Postpartum Excursions & Outings: How Much Is Too Much?
I am a sleep deprived, first time mom of a beautiful three week old baby boy. And my mother in law is in town for a two week visit to see the baby, and as you can guess that is where my problem begins! My mother-in-law is typically a very sweet, kind woman who I get along with really well but this week has me at the end of my drastically shortened rope.
Crazy me thinks that after having an emergency c section three weeks ago, and having a challenging three week old that (big surprise) wakes up every 2-3 hours every night entitles me to some rest? Help? Other nice things? But this trip has turned into me playing the hostess for my mother-in-law, who has endless energy (maybe because she gets to sleep all night long) and hauling my exhausted butt and my poor newborn all over town to take her to do all these things she wants to do. So far she has been no help with the baby, or around the house, acts like I’m selfish and lazy for wanting to maybe take one freaking nap during the day, and acts like I’m weird for not wanting to haul my baby on endless amounts of errands. And I am talking endless. As I type this, it is 4 p.m. and we have been out to breakfast, to the farmer’s market, to two stores, and up to a ski resort for Oktoberfest. I cannot even believe it. And I have told her and my husband countless times that I am a) exhausted and b) don’t want to take my newborn with his brand new immune system to all of these germ-infested places. I can’t even imagine taking care of a sick newborn. And c) whenever we take the baby out, he sleeps all day long in the car and in the stroller and then is awake all night long. To no avail. I was outvoted and away we went. Aside from locking myself and baby in the bathroom, I do not know how to get out of these trips!
Now my mother-in-law leaves in one week and the hellscape she has created will leave with her, so I can (maybe) bite my tongue a while longer- though I did have a breakdown and started sobbing on a bench at Oktoberfest. The real problem is my husband. His mom lives far away so it’s not typically an issue but whenever we get together, I go from being number one to a far distant number two. I have told him time and time again that I am really exhausted and physically can’t run his mom all over town, but he doesn’t seem to understand and seems to think I can suck it up, slam a Red Bull and spend all day with his mom making our own soap. Literally. That is one of the things she wants to do.
Aside from just the need to vent and have my feelings VALIDATED for a change. I would like your advice on 1. Am I taking crazy pills here? Or do I have a legitimate right to be seriously irritated right now? And 2. How do I make my husband get the picture? That as the mother of a newborn, I need rest! And that maybe he can put my mental sanity above giving my mother-in-law her dream vacation.
WHAT IN THE WHAT HELL. What’s your husband’s phone number? I am serious. I will call him personally to yell at him because CAPS LOCK IS NOT NEARLY SHOUTY ENOUGH.
You are absolutely 100% within your rights to feel irritated. Your husband and mother-in-law are behaving ridiculously. Downright atrociously. While I’m all for getting up and out of the house after having a baby and routinely hauled all of my newborns to a variety of germ-infested public places…I did it when I wanted to. When I felt up to it. And we’re talking maybe one outing a day. Followed by a day or two spent solidly at home. And I always reserved the right to change my mind and insist that we turn the car around and go home if, say, my c-section incision was bothering me, the postpartum bleeding felt too heavy, or if our destination was too crowded, etc. etc.
And it never, ever occurred to me that anyone else in my family — at least anyone over the age of six-years old — would OBJECT to that. Or override MY objections. Or, you know, go on enjoying Oktoberfest while I sobbed quietly on a bench somewhere. “What? Her? Oh, she’s just newly postpartum and wildly hormonal and utterly sleep-deprived. But I’m having fun, so whatever. I’ll go buy her a Red Bull and some tissues, ‘cuz I’m an awesome person.”
Seriously. Shame on your husband. He’s being a jerk. Your mother-in-law…well, she’s being ridiculous too by treating YOUR recovery time as HER vacation, but sadly I’ve heard a lot of similar stories over the years about wildly different expectations re: postpartum visits and how much “help” you expect vs. what you actually get. Some family members are wonderful and show up and do laundry and change diapers and make you coffee and eggs in the morning, while others (wrongly, IMO) expect you to basically play hostess the whole time. It’s why a lot of new parents institute a ban on overnight postpartum visits for a set number of weeks, or at least set limits of the duration (i.e. nothing longer than a week, or even just a weekend).
So I’m more willing to simply roll my eyes at your pain-in-the-butt MIL and rub your shoulders while reminding you that she’ll be gone soon and you can plan future visits accordingly (short, and with her own rental car or public transportation map and MetroPass, have funzies out there bye!!). I’m feeling much less charitable towards your husband, who is supposed to be on YOUR SIDE and LISTENING TO YOU and HELPING YOU and ALSO NOT BEING A BIG JERK.
Do not go on another single outing with them, if you don’t want to. Tell your husband that enough is enough, he is ignoring your needs and emotions and stress/anxiety levels and that is NOT OKAY. No one is going to pick you up and forcibly shove you in the car, correct? Even when you are “overruled,” it still involves you giving in and putting your shoes on and packing up the diaper bag. Stop doing all of those things. “No, I’m sorry. I’m tired and I’m going to stay home and rest, end of story. This is simply too much activity for me too soon after major abdominal surgery.”
If anyone argues, walk away. You don’t have to listen. You DON’T HAVE TO GO. If they want to take the baby with them, godspeed. Let them figure out how much “fun” these outings are without poor ol’ mom to take care of the baby. Then stay home and take a nap.
Or put your foot down about that too, if you want. Tell them the outings mean your son is getting his days and nights reversed, and since no one else is willing to help out at night when he’s awake and demanding your attention and alertness, you’ve had enough of that, too. They can go sightseeing and restauranting and shopping or whatever they want together. Curl up in bed with your baby and a Real Housewives marathon without a single twinge of guilt or caring about what they “think” about you. Because clearly, THEY ARE NOT REALLY THINKING ABOUT YOU.
Six weeks is the minimum recommended recovery time for a c-section. MINIMUM. And there’s no such minimum recovery time for your hormones and emotional well-being. That can be incredibly up and down for a lot longer. But you’re so definitely right in the thick of that part, too, and deserve — DESERVE!!— to be surrounded by people who 1) understand, and 2) give a crap about you and how you feel and whether or not you SOBBED on a BENCH today.
And I’m serious. If your husband still doesn’t “get it” after you go all zero-tolerance on his ass or DARES to get angry or pushy with you because you aren’t doing enough to make his mommy happy, have him come talk to me. I write an advice column on the INTERNET. I have nothing to LOSE. I will tell him WHAT’S WHAT and THEN SOME.
Photo source: Michael Blann/ Thinkstock