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The Postpartum Visitors of Doom: when you have too many visitors and/or they won't leave

The Postpartum Visitors of Doom

By Amalah

Amy,

We have the sweetest little week-old baby. He’s so wonderful, so perfect. We didn’t think we’d get to have kids because of my health, and a previous miscarriage, yet here he is. We’re beside ourselves with how much we love him and really can’t bear to be away from him quite yet.

We’re also exhausted. Recovering from a cesarean, round the clock feedings, pumping every 2-3 hours, Dr. appointments….

And then the goddamned visits. Well-meaning friends and family keep calling. Some have never been to our house before but need to stop by, getting annoyed when we don’t call back right away. Overstaying welcomes, ignoring when I say baby needs to go down, I need to sleep, or I need to pump. My own mother had interrupted my pump schedule- I went to clinic for exhaustion the next day. And all these assholes tell me to sleep when baby sleeps, while holding my sleeping baby.

How do I get these jerks out of my house without fatigue-induced raging at them and burning bridges with family who are nevertheless important, and who do love this beautiful baby very much?

Thank you,
First-time mom with boundary issues

God, these people are the worrrrrrst. What are these people thinking? It’s been a damn week! Settle down! Let the new mom have a damn minute!

Establishing postpartum visitor boundaries for friends

Okay, so first of all, you’e going to put a moratorium on visitors, starting now. I don’t care if people get annoyed or whine that it’s unfair because so-and-so got to see the baby already. The baby isn’t going anywhere, but your sanity certainly could. Put your partner on bouncer/guard duty, and embrace the glorious world of SAYING NO.

Please please please know that you are 100% entirely entitled to some freaking privacy right now.

“Thanks so much for thinking of us, but turns out we’re really not quite ready for in-person visits just yet. We’ll let you know when we’re all a bit more settled in and recovered!”

“Sorry, but FTMwBI is still recovering from her surgery and isn’t up for visitors right now. I’ll reach out when she’s feeling better and things calm down a bit with the baby’s schedule and appointments and all that. I’m sure you understand it’s all a bit much right now.”

If you can keep people from entering your house in the first place, you’ll preemptively solve your secondary problem of people who won’t LEAVE your house. And while I know you’re bleary-eyed and overwhelmed right now and are terrified of offending, please please please know that you are 100% entirely entitled to some freaking privacy right now. No one — NO ONE — is entitled to barge in on you right now without your expressed permission and consent, and you are well within your rights to withhold those from people, for now. Stop worrying about annoying people and start saying “No, now is not a good time, we aren’t accepting visitors just yet, thanks for your understanding and patience.”

Anyone who continues to push or pressure you after you (or your partner) make this entirely reasonable request for privacy and time is indeed, a massive clueless idiot. View them accurately and accordingly going forward.

Consider setting up a future group event

If you see a spot on the horizon where you might be up for something a bit more organized/ambitious, you can tell people who you turn away now that you have plans for an open house/potluck/sip-n-see sort of event in six weeks, two months, whatever. That way you can keep all the visitor craziness more or less confined to one day, or even just a few hours. Anyone who calls now can be given that date in the future; anyone who says they can’t make it can get a “okay, we’ll take a look at our schedule after the party and see if we can make something work. We’re just not up for visitors quite yet, given the surgery complications/sleep issues/HI WE’RE TRYING TO ADJUST TO LIFE WITH A NEW HUMAN OVER HERE, SLOW YOUR BABY-GRABBING ROLL.”

Establishing visitation boundaries for family

All that said, it’s much harder to bar people like mothers from visiting, because of course in their minds they’re nothing but helpful and their mere presence is a blessing and a given. Here I again recommend going for polite-but-firm honesty, and remembering that even though she might be in your house, you have NO OBLIGATION to act like a good hostess and entertain her.

“Mom, I need to pump. Right now. Please give me X minutes of alone time.” (Take pump to a room with a door, and close and lock said door.(

“Thanks for coming by, but I think we’re all going to go lie down and try to rest now. No, we don’t need anything else today. I’ll call you tomorrow.” (Pick baby up, signal partner, everybody exit to your bedroom and once again, close the damn door. Mom can show herself out.) 

“We’re trying to get the baby to sleep in his crib/bassinet/co-sleeper and not get too used to being held while sleeping. I can tell he’s getting sleepy so I need to take him from you.” (Get up, walk over, take baby, because you’re done dropping hints; you tell people you or the baby need to do something and then you get up and do it.) 

Final thoughts on postpartum visitors

Point is, speak up. Your wish for a little privacy and peace and quiet right now is entirely justified and reasonable. It’d be NICE if all these “well-meaning” but clearly pushy people understood that their presence might not be welcome or wanted right now, but obviously not. Without explicit boundaries from you or your partner, they seem perfectly okay walking all over you like you’re a giant welcome mat. Start saying no, and turning people away. Be clear it’s simply just a “NOT RIGHT NOW/NOT YET” sort of thing, nothing personal, you just aren’t up for visitors right now, but you’re grateful and touched by their enthusiasm. You can’t wait for them to meet the baby “soon,” in the meantime we’ll be sending out pictures via email or posting them on Facebook (or whatever).

Photo source: Depositphotos/Feverpitch

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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 amyadvice@gmail.com.

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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Comments

  • Meg Murry-ish

    Along with all Amy’s other good advice, if someone tells you to “sleep while the baby sleeps” and you trust them not to drop your kid, do exactly that. Especially if your partner is home with you too. Tell them “that sounds like a great idea, I’m going to go lie down. Partner, come get me when kiddo wakes up, ok?”

    Come up with a signal that means “get these people out of my house now!” and let your partner be the bad guy. After going through what you were going through with my first, and finding myself feeling like I was locked alone and bored in my bedroom or baby’s room all day (pre-smartphones/portable screens, when I could do was sit there), I vowed not to let overstaying family kick me out of my own living room. So I told my husband that if I said “I think the baby needs to eat now” or “uh-oh, that alarm means it’s feeding time, the doctor says we’ve got to keep baby on a schedule until he’s back to birth weight”, that meant “take them to your office, take them out doors, I don’t care but get these people out of my sight in the next 5-10 minutes because I’m going to pump right here on the darn couch where I am comfortable and the TiVo is in easy reach”.

  • Melanie

    Nursing was always my out. While we were perfectly capable of nursing discreetly (at least with the second) I always just excused myself to another room to nurse when we needed a break. And since you’re supposed to nurse newborns on command you can always just pretend to get some space. Also I think just being honest with your parents is always a good idea. They will love you even if you tell them you just need some space, maybe come back in a week. Think of all the times you yelled at them for ruining your life as a teenager. Get it all on the table now before you really lose it and snap at them. If they take offense you can always apologize later, but better to save your sanity now.

  • Annie

    When I was pumping for my twins I found it very effective to just start getting ready to pump. There was no going to another room as the pump was hospital grade and very heavy so I’d just grab a blanket, toss it over myself and start attaching the pump. It was remarkably effective at clearing the room. I agree with Amalah, stand up for yourself and your baby and don’t even think about wether or not you’re being a gracious hostess or kind. Go about your business and they’ll have to deal with it.

  • Kat

    Second the great advice from Amy. I’m a big fan of “we want to see you too, but so exhausted, I’ll call you when we are ready”. For the folks that needed to be there (mostly grandparents or very important people), I would let them visit but ask them to help me. Simple things like every time someone was like “can I help you” (usually meaning can I hold the baby while you X, Y, or Z) I would ask them to do a chore. “Yes, I would love some help. While I nurse, would you empty the dishwasher?” It was super helpful to me, and helped them feel helpful, if that makes sense 🙂

  • Laurel Hilton

    My midwife told us to not allow any visitors for the first three weeks that I wasn’t comfortable showing my breasts. She also told my husband to buy me a kingsized bed for my birthday. She gave the best advice.

  • kefi18

    You are absolutely 100% entitled to as much privacy as you want right now, but I really hope you’re only this hostile about your friends and family wanting to visit in writing, and not to their faces. Yes, they’re in your grill and I get that it’s annoying, but calling them “assholes” and “jerks” seems really uncalled for. They’re not trying to piss you off; they love you and are excited for you, and want to visit, stare at, hold, and coo over your darling new baby. By all means, be assertive and put your foot down, but please treat these people with more respect than you showed in your letter. They mean no harm.

  • Polopoly

    Congrats on the baby. You can always blame your and your baby”s docs for any and all limits you wish to establish.

    “Sorry, but doc said that to avoid ripping my stitches, I can’t climb stairs more than 2x in 24 hours” “Sorry, but the pediatrician said to restrict visitors because if the baby gets a fever in the first 6 weeks, it would mean automatic hospital stay and spinal tap.” (My pedi did say that for our first)

    You and your baby need time and rest. You all deserve time and rest. Don’t be shy in demanding it.

  • Kw

    Yep, new baby here myself (third kid, third boy, though, so no one cares nearly as much, haha). Feel free to throw your and baby’s doctor under the bus, they won’t mind. Tell folks that you aren’t supposed to have visitors, doctor’s orders/mom, doc says I have to pump right now/whatever you like! And with people like your own mother, who probably genuinely want to be helpful but might be clueless, tell her you and baby need to take a nap but you’d love for her to make you a sandwich to eat when you get up. Good luck!