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Postpartum Company: Who, When & How Long?

By Amalah

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.

/clenched teeth.

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

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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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Linda
Guest
Linda

I hope we’re not crazy, but this is what we want to do postpartum: • No visitors in the hospital. I almost lost my sanity being in the hospital for surgery and trying to “entertain” my hospital-phobic family, so I’d like to avoid the awkwardness this time. • My parents have said, yes, they are coming to visit—however, they realize (A) they won’t know about the birth until afterward as they live 2K miles from us, and (B) we have no guest room. They know they’ll have to get a hotel room, and I am very grateful that I’ll have… Read more »

PaintingChef
Guest

When Patrick and I FIRST started trying to have children (and for the record… that’s still unsuccessful so yes, this is being written by a childless person) we lived 5 hours away from anyone related to us. And so when I very matter-of-factly informed him that NOBODY was going to stay with us in our house for an extended visit when our child was born for at LEAST 2 weeks he was… shocked. But they will want to see the baby! They will want to help!! We will make them all mad!!! Fine. I said. They can come see the… Read more »

mrsnovak
Guest
mrsnovak

Well.. my daughter is almost 2 months old now, and wow. Her birth/newborn-ness was the single most dramatic experience for the dynamics of my family. Ever. Our policy from the beginning of the pregnancy was that no one was going to know about me going into labor. I was planning on a natural birth, with a midwife, at our Birthing Center and no one. NO ONE. Was going to accompany us there except our midwife. Well, as luck would have it I ran 3 days past my due date and on the day when we had invited the entire family… Read more »

Marnie
Guest
Marnie

We had the same rule as Amy, with the same reaction. “They have no idea what they’re getting into.” “They’ll really wish we were there when they get home.” My answer back to my mom and MIL was partly to make them feel better, but partly true: You’ll be a bigger help to me after I know what I need help with. Once we’re home and settled, then I’ll know what I can and can’t do, what I do and don’t need help with, and then your visit with us will be much more pleasant for all of us. (Of… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Ugh! We are so doing things differently this time around with visitors and such. Last time, no one came to see us in the hospital (well other than a lady from my office) and frankly I was bored especially since I had a c-section and a longer hospital stay. Granted my dad had just been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing radiation so we all agreed that my mom shouldn’t come out (dad was NOT happy). Anyway, I did put my foot down that no one be at our house when we came in so we could have a chance… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Both our families live 5 plus hours away. We would call when we were going to the hospital, and then you can come down later (MUCH MUCH later) to visit. Well, as luck would have it, I was late and had a scheduled induction. So BOTH sets of parents made the trip down to our house, to come to the hospital the day I gave birth. But my rule – you MUST CLEAR OUT before I get home from the hospital. I could not handle new baby and company in my house at the same time. And I am SO… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

We decided early on in our first pregnancy to establish what we jokingly referred to ask “Lock Down.” We asked that friends and family not bother to visit our home within the first week after baby arrived. We were ok with them visiting at the hospital that first night, but not once we brought the baby home. We didnt want to get to know our new baby on anyone elses terms or schedule. We knew we could handle it together, and didnt want to have to work feedings and naps around visits from well-wishers. We got plenty of comments from… Read more »

Loukia
Guest

With my fist born, I didn’t want any visitors at all for the first 6 weeks – except for my parents, inlaws, grandparents, sister. I needed their help and support, so that was great with me. I didn’t want ANY visitors in the hospital, aside from my direct family, but of course, the day after I gave birth 15 family/friends came in at the same time. More or less. I was freaked out completely. I insisted everyone wash their hands and I didn’t even let anyone hold my baby. With my second baby – I was much more relaxed. I… Read more »

Beth
Guest
Beth

We decided on no visitors at the hospital till after the baby arrived; we called our parents to let them know of the labor and where we were headed, but we didn’t want anyone hanging out with us while I labored. At all. My parents came the next morning during the earliest of visiting hours – our daughter was 5 hours old. And that was just fine. They gave my husband someone to have lunch with, they gave me a chance to show off the baby, etc. It was fine. Thankfully, my in laws live across the country so they… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

Ugh. I got convinced that we would NEED help, so my Mom was set to come up after our son’s birth. Then, because the boy was 11 days late, my MIL ended up coming the day my Mom left. 2 solid weeks of Grandmas, starting 3 days after the birth. Also, my husband was able to take 3 weeks sick leave, but it had to be the 3 weeks directly after the birth. This arrangement SUCKED. The Grandmas, supposedly ‘here to help’, helped by holding the baby while my husband and I did the housework, cooked, etc. They were both… Read more »

Cerise
Guest
Cerise

For my first (and 1st baby for both families) I was firm about not wanting anyone to come while I was in labor at the hospital. Luckily we lived 45min away, because in the middle of getting my water broken my MIL called to say she was 5mins away. I made my husband go call her from the hall and INSIST that she go back home. The baby came late at night, but the next day EVERYONE came to visit at the same time, so it was a zoo. Luckily other than a little help with cleaning and bringing some… Read more »

Emily
Guest

We’re just into the starting phase of planning for life after the birth but I definitely don’t want people staying for the first 2 weeks (aside from my best girlfriend who would do anything for us and makes me calm when I’m not so she’ll be a godsend). But I would never say NO VISITORS at all. I will limit their time but most of our friends already have kids and understand but seeing their kids at 12 hours or 3 days old and just the whole real-ness of a new baby is part of our bond of friendship. We’ve… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Well, my mother is a doctor who delivered a great many babies back during the 80s and 90s, so I WANTED her at the birth. She is an incredibly calming presence and, as a bonus, she speaks the labor & delivery language. Afterwards, she and my father stayed for a week. They were incredibly helpful. My mom’s philosophy is that a new mother should rest, recover, hold the baby, and make milk. She took care of everything else – cleaning, cooking, EVERYTHING. WIN. However, the MIL came the next week and SHE just wanted to hold the baby and offer… Read more »

Jenn
Guest

I have never had family come stay with me when I’ve had my babies. In fact, I never received an offer of help from my family, even though both sets of my parents live less than an hour away. When my second son was born and had to stay in the NICU, my family did step up a bit to help with my older son, but it was still mainly my husband and me trying to do everything with help from his mother, which made me feel so guilty since she was also caring for her husband who has Parkinson’s.… Read more »

MomOf1
Guest
MomOf1

My first child is 3 months old. I was a high-risk pregnancy and at 37 weeks found out I was going to have to alter my birth plan to have a c-section under general anesthesia at 39 weeks. I told my husband that I didn’t want anyone at the hospital until the day after the scheduled c-section because I’d a lot of surgeries in the past and I knew I’d wake up feeling like crap. Also, we had waited to be surprised about the baby’s gender and call me selfish, I didn’t want anyone else to know the gender before… Read more »

mrsgryphon
Guest
mrsgryphon

Oh, what a timely topic!! My c-section is booked for May 20th, and my FIL (who lives 4 provinces away) bought my MIL tickets to a concert in our city for May 25th as a Christmas gift (original due date was May 28th). Hmmmm… suspicious, considering our “no visitors for 2 weeks” rule with the first baby was also in effect for this child and he somehow thought it was cool to basically guarantee that they would be here for the delivery. WTF? We’ve since been informed by the IL’s, that they’ve booked a trip out here for the EXACT… Read more »

cindy
Guest
cindy

When my husband and I had our daughter we had anyone who wanted come to the hospital — ended up w/ both sets of parents as well as several friends. Ended up with about 8 hours of true labor, and then a c-section, so although intentions were good, it was a LITTLE too much for me. (my husband, however, ate his way through the entire labor, since everyone did bring food!) Then we had anyone who wanted come to the hospital, as long as they realized that I was not changing anything about what I needed to do. It actually… Read more »

Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki
Guest
Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki

Well, my case was this; I live in Japan with my hubby, my family is from Australia. My mum wanted to come for 2 months to see her first grandchild. Fine. Ok. She came, but I was 4 days overdue. I expected to have given birth already, but as it turned out, I went into labour 4 days after she arrived. She insisted on coming to the hospital when I was in labour. I said NO..and Im so glad I stuck to my guns. It was a 10 hour labour (no meds) and was told it was relatively short for… Read more »

Rochelle
Guest
Rochelle

My policy on visitors was pretty lax when my son was born. My parents live a mere 8 miles from us and my in-laws live right across the street. Yeah thats right, I can see their house from my window. So my going into labor could not have been hidden. As soon as my MIL noticed that we were leaving the house at 10pm two days after I was due, she called immediately. I informed her that we were going to the hospital but I wasn’t even sure they were going to admit me so I’d call her when I… Read more »

Melissa H
Guest
Melissa H

When my daughter was born we didn’t have any one come to help…. of course no one offered. It seemed like everyone in the whole world visited me in the hospital though and it was tough to get any rest. Everyone kept telling me to rest while I could… but there was not a full 1/2 an hour where I didn’t have visitors. It was exhausting. My husband didn’t take any time off of work either. He took off the day she was born and the day that she came home. We are 30 weeks along with our second pregnancy… Read more »

cassie
Guest
cassie

How timely! My parents live 6 hours away and I’m due smack dab between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m already having nightmares about how to tell them they are welcome to meet their grandchild when the kiddo is still brand new but there is no way in hell they are staying here for a month! The Hubby and I and have already decided that Thanksgiving is just going to be the two of us, no family or anyone else, so we can enjoy quiet before the chaos of the rest of our lives. But I still have to find a way… Read more »

Wallydraigle
Guest

I practically begged people to come visit both during the hospital stay and in the weeks after we came home. At first it was just because I wanted to show off the baby, and then it was because the only time I felt happy and not trapped and sad and alone was when I had other people around. After one email from me a few days after we came home, my sister flew in from halfway across the country to help me. She saved my life. I’m only exaggerating a little. She taught me how to swaddle, how to help… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

I recommend only having the type of people around right after the birth that you don’t mind seeing you bare-breasted, sobbing, un-showered and extremely puffy. That, for me, was my parents (and husband, obviously) and no one else. But I might feel differently the second time around. I did feel even a little bit relieved when my parents left and it was just the three of us. Something sweet about having your own, little family for the first time. That said, I’m soooo grateful for the cooking and cleaning and soothing screaming baby to sleep stuff that my parents did.… Read more »

paranoid
Guest

With both kids, we had our in-laws involved from the beginning. MIL sat with me through the 30-hour labor with M, and tried so hard to help me make it through without the c-section. With E, we called the in-laws as soon as my water broke, and they took M home with them while I headed to the hospital. They brought M to visit the next day, and it was nice. Both times, the in-laws stayed with us for the week or so following the birth. And while I was very grateful for their help (and MIL, who rocks, was… Read more »

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

When I was pregnant the first time we lived in London, England, and all my family lives in Canada. My mom and my MIL (whom I adore) flew in on my due date. I had my baby two days later. Perfect timing. While I was in the hospital they made sure our 2 dogs and cat were okay, and they stayed at our townhouse. When I brought our daughter home I was so tired, I’d been in labor for 40 hours, and I was spent. They new grandmas stayed for 14 days, and it was just the right amount of… Read more »

jessica
Guest
jessica

ours was different. – my sister was our other person so she came in the wednesday declan was born and stayed through sunday. she cleaned my house, cooked for us, bought us curtains, and registered all of our baby items online that we hadn’t had a chance to do (like the stroller). she can come next time and stay as long as she wants! – my parents came down that saturday and stayed a week. my mom cleaned my house, bought us groceries, cooked for us and our friends, helped me get breastfeeding figured out (thank goodness for natural mom)… Read more »

geek.anachronism
Guest
geek.anachronism

Very timely this is – I’ve just gotten the news that if my blood pressure doesn’t spike, I’ll be induced at 37 weeks. Which is when my parents were originally planning on coming to visit. Since they, and the rest of our families, live on the other side of the country (sort of – 2 day drive/2.5 hour flight) planning visits is paramount. I’m mostly grateful that my parents and siblings, and his siblings, understand that when I say ‘no visits for 2 weeks’ I mean it. And the one person who would be a dick (and was indeed a… Read more »

Michelle Pixie
Guest

I didn’t have a plan with any of my three girls but I lived in the same town as family with my first two and anyone who came over was only there for a few hours and then on their way. With my third daughter I live about 400 miles from the nearest relative. So my mom came in for the first two weeks and was a huge help. But my mom never feels like company when she comes by herself and my girls keep her very busy so no entertaining needed. After my mom left my best friend came… Read more »

Florrie
Guest
Florrie

I felt very lucky, because my parents live around the corner from us. My mom was there when I needed her, but when we were ready for some alone time, she’d go home. My in-laws came from out of town as soon as they heard I was in labor, but they didn’t stay with us. My husband’s two younger brothers share a house and happen to live 5 minutes away, and they put up hubby’s mom for a week. She would come over each day at 11 a.m., do all the cooking and cleaning baby-cuddling that needed to be done,… Read more »