As I inched closer and closer to the finish line of each one of my pregnancies, a not-so-subtle pattern began to form. Those who hadn’t checked up on me during the duration of my pregnancies would inform me they couldn’t wait to “get their hands on my baby” once I delivered… as if once my babies’ birth was announced, that would be enough to warrant an open invitation from my entire neighborhood.
Of course, I was grateful my babies were already seemingly loved, but the thought of having visitors while I was newly postpartum gave me killer anxiety.
I didn’t want to feel like I had to entertain anyone when I’d just given birth. I didn’t want to worry about my house’s state of being. I didn’t want to worry about covering myself up when I was trying to establish breastfeeding. Truthfully, I didn’t want to feel like I had to do or be anything other than a new mom basking in the fleeting moments I had with my newborns.
But things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. Folks didn’t give a damn about me as a new mother and selfishly only saw their own desires. When I tried to carve out some time with my newborns, I was deemed “controlling” for wanting alone time. I was the “bitch,” and I was the “bad guy.” (I swear, some family and friends cried more than my newborns.)
Regardless of how others felt, though, visitors weren’t what I wanted. And even if I were the only one responsible for placing these unnecessary expectations on myself when it came to visitors, that shouldn’t have mattered. My hormones were raging, my postpartum mental state was vulnerable at best, and I was in horrible physical pain after all of my births. That should have been more than enough for my needs and wishes to be taken into consideration, without being labeled as selfish.
I’d just given birth. For crying out loud, all I wanted to do was just BE.
Be in the moment. Be still and soak in the newness of it all. Be content. Be a learning, new mom on my own. Be alone. Be with the little one that I’d prayed for, sang to, read to and grown for the last, what felt like, a bazillion months.
To have visitors only felt like I was adding a million other things onto my never-ending, new mom to-dos. Because, let’s be brutally honest, when visitors come to “help out” with the new baby, it is so incredibly rare that they are actually useful in any meaningful way. They aren’t doing the dishes. They aren’t folding the laundry. They aren’t getting the other children out of mom’s hair for the day, and, whether it’s intended or not, they aren’t supporting new moms in any way. They are merely visiting. They’re there to hold your baby while engaging in awkward and annoying small talk.
For some, like me, it is too damn stressful even when it’s not meant to be. It’s not helpful, and it’s likely the mother who will suffer the most. Because somehow, we’ve forgotten how to support new moms. We’ve become so awe-struck with the newborn that we’ve put tending to the new mother on the back burner. We aren’t considerate of modest mamas who are fighting like hell to breastfeed; even if it doesn’t make another uncomfortable, sometimes, mothers don’t want company while they sit with their bare chest open.
It’s inconsiderate to believe a new mother is selfish for wanting alone time while she lies topless in her bed all day. Because being surrounded by nothing but family, snacks, pumping equipment, a cuddly newborn and an awesome Netflix show is where a new mother is formed. A mom’s close touch releases endorphins in both the new mother and the baby. It regulates a newborn’s body heat, promotes breastmilk production while, also, establishing a healthy mom-baby bond. Rest assured, new moms aren’t being stingy assholes, they just know the power of their close touch is far more beneficial to both them and their baby than any other loved one’s touch could ever be.
Postpartum mothers are healing. They push their body to the point of utter exhaustion, past what they can tolerate in pain, and are left with a need to rest while they mend for many weeks. They aren’t sleeping right, they are adjusting to a new life at full speed, and the first thing heard from another is, “When can I see the baby?”
But sometimes new moms don’t want to share their baby. Maybe they have a past history of child loss and don’t want to waste a moment of one-on-one time during these fresh days. Perhaps they have horrible anxiety and don’t want to spend their recovery sitting on the edge of their hospital bed while someone else holds their newborn. Or maybe, just maybe, these new mothers don’t present a reason for it at all — and that is OKAY.
I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum, the one in the hospital bed filled with such a distasteful feeling for having to tell visitors no to visiting, and the one in the waiting room eager to present a baby gift wrapped up in a bow. I understand the excitement. Truly, I do. Who doesn’t want to love on all the squishy newborns?
But a mother’s postpartum time shouldn’t be a battle between choosing what’s needed for the new family vs. what’s wanted from everyone else.
Another’s postpartum experience is not about you.