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A Post-Childbirth Childcare Dilemma

A Post-Childbirth Childcare Dilemma

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’ve been a fan for years. Thanks for all of your hard work!

I’m 25 weeks pregnant with our second child. We have a 16-month-old at home (he will be 19 months when the new baby comes) and my husband and I can’t agree on childcare arrangements when we’re in the hospital.

My first birth was a c-section (failed induction, large baby [9 lbs, 13 oz], etc.) and I was in the hospital for 5 days. As you well know, it’s very difficult to get in and out of bed those first few days for diaper changes, so I would like my husband to be in the hospital with me for this next birth in case it’s another c-section.

My parents live 7 hours away and are physically capable of watching their grandson for 5 days. They’re healthy and active, no pets, and they love him to pieces. They’re both retired so could stay at our house with our son without issue. The problem, however, is that my husband does not like my parents. He thinks they’re controlling and he has a lot of anxiety over the idea of them watching our son. In fact, he’s pretty much flat-out said it’s not going to happen.

My in-laws live one hour away but for various reasons, it would be very difficult for them to watch the toddler. They’re not very physically active, they have a new puppy, my father-in-law is still working, and my mother-in-law has some health issues that make her not a great choice to chase after an active toddler. My husband agrees with all of this and so is reluctant to ask his parents to watch our son during the hospital stay either.

I’ve suggested compromises to my husband, such as keeping our son in daycare during the hospital stay so the caregiving grandparents (whichever set!) just need to watch him in the evening and at night; or splitting the time between both sets of grandparents. No dice. He keeps saying we just need to find another alternative. As far as I can see, there are no other alternatives.

I feel like we’re talking in circles and stressing each other out. I think he’s being unreasonable about my parents and he thinks I’m not supporting his feelings. We don’t really have any other close friends or family nearby.

Do you have any advice for us? My worse case scenario is getting a babysitter while I’m giving birth and then my husband going back home to watch our son while I stay at the hospital by myself. Is that our only choice?

Thanks so much!

Hmm. I sort of wish your husband could chime in here, with a few more specifics as to why your parents are so unacceptable. I sort of need more than “controlling” when we’re talking about free, capable, overnight childcare. They’re in-laws! “Controlling” is practically a default setting, and a super-common complaint. I mean, I am not comfortable going into details about my in-laws here, but lemme just say that without more details from your hubs, “controlling” and in-law visits causing stress/anxiety just doesn’t cut it with me, because OH HO HO HO. Either come up with a workable alternative yourself, dude, or sack up and accept that you’re gonna have to deal with the grandparents for a few days.

But let’s say you’ve written this letter overly biased to your childcare solution and have omitted some major plot points in the “husband hates my parents” saga that would maybe tip the opinion scales his way. (Hey, it happens.) As a three-time c-section birther (one emergency, two scheduled), let me share how we handled the hospital stay/childcare balance.

After my first c-section, I did not have a private room, so my husband was not allowed to stay overnight to help, and the room really wasn’t all that great for visitors to hang out in during the day.  So…I spent a lot of time on my own, and the nurses helped. I was never pushed to do anything I wasn’t ready for or comfortable with, until it really was in my recovery benefit to force myself out of bed and start handling things like diaper changes and self-care. Both sets of parents came down to visit but stayed in hotels (we only had a tiny condo) and left once I was discharged so we could spend a couple weeks on our own before having each of our moms back down to help me (staggered visits) once my husband returned to work.

For the second c-section, my father’s health was failing so my parents were not a childcare option for us. So my in-laws came down. Are they controlling? Do they give me anxiety and stress me out? Do they do things that drive me up the wall? Hmmmm take a guess. But they are loving, capable, hands-on grandparents who I know take good care of my children, even if that care is different than how I do things. I let the negatives go and focus on the positives. Which in that case, was that my husband could stay with me as long as we wanted/needed and our son was with people he loved and did fun things with him, so the transition from only kid to new big brother was a positive one. Everything was fine!

THAT SAID. It turned out I actually didn’t want my husband with me at the hospital 24/7 after all. The “bed” in my room was terrible so he wrenched his back the first night and was basically about as useless as I was after that. (And like, 75% more complain-y.) He wanted to watch movies when I wanted to sleep, he was bored and I felt weirdly compelled to keep talking/entertaining him. I was having issues with pain management and mostly just wanted to be left the hell alone. So after the first night, I sent him home. And just let the nurses know that hey, I’m on my own tonight and might call for help a bit more. They were like, no problem, that’s kind of OUR JOB. And everything was fine.

(Oh, and another modification to the plan happened after I got home. In-laws were supposed to leave right away [so I would not be driven crazy by them, mostly], but then our older son got sick and couldn’t go to school. And then I got sick and couldn’t do anything but lie in bed and nurse and moan. And the baby had a tongue-tie and required all kinds of extra doctor appointments. And my MIL offered to stay longer and I just about cried with gratitude.)

For the third c-section, once again we enlisted my in-laws to care for the older kids. And my mom for hospital stay duty. (My dad had just passed away.) My husband’s back problems were REALLY bad at this point (he’s all better now, but damn he was messed up for awhile) and there was just no way he could sleep on one of those “beds” again. So he stayed with me during the day and my mom helped out at night. In-laws brought the older kids for visits, everybody pitched in, then immediately cleared out once I was home. AND EVERYTHING WAS FINE.

So. There’s a couple possible solutions here:

1) Your husband gets over his personal dislike for your parents and focuses on what will make the experience easiest on YOU and most enjoyable for your SON. Sorry, but his “feelings” are like third in the pecking order here. Unless he has legit concerns about your son’s safety/well-being in their care, I think he needs to get over it. If he does stay with you at the hospital 24/7, he’ll probably rarely even have to deal with them. (Although he does need to leave your side occasionally to be with your son, to bring him for visits, spend some one-on-one time for lunch, keep the bedtime routine in place, etc.)

2) You rely on the nurses’ more and your husband less (which you might find to be what you prefer anyway), and maybe have a set of parents come for just the labor/birth. Then once you know what length of stay you’re looking at and how you feel physically (it can REALLY vary from birth to birth, even with c-sections), make a plan for daycare, then maybe having your son come visit afterwards and through dinner until bedtime, at which point he and your husband go home and you enjoy some peace and quiet and control of the room’s TV remote. (In between nursing and all that.) Again, if the nurses know you don’t have someone with you, they will help you and check on you more often, in my experience.

3) You have just one parent come (your mom, maybe?) and stay with you at night while your husband takes care of your son, or vice versa. In “shifts” so he doesn’t have to deal with/talk to her much, if that makes it more tolerable for him rather than knowing he’ll definitely be dealing with both of them. I don’t know. You’ve probably already had something along these lines rejected. I can see how frustrating these conversations with him must be, because yeah. He wants an alternative plan but doesn’t have one and isn’t ready to admit that there probably isn’t an alternative that doesn’t involve your parents in some capacity.

Again, without his side of the story, I vote that solution one is probably the thing that needs to happen. I doubt you’ve left out some MAJOR DEAL-BREAKER like alcoholism, abuse, a tendency for visits to end with screaming matches or like, the five little times they lost your kid at the playground because they weren’t paying attention and/or were off huffing spray paint. Once more, with feeling: Unless his issues with your parents involve the safety and well-being of your son, he needs to put his personal feelings aside here. And deal with his anxiety another way than total avoidance, especially when that tactic causes great inconvenience/stress for pregnant you AND is potentially damaging your son’s relationship with otherwise perfectly acceptable grandparents.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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