, I am so happy that my mom was the first person (after Ryan) to visit me in the recovery room. After all, she’d been there. She had a c-section when she delivered her first baby too…it was me. πŸ™‚

    Like I said, I do agree that lines need to be drawn. I had to put my foot down with a super-excited friend who wanted to visit us in the hospital the morning after my c-section. I also made everyone leave the room (including my mother-in-law) every time I wanted to nurse. It’s important to learn to say “no” and to take care of yourself, and your new baby, first.

    But I believe there can be a happy medium. With all of the family we’ve had in the house the last week, I have to say- we have been doing most everything on our own. We struggle through the late-night feedings and diaper changes together (in fact, Ryan and I are the only ones who have changed his diaper so far, as we are super protective of his circumcision care), and we only give baby to the Grandmas or Grandpas when we need to nap or get something done. Usually the baby is asleep between feedings, so why not have Grandma hold him instead of laying him in his bouncy seat? Also, Ryan only had 4 days off of work, so who is supposed to help me around the house, especially as I recover from major surgery? I’m not even supposed to lift a full laundry basket, let alone drive for 2 weeks. I am so thankful my mom was here today to drive Evan and I to his first pediatrician appointment.

    All in all, I love having family around these first few weeks; I’m happy to have the help. But this attitude only works if you’re able to put your foot down too. New parents need to decide for themselves what’s most important to them, and hopefully their families and friends will understand and be respectful of their wishes.

  2. The Chinese have a party when the baby turns one month old. The idea is that the baby stays at home with mom for that month and is intorduced to friends and family at the, admittedly lavish, party. I think this is a pretty great tradition. At the one we attended, both mom and baby looked great and everyone gave them money… how could that work out any better, I ask?

  3. The Chinese have a party when the baby turns one month old. The idea is that the baby stays at home with mom for that month and is intorduced to friends and family at the, admittedly lavish, party. I think this is a pretty great tradition. At the one we attended, both mom and baby looked great and everyone gave them money… how could that work out any better, I ask?

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