Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to be a Good Post-partum Hostess

There's been a buzz about There Are No Ordinary Moment's recent post about how to be a thoughtful visitor to a new mother. And I really enjoyed Dou-la-la's take on the advice given. But I know that not every post partum visitor who should read those posts will (or, even if they do, they won't necessarily take the advice), so keeping that in mind and thinking of my sister who just had a baby girl last week, I thought I might write a bit about what a new parent might want to know about being a hostess in those first weeks after birthing a little one. Essentially, how to be a self-advocate post partum. Here are my thoughts:

Make your bathrobe your new visitors-are-coming uniform. I'd also say don't bother with your hair or makeup, and embrace those first few weeks of post partum life in pajamas or sweats, but even if you're someone who just doesn't feel right w/out her hair done and her 'real' clothes on, at the very least toss that bathrobe over whatever it is you're wearing. Why? Because it reminds people that you've just had a baby. That you're tired, sleep deprived, trying to nurse, trying to rest, trying to heal, possibly overwhelmed, and that you are busy resting and caring for your baby, not throwing together an improptu luncheon. 

I think it's very common, with a new baby in the room, for all the focus to go on the little one. But hey, the new mama needs some consideration too! Especially since it can be rather jarring, going from being the center of attention while pregnant to suddenly feeling left out in the cold while visitors circle around and coo at the baby. Keeping your robe on might help jog visitor's memories and remind them that that, Oh, hey, this women just pushed out this baby and deserves some attention herself.

This one is for those mother's working on establishing a new nursing relationship: Be topless. Yes, wear your robe, but skip the shirt underneath if you want. Hold that baby skin to skin, let them suckle throughout the visit, and, again, try and relax. Will this make your Uncle Ralph uncomfortable? Perhaps. But the relations 'll get used to it soon enough (breastfeeding should never be embarassing---it's totally normal! Our societal view on feeding infants is so skewed. Time to take it back!) and it'll make for shorter visits of unhelpul visitors in the meantime.

In tandem with the tip above: Don't feel obliged to let anyone else hold the baby. Now, that might sound extreme. But sometimes, especially when you're still trying to establish a nursing relationship, having someone else hold and comfort your fussing infant when you know you could be comfort-nursing your baby is very frustrating to a new mama. Let visitors look, let them talk about the baby's eyes and fingers and adorable little feet, but don't feel like they must be allowed a turn at holding your baby if you're working on nursing/bonding. Might they feel let down? Sure. But be firm and honest. Tell your visitor that as soon as you've got your nursing relationship well established they'll be ever so welcome to hold the little peanut all they want. And then relax. This is your baby. There will be plenty of time in the next few months for others to hold him/her. Enjoy this new relationship.
Alternatively, you might need a quick break from all the baby-wrangling. If so, when you hand the baby to your visitor, Use that time to do something you'd wanted to do but couldn't with a babe in hand. Don't feel like you have to entertain your visitors--they're holding your sweetie pie, they're in heaven. Instead, tell them you're grateful for the extra pair of arms, and then take a quick shower, go upstairs and paint your toes, or make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a moment of alone time. 
If your guest asks whether they can help , say yes. Then figure out something they can do. Each guest who offers can do one small thing, and all added together it can make a big difference. Ask them to wash/slice some apples and carrots for your afternoon snack. Maybe they will attempt to brush your toddler's hair for you. Let them know there's a load of whites in the basket upstairs that are ready to be carried down to the washing machine. If there's a load of towels to be folded, point it out and ask them to pitch in. Don't feel guilty---this is not a normal visit to your house where you're expected cater to them, this is a post partum visit. They should cater to you. Your guests, if they offer to help, really mean it. Let them help you. 

And those are my initial ideas. After my c-section, I hardly crept from my bed those first few weeks, and was eternally grateful for all the help my parents, inlaws, sister, and friends provided. They were very understanding about my need to hold my daughter (we had such trouble, breastfeeding) and I may feel differently (more negatively) about my recovery from surgery if I hadn't had their support. This next time I hope to avoid the OR all together, but I'm still planning on have a low-key, quiet post partum period. And I know they'll support me again as I need. It's my wish that every woman could be so lucky!
Tell me what you think of my ideas. Are they something that would work for you? Do you have other thoughts? I'd love to hear 'em.


Vanessa April 14, 2011 at 9:08 PM  

Love all of your ideas and will try them next time. I was such a "newbie" with Miss E. I did have a list of things for people to do but some that said they would help resisted the ideas I gave them. Hmmm. Next time only people that clean up messes will be allowed to visit in the first 3 weeks not the ones that make messes for me to clean up. ;)

Thomasin April 15, 2011 at 6:20 PM  

I was a newbie too, but I think having had surgery helped people see me in a more compassionate light. I hear other friends haven't been as lucky--even though a non-surgical birth can still leave you exhausted and a new baby is such a life changing event for any parent. TOTALLY only have those helpful people over next time. ;-)

nikki April 19, 2011 at 12:16 PM  

Great thoughts! I have a 10 1/2 week old baby and I'm older too (41). I'm so thankful that my mom loved to come over and fold clothes for me! Somehow I could manage to get them cleaned an into the basket, but the task of folding them was a challenge :o)

Another thought: Don't forget about the older child, if there is one. Bring them a little gift. It doesn't have to be as much as for the baby, but just something to let them know they were thought of too. My daughter is 6 1/2 and definitely recognizes that the baby is getting more attention and presents. She's not used to not being the center of attention. I appreciated when others thought to bring her something too.

Our mutual friend, Carmen, brought me a great little devotional book and a Toblerone! I LOVED them both! I think the candy bar was to be shared, but I ate most of it :o) She also brought something for my older daughter, food and an outfit for the baby. Very thoughtful!

Thomasin April 20, 2011 at 6:41 AM  

As a firstborn, I believe I can speak for us (I may be presuming here) when I say: "Yes! Bring the older ones presents!" I love the idea. They, at least, actually care whether they get something, unlike the newborn. Thanks for the tip, Nikki!

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