Coming To Stay
June 5, 2012
A couple weeks ago we chatted about where all your new baby’s out of town fans should stay during their visit. (Short version: probably not with you.) Let’s back up a step and talk about who you might want to come and visit your new little family and when.
If you’re really lucky, you have a fantastic relationship with your parents, they are both living and sane, they cook and clean, they listen to you and love your partner, and you totally want them to be in town for the birth of their grandchild or shortly thereafter. Congratulations! You won the parent lottery! And as long as your husband/wife/partner is on the same page about them, feel free to invite them to stay for as long as you like.
For those of us with more complicated landscapes, the question of who you want to come, when and for how long is probably causing some anxiety. The same principle applies here as to the question of where they should stay: keep it simple and communicate your plan early (and often, if necessary.)
Step 1: Have a chat with yourself.
Sit down for ten minutes and picture yourself in the hospital (or birthing center or at home or wherever you plan to deliver) as well as how you imagine it will be once you’re home and settled.
C-section or smooth natural delivery or somewhere in between, you and your partner are elated but exhausted. You’re probably learning how to breastfeed. Baby Lyndsey is sleeping most of the time but you’re on high alert to make sure she’s OK.
Now think about your candidate vistors. Think about how they’ve been on previous visits. Are they being quiet because little Norton is sleeping or does your mom sound like Janice from Friends? Is your dad over the moon about holding his new grandbaby or does he want to turn on the TV “just to check the score”? Are they affectionate and good listeners or uncomfortable in emotional situations? Are they helpful or intrusive?
Don’t feel bad if you picked the latter answer to most of those questions. It doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful people and won’t make fantastic grandparents (or aunts or uncles, actual or honorary). It just means that they may not be ideally suited to this very specific situation with new parents and a brand new baby.
Trust your instincts: if it’s been rocky before, now is not the time to correct that or forge into new territory. Go easy on yourself.
Step 2: Put those personalities on the calendar.
The birth. Most out of-town guests won’t try to come for the birth itself because it’s so private and, logistically, it’s a hard target to hit. If, however, you want your mom or best friend there for the big day, great, but definitely have a back-up support plan: your baby might arrive a month early or ten days late.
Have a doula on retainer just in case you go into labor early. Or – simpler – mentally prepare a little that you and your partner might be relying on each other and the nursing staff (which will be fine).
If guests come early but Baby is late, you may spend the last, most uncomfortable weeks of your pregnancy dawdling with your mom, which, from what I hear, can be, um, challenging. Early arrival may also mean they can’t stay as long when little Uli finally does make his appearance.
My two cents: it’s easiest to have them book tickets for a week or two post-due date. Keep it simple, especially for yourself, especially at that stage of pregnancy.
Your partner going back to work. If you have helpful guests in mind, this can be a great time to have them come to town. You’ll have had a chance to bond with the baby and get your feet under you as a parent and may be ready to be more hospitable than you were a few weeks ago. And you can use a home-cooked meal or a nap as you move into the new phase of maternity leave.
If you’ve been looking for a way to defer some less than helpful (but still obligatory) guests for a few weeks, this transition can be a great excuse + make them feel useful: “When Leonard heads back to the office, I could really use a hand. Would you mind very much coming then instead?”
Later during maternity leave. Don’t feel bad about declining Aunt Myrtle’s offer to come to town from Phoenix and bring her crystals to cleanse the baby’s aura. This is your time with your baby and a big adjustment in your life. Of course, yes, you should still endeavor to be polite, but you do not have to accept every offer to come and help (especially if you don’t actually think it will be helpful!) Take a breath and be firm.
You going back to work (if applicable). This can be a complicated adjustment, even when it goes smoothly, and guests are probably not a great idea – unless, of course, they’re providing a few weeks of transitional care so you can go back to your job and then navigate the shift to day care or a nanny a little later, in which case, hooray!
Weekends and holidays for the next 18 years. You will see everyone important sometime soon! Again: do not feel obliged to have everyone out to visit right away. There is plenty of time and your baby will still be adorable (and a lot more responsive to tickling and snuggling) in a few months.
Step 3: Communicate, preferably over email.
Be brief, be tactful and be clear. And put it in writing. I get talked into all kinds of things over the phone.
“We would love to see you the week of July 8th. Tommy will be three weeks old (!), and an extra set of hands to help me clean the apartment/cook/install central air conditioning/(some other tactful and specific indication of what you would like them to help with) would be so welcome. Do you think you can make it then?”
“My maternity leave is already booking up! We would love to see you but can I get back to you about when that might work? I’m looking forward to catching up over Thanksgiving if not sooner!”
Step 4: Sit back and relax.
See? That wasn’t so bad. And now you’re done. (Except for the follow-up emails to Aunt Myrtle. And the calls from your mom because she can’t believe you asked her to stay at the Hilton. And the note from your dad about how upset your mother is. Don’t worry: as soon as they see the baby, all will be forgotten.)