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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.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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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Nancy
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Nancy

I guess I was clueless about my C-section. I didn’t have anyone stay with me and didn’t even realize it was an option. and everything was fine. The nurses helped when needed, I could send the baby to the nursery when I needed some time to deal with medical issues and there always seemed to be visitors. SO that might be a valid option for you.

Amy Renee
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Amy Renee

Regardless of what you come up with, unless your plan is to send your son away to stay with family out of town, I highly suggest keeping him in daycare (assuming part of your hospital stay is during the week). He will have a lot of changes going on, having the consistency of a place he is used to would be preferable to the chaos of being with grandparents he doesn’t see very often and being out of routine. If either set of parents is coming to stay at your house, I would suggest they send him to daycare every… Read more »

Ros
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Ros

I’m also seeing a hint of ‘please suggest the alternative that I go home and sleep in my own bed but don’t make me the bad guy for suggesting it’ passive-aggressiveness in the fact that he’s shooting down all options you’re suggesting but not offering up any other alternatives. I have no idea where you guys stand on that, but… I can just say that, unless he’s afflicted by chronic back problems or other physical reasons why staying overnight on a crappy bed isn’t an option, I basically have zero sympathy. You’re the one going through 9 months of pregnancy… Read more »

SarahB
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SarahB

What Amy said! I found as well that some of my hesitations about relying on my ILs for help went away with child number two.  We just needed help in a big way, and we’d finally gotten comfortable enough with each other that it was ok. I’ve had two c-sections, and we had my parents stay so DH could stay in the hospital with me post c-section. I was really glad to have him there.  We joked that it was like a “vacation” having all that time together.  It was special and lovely.  One way or another, we arranged it… Read more »

April_L
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April_L

Yes – try to keep him in daycare for his own sake. It’s helpful for children to have consistency and their own space when they’re going through the addition of a new sibling. As a former daycare teacher (and later a nanny to children who didn’t go to daycare) it can be very reassuring for the older child. I now have a 2 year old and it was important to me to get her settled at preschool before I have another.

Myriam
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Myriam

I didn’t have a c-section, so it might be a little bit different… but exactly like Amy, I realized I didn’t want my husband to stay overnight at the hospital. I wanted to be able to “control” when to turn on the light, but “loud”, etc. without having to deal with him, and have him cool, calm and collected during daylight hours so I could nap and rest. I realise I sound like my hubby is complainy and unhelpful, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that I was more confortable being by myself (and with the nurse) during the… Read more »

Myriam
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Myriam

I do agree with Amy that the burden is on him to find another alternative, or be more specific about why your son can’t stay with your family.

Maggie
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Maggie

I never had DH stay overnight at hospital. The nurses are GREAT at helping with anything you need, and it meant we didn’t need overnight babysitting. Also suggestion 3 makes sense to me – your mom can look after your son while you are giving birth, and then she can stay at the hospital with you while your husband goes home. He gets his space, you get your Mom. (And it would take a lot of gall, IMHO, to tell a postpartum mama she couldn’t have HER mother visit! My oh my.)

hp
Guest
hp

I just had a repeat c-section when my first son was 30 months (so older).  My husband stayed one night and my mother stayed the other.  My son went to daycare while we were in the hospital.  I honestly did not want my husband to stay because he gets grumpy with bad sleep and I needed him to be well-rested for when we got home.  Since my c-section was not emergency, I was in much better shape to handle baby needs and would have been fine by myself with the nurses but it was nice to have someone there in… Read more »

MJH
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MJH

The thing that’s annoying me about this letter is the husband’s insistence on an alternative without any kind of indication that he has offered any suggestions at all. LW, do you think your husband has an idea he’s not suggesting or do you think he generally doesn’t know and wants you to figure it out. 

Either way, if he is not going to offer alternatives, then I’m not sure what else there is to say. Your parents (from what you’ve said here) are a reasonable option. What are his reasonable options?

Tracey
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Tracey

I agree, call his bluff and inform him that he is responsible to arrange child care. (A person/persons acceptable to the Original Poster, or course). If he’s anything like my DH, he’ll decide it’s too much work, and give in.

MR
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MR

1) Absolutely keep your oldest in daycare! Keeping routine for him is going to be hugely important in his transition to being a big brother! 2) “You” (as in both of you) don’t need to come up with any alternatives. HE needs to come up with alternatives. You have offered solutions, he hasn’t liked any of them, so he needs to come up with something different. But, yeah, it sure as heck sounds like either set of parents would be just fine watching your son for the hours that he isn’t at daycare. The big thing is, whomever watches him… Read more »

KR
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KR

I agree that, if it is not a safety issue, it’s probably time to cede control to the grandparents for a while.  The husband’s utter refusal to do this seems concerning in general – if this is part of a pattern, maybe some couples’ therapy could help, now or in the future (did wonders for us!)?   +1 to keeping your kid in his existing daycare, if he typically goes there.  If he doesn’t usually go to daycare, and you really think the in-laws thing won’t happen, start babysitter-shopping NOW so he can have someone you all like that he… Read more »

Karen
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Karen

Another who had husband sleep at home and kept older kids in daycare (3x).

Amy Renee
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Amy Renee

On a slightly separate (but related) tangent – if your parents are retired, chances are they are going to want to come see the new baby and could probably come pretty much any time you wanted, since they don’t have to worry about work schedules, etc.And it sounds like OP has a good relationship with her parents (even if her husband doesn’t), so she will probably want them to come. So if they don’t come for the birth/ first few days, when would OP and her husband prefer they come? Maybe if OP phrases it like that, the husband might… Read more »

B
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B

If it is a financial option, find out if one of the teachers at your current daycare wants an overnight sitting job. We did this for my third and it was expensive, but so much nicer than stressing about burdening the grandparents or whether the grandparents were actually using the car seat or feeding the kids. The kids were so excited to have a beloved teacher sleep at their house, they stayed in their routine, and we came home to happy kids, a clean house and a sitter who admired the baby, accepted her check and was gone within five… Read more »

K
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K

Super curious as to what really are the husband’s reasons for not wanting his in-laws to watch the kiddo. “Controlling” seems like a weird thing to get stuck on. Having said that, I kind of wonder if it is about husband not wanting to stay overnight in the hospital. I am with a few others on this one – we both stayed in the hospital for the entire time I was there (four days, I think?) when we had our son via c-section, and that’s actually the one thing I might do over. He was miserable sleeping on the “bed”,… Read more »

MR
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MR

This too. I had a vbac, but I would have sent hubby home even after a repeat cesarean. He was miserable sleeping at the hospital, and him being there actually woke me up more. I had a blissful night alone with my new baby after the second one was born, and that was magical. I really treasure that. For the first child, there is always that sense of feeling totally unsure of what you are doing and wanting someone else to be there for reassurance, but that isn’t there for the second. For the second, it is easier to feel… Read more »

Autumn
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Autumn

I’ll climb on board the “have husband sleep at home” train with kiddo going to regularly scheduled day care so grandparents would only have to do dinner/bedtime.  With both of our girls, my husband slept at home, and we were all much happier for it.  At least one of us was rational and rested!   As far as taking care of the baby in the hospital, while it does seem like they just hand you your baby and disappear (Only to return to smash at your uterus to check if it’s shrinking), use your call light and request help.  It’s… Read more »

Melinda
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Melinda

I’m going to break the cycle here and say I LOVED having my partner at the hospital with me the whole time. I felt horrible & I’m an introvert who had some mean nurses. It was also an amazing bonding time for us since I’m usually they one taking care of everything- it was fantastic having him take care of the two of us. Anyway, since the OP has already given birth, I think she knows whether or not she wants him there- and she does want him. I personally think if you can go through the hardship and trauma… Read more »

Amy Renee
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Amy Renee

Yes, I am on the “it will be ok if it winds up just being you with the nurses, they will help you more than you think” train. However, if OP WANTS her husband there, I think she is completely in her rights to make that request of him, and have him take that request seriously – not to blow her off with talk of an “alternative solution” that he won’t come up with himself. I also am with everyone else that if a new mother wants her own mom, her husband needs a much better reason than just not… Read more »

Maree
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Maree

Where I live it isn’t an option for anyone other than Mum to stay in the hospital with the baby (or a private room unless medically necessary) so my hubby went home overnight.
My mum came to stay but TBH she is no help (due to ill health/alcoholism) so I kept the kids in their normal care during the day. This worked well for us. I did let them all have a day off and stay home the day we came home from hospital because they were so excited and it was really nice having the family all together.

Heidi
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Heidi

(a) leave your older kid in daycare no matter what, assuming it’s a place he likes with caregivers he trusts. Sticking to his routine will be comforting for him — everything is changing, keeping what you can constant is helpful. My son went to daycare all through my maternity leave (we had to pay or lose the spot any way). I thought I’d want him with me, it became clear VERY quickly that it was better for all if he stuck to routine (b) How about having your mom at the hospital and your husband with the toddler? We did… Read more »

Caroline
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Caroline

Ah yes… the person who finds a problem for every solution without once offering a suitable and valid one themselves. I love it! Of course his views are entirely valid, but with no detail as to his reasoning on why he doesn’t want your parents there (YOUR parents, the parents of the woman being sliced and diced and in hospital, that woman). Were it me I’d definitely let your boy stay in his regular daycare routine as much as possible (in fact, in every routine as far as possible and definitely only visit his new sibling a day or 2… Read more »

dregina
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dregina

We arranged things so my husband could stay overnight at the hospital with me when the baby was born but our 3 year old REALLY freaked out when the time came to overnight with his beloved grandparents (my inlaws). He just did not like the idea of being left by both parents overnight so we could be with the new baby. So even though we arranged and made the plan for my husband to stay overnight, he ended up at home with the 3 year old and the nurses were wonderful and supportive and helpful for me. He got our… Read more »

SarahB
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SarahB

I’ll second feeling much better after a scheduled c-section than an emergency one.  However, the lifting restrictions, etc, are the same, so I’d encourage you to stay in the hospital as long as they will let you to avoid the temptation to do too much too soon.

Get up and moving, yes, but don’t go overboard!

Hillary
Guest
Hillary

Echoing these comments – a scheduled c-section is totally different compared to one after already going through labor! You’ll be up and about in a day or two and probably discharged by day 3 or 4. If it is within your budget, what about hiring a doula? I know they’re mostly used for vaginal births, but a doula can really ease your mind if you’re worried about going into labor and not having care for your son.

Laura A
Guest
Laura A

Sometimes best-laid plans go awry too… I wanted to have only my husband and I for a few days after the birth, and didn’t even want visitors at the hospital – well, 33 hours of labor, a 3rd degree tear and a seriously jaundiced baby later all that sort of went out the window. I wanted my parents to come down, not my in-laws, but my mother had a bad cold and didn’t want to be around the baby. We were so tired and stressed by all the complications we just needed HELP. I’ve never been so happy to see… Read more »

kimm
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kimm

After my parents came to the hospital an hour after my first sweet baby was born and stayed with us for several days afterwards,uninvited, I was very careful about how we would manage the birth of our second. We had a regular babysitter who we knew and loved, and she stayed 1 night with our 2 yr old, then we called my parents after baby was born so we still had some time to get to know her before they got there. It worked out great. But. If you have no trusted regular babysitter, & husband can’t bring himself to… Read more »

Lydia
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Lydia

My inlaws drive me nuts.  i really try to limit over night stays with them because it’s often really stressful for everyone.  When my first was born, my MIL really wanted me to ask her to come stay the night for awhile.  She lives 45 minutes away, there was no need for that and it would have really stressed me out. However.  For a 2nd baby, I would totally take her up on the offer to watch my first.  While she’s annoying to ME, she adores my daughter and treats her very well.  She’s capable of watching her, keeping her… Read more »

JPG
Guest
JPG

Sounds like maybe OP’s husband is the controlling one? Why wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable for healthy retired grandparents to watch your child? So what if they are “controlling”? Why have we become a society where every kid is so precious that our perfectly capable grandparents can’t watch their daughter’s child for a few days? Is it really psychologically damaging? If we had presented this “problem” to any other society but our own, we would be laughing stocks. I had C section (breech baby) while my husband was coping/recovering from a near death accident while he was away in a… Read more »

Erin H
Guest
Erin H

I’ve had 3 c-sections now and my husband has stayed with me only for the first one. I found him to be unhelpful in the hospital. He was bored, took over the remote and at night he would sleep through the baby crying. So with my next two babies I had my mom stay with me in the hospital and he stayed home with the kids. So much better and my mom having obviously had a baby before would get up at the slightest peep from the baby and felt more secure helping with a screaming baby in the middle… Read more »

Dorothy
Guest
Dorothy

For both kids (one C-sec, one VBAC) DH did not spend the night (well, the first night for the first one).  Way I felt about it was, what is he going to do, watch me nurse her?  Anything I’d need him for, the nurses or techs could help me with.  If you’re having the baby at the hospital you had your first, you’ll know the general demeanor of the nurses.  For our first hospital, the nurses and techs were WONDERFUL!  So helpful, so pleasant.  If I knew that I needed C-sec before (and could be guaranteed that a resident would… Read more »

Tbigs
Guest
Tbigs

I have to disagree with most posters here – I really found my husband almost essential for my c-section, which was 9 weeks ago. My daughter was born 5 weeks early and they took her away right after she came out and I didn’t get to see her practically at all for the first 48 hours and was really freaked out (although I knew she was having sugar issues, I felt her being with me might help). My husband smoothed everything over and while I was really upset, it was great to know at least he was physically capable of… Read more »