Postpartum Company: Who, When & How Long?
When people inquired about my immediate post-birth plans with Noah, they were always shocked — shocked! — to hear that my husband and I were deliberately asking family to NOT stay with us for the first two weeks. A visit here and there was fine, and I really wanted my mom to at least come see me in the hospital, but once I was discharged, my mind was made up: no overnight visitors for two weeks.
You seriously would have thought I had announced plans to birth the baby among the dolphins, or to bring the placenta to the next company potluck. The idea that my husband and I wanted to be ALONE with our newborn was clearly a sign that we did not know what we were getting into, and/or had a really lousy relationship with our family.
Neither of which were true, or had anything to do with our decision. We lived in a tiny, one-bathroom condo. We had no guest room, only a sleeper sofa directly underneath our open, loft-style master bedroom. Being home with a crying newborn in the middle of the night seemed stressful enough without knowing that we were keeping someone else up beneath us, someone who could hear everything we said, someone I’d have to trudge by every time I needed to walk to the bathroom to change my maxi pad. I didn’t especially want to learn how to breastfeed in front of anyone. I would have probably loved if my mom could come, but she was still recovering from a recent mastectomy and couldn’t really “help” with much. So our plan was for Jason and I to figure stuff out on our own for two weeks, and then once he went back to work, our mothers would each come for one week (or so) to help me out and keep me company.
Noah was almost five weeks old (or so) before I had my first true stay-at-home maternity-leave day with him, and let me tell you, I was READY. I was…yeah. I was ready. My mother-in-law’s visit was open-ended, and by day seven or so I had to put my foot down and announce that it was time for me to do this parenting thing on my own. I wanted my house and my privacy and honestly didn’t want to share my baby with anybody else anymore. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this and make it through the day and if making it through the day included watching The Price Is Right in our pajamas, so be it.
(I also wanted to eat a hot dog for lunch, if I wanted to, without having to first turn down my mother-in-law’s offers of salads and wheatgrass shakes.)
We had noooo such company rule before Ezra’s birth — quite the opposite, in fact. We knew we would need help. Someone would have to watch Noah and get him to and from preschool and help with his meals and bedtime. Jason’s time off from work would not be so truly “off” this time either, so we had no grand plans for being on our own from the get-go. (While insisting on our privacy with Noah may have come across as a little selfish, that was probably nothing compared to enlisting the aid of relatives to come stay with us just so we could pawn a kid off on them.) My father’s health meant my parents couldn’t come, so my in-laws stepped in.
They were very helpful.
No, they were, really. I don’t see how we could have survived otherwise, especially since we all kept getting one illness after another and no sleep and helping Noah through the new-sibling transition was DIFFICULT and GAH. I go back and read the stuff I was writing through that phase and clearly I was having some kind of major mental break with reality because I could only talk about how HAPPY I was, and I guess I was happy, but I was also sick and tired and sneaking down to the kitchen at night to get the junk food that my mother-in-law hadn’t thrown out in a fit of raw-food veganism and worried that they just didn’t really understand how to deal with Noah and I don’t even remember how long they stayed. It was awhile, for an in-law visit, but I still asked them to stay one day even longer so I could make sure that I was really and truly healthy and okay with being alone with both kids.
If money hadn’t been an issue, I would have LOVED to have hired a postpartum doula — particularly one who could focus on Noah. Having family — even family expressly staying with you to help — can still feel a bit like having company. I’d fret about whether we had enough clean towels and worry about the crumbs in the sleeper sofa cushions and wanted to make sure everybody enjoyed dinner. Every time I breastfed the baby my father-in-law would get up and bolt from the room, even if I used a cover. We’re still trying to track down stuff that got helpfully put away in closets and the kitchen during the visit. If I have another baby — HA! HAAAA HA. HA HA HA! — I think I would do a hybrid of our two postpartum company policies: no family staying overnight for two weeks, but a postpartum doula on hand to help out in any way possible, and then family could come down for reasonable, non-open-ended visits.
What was your postpartum company policy, if you had one? Would you do things differently or the same, if you had to do it over again?
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