Guest Writers, Home Birth Advocacy, Motherhood

Clearly Communicate About Your Baby Moon

14 Comments 22 May 2011

A babymoon is a period of time that parents spend bonding with a recently-born baby.

The biggest mistake I made when my daughter was born was that I was not excruciatingly clear to my parents about our post-partum needs and wants.

This one mistake has had reverberating effects on my immediate and extended family. It clouded one of the most precious and sacred times in our lives, and emotionally wounded my wife, Madhavi. It is now 15 months later, and we are still struggling with this. Madhavi is still healing from those wounds.

Why We Wanted A “Baby Moon”

Some friends had expressed regret in not keeping visitors at bay in those first few weeks after their baby was born. Our midwives recommended a “baby moon,” and many other books and online resources echoed that sentiment. Madhavi and I really cherished the idea of having private time as new parents, with our new baby.

After all, those first weeks are a pretty upside-down and crazy time.

The new mom has just gone through this intense rite of passage. Mom and dad are both suddenly thrust into taking care of this very tiny, very helpless new creature. Mom is getting the hang of breastfeeding. She is also healing and resting. Mom and dad are suddenly patternless in terms of sleeping and eating.

So, we decided we wanted a baby moon. And though we had not defined a set amount of time for the baby moon, we knew we needed time. Unfortunately, because I did not have a set time in mind, I poorly conveyed this to my parents.

How To Be Unclear and NOT Establish Boundaries

Just prior to the birth, a conversation between me and my parents went something like this:

Me: So…We’re going to have a period of time–a few days at least–where we have no visitors.

Mom: (Seeming a little confused). Okay…But…We’ll get to see the baby, right? It’s okay if we come, right?

Me: (In a sort of hesitant tone) Well…No. I mean, we’re not having any visitors. We really need some time alone with the baby…To get used to everything.

Mom: (Seeming a bit upset) How long will it be until we get to see the baby?

Me: At least a couple of days. I don’t know at this point. But we’ll let you know.

That, right there, was the problem. I didn’t let them know!

Had I simply said to them, “We need one week,” or “At least one week, and probably two,” everything would have been clear. My parents would have been upset, but the repercussions would have been localized to a short period of time, rather than blowing up into an ongoing monkey wrench in our relationship.

What Ensued Was This…

Shortly after Anjali was born, it was clear that my parent’s excitement and desire to see Anjali would to take precedence over our previously stated wants and needs.

My parents kept calling to check in. This is understandable, and I know it came from a place of love. I, was so thrilled about the birth, and was glad to share with them. However, after a couple of days, they were asking when they could come. And they kept asking.

We were not ready.

Madhavi was healing. She was pretty exhausted. And, although she was fortunate enough to have an intense-but-not-really-painful-birth (hooray for hypnosis and affirmations recordings!) the post-partum healing was painful for her. There was no comfortable position to be in. Add to that the challenges of nursing for a new mom. It’s a lot to deal with. The last thing she needed was her in-laws to be beating down the door, asking to see the baby.

Here’s My Mistake Number Two:

If my parents were understandably excited and overly persistent, I was being vague.

When my parents asked when they could come, I said things like, “Let’s talk tomorrow and we’ll see.” I should have said, “We will let you know when we are ready.” That may not have been what they wanted to hear; they may have been put off by it. However, it would have been very clear.

Rather than setting clear boundaries, I kept stringing them along.

This put a lot of undue pressure on Madhavi. She felt like she was being pushed to heal faster, or just deal with it because it’s family. That kind of pressure probably undermines the healing process. At the least, putting that kind of pressure on a new mom who has just birthed a baby is totally unfair and insensitive.

What was really hurtful was that my parents were making this about them seeing Anjali. It seemed their only concern was to see the baby. They weren’t saying, “What can we do to help Madhavi and you? Can we bring a meal or something?” They weren’t offering to help.

Think of how that made Madhavi feel.

All that she went through, growing and birthing Anjali. And now, in one of the most precious and important times for a mother and baby to bond, Madhavi was made to feel like she was just some woman who birthed their granddaughter.

Things Came To A Head

We finally made plans for my parents to come over, a week after Anjali was born.

On that day, Madhavi was really not feeling well, and we decided to postpone their visit. My parents were really upset with us, and said some extremely hurtful things. They didn’t express understanding at all. Instead, my mom over-dramatically said, “Oh…I’m so upset,” and got off of the phone. Then my dad said, among other things, “This doesn’t happen in other families.”

My dad proceeded to question Madhavi’s ability to heal, saying that she should go to a doctor if she is having trouble healing. This was completely insensitive to the fact that Madhavi just gave birth. It also showed that they were oblivious to how great our midwives care was.

I wish they would have said something more supportive.

Like, “Let us know when you are ready,” or, “Is there any way we can help?” Instead, I felt pressured into explaining Madhavi’s personal health details.

We all had a long phone discussion at some point in week two. We worked out some of the miscommunication and misunderstanding. By the end of that second week, we were ready to have visitors, and my parents came to visit.

As I said before, we are still healing from these emotional wounds. It has put a huge strain on our relationship with my parents, and sometimes it’s hard to say if the wounds will ever heal for Madhavi.

I love my parents, and in no way mean to bad mouth them.

They have a different paradigm for the birth experience.

They knew very little about home birth, or midwife care. I know their intentions were not malicious. I think new grandparents are so thrilled about their grandchild that they overlook the parents’ wishes. That’s why it’s so important for the new parents to be clear about their feelings and wishes.

Learn From My Mistakes, Please!

I will never make those mistakes again. I do realize that it’s not entirely my fault. I just wish I could take it back.

Writing this has been therapeutic. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes. I highly suggest you and your birth partner put some thought into what you want post-partum, and be clear about that with others–even family. Set boundaries before the birth, to save you, your friends and family undue misunderstandings and heartache after the birth.

Those first few weeks are sacred, and you can never get them back.

You are meeting your baby for the first time. You are learning about one another. You are learning your baby’s cues and patterns. Your baby needs to be close to you, physically and emotionally.

Sleep and nap with your baby. Build a family cocoon. Enjoy every sacred moment, uninterrupted. The rest of the world, including your parents and closest friends, will have plenty of time to catch up to you.

*******************************************************************************

Jeremy Dyen is a musician, father and husband who blogs at Stay at Home Papa. He and his wife Madhavi are advocates of hypnosis and affirmations for mindset shifts about birth, and they even created a free hypnosis mp3 download available at Fear Free Birth.

Your Comments

14 Comments so far

  1. Joy Alba says:

    This was very beautifully, and thoughtfully written. I hope you let your parents (or force feed…. you know…which ever :) them read it. And congratulations on the personal growth that goes hand in hand with becoming a new parent. :) Madhavi is VERY lucky!!! Both to have had such a wonderful birthing experience AND having such a supportive husband!!! :)

  2. Erica says:

    Thank you so much! I wasn’t even aware that you could make such a request. We had some issues and I couldn’t figure out why; but this gives me some perspective. I definatly am going to take your advise for our next birth. Thanks again,
    Erica

  3. Emily says:

    Oh how this resonates with me! I want to share my story too, because I think if I’d read this while pregnant I would have nodded and thought “good idea”, but I don’t think I would have truly understood. Hopefully anyone reading this, about to have a baby will think long and hard about their babymoon!

    We didn’t decide on a babymoon but I wish we did. I did decide I only wanted a few visitors at the start. Somehow I ended up with 10 – 12 people around my kitchen table – which has 4 seats – on our first day home (it was a weekend so everyone came that day). I hid in the bedroom crying because I had the midwife visit while they were all there and say my son would need to be hospitalised if we didn’t get better at breastfeeding and/or get a pump.

    Rewind a few days (I had a hospital birth); My MIL rang the birth suites 5 times while I was in labour – they eventually said I’d gone to postnatal to get rid of her. She announced it on facebook. I asked the midwives to keep visitors out until visiting hours; MIL rocked up 15 minutes before they started, I was topless with a midwife, struggling to nurse my son.

    So you aren’t alone – grandparents are full on here too.

    On the other hand though, my parents rocked up on the night I got home from hospital with dinner and dessert, with all the reheating pots, plates and cutlery I would need – we ate dinner then they left with a bucket full of their dirty dishes. In the mean time while I ate, they washed the dirty dishes we had in the sink. They left as soon as the meal was over, leaving some healthy snacks at my bedside table.

    My lesson? I think next time we will consider a babymoon, but at the same time, I wouldn’t knock back a carefully instrumented roster of help.

  4. Kateisfun says:

    Man, there should be a law requiring babymoons! I agree, they are much-needed and so incredibly important! I love this post, http://www.glorialemay.com/blog/?p=34 , by Gloria Lemay talking about what a family needs after the birth. For future kids, I plan to pass this around before the birth so people know how to help if they’re wanting to! And Jeremy, you’re so right about the importance of communicating. It can be hard when you don’t even know what you need yourself, but if you can muster through everyone will be happier. Great post!

  5. CB says:

    Sometimes you can make it really, really clear that you want that sacred time and still have it stomped on… any suggestions there? We even went 90 miles out of town… only to have grandparents still show up.

  6. CB says:

    I agree this was well written. Thanks for sharing… reposted on FB :O)

  7. Sharon says:

    I really enjoyed reading the last comment. You know if you look around you see that most people, especially grandparents just want to lay eyes on that precious baby. I had three children, the first by c-section way back in 1987, then a v back in 1990 and another in 1995. I admit to emotional issues but a lot of people came and visited then left, it was hard but I realized love filled that house with each and every visit and I believe with all my heart that babies feel love. I also think that with an open heart a new mother can benefit from those loving visits too! Don’t feel like you are just the one who gave birth to the grandchild….realize that you have just given birth to someones grandchild!!!It is a gooooooood thing. My daughter allowed me to be present for the birth of my granddaughter. Awesome….We are all still in tact and that precious little one is My Baby Moon and Stars. All that being said I do realize the right for everyone’s privacy…and right do things the way they see fit…..But do think about how much you will want to be a part of the birth and life of any future grandchild that you may be blessed enough to have!

  8. Patricia says:

    Thank you for sharing this. We’re expecting our first in a few weeks (also planning a home birth) and will take all of your advice to heart!

  9. Cassandra says:

    It’s still hurts me to think about how my postpartum period was ruined too. And the most I’ve talked about it is discussing what I would do differently if we decide to have another baby, but the painful details haven’t come out partially because my husband didn’t do anything to help matters. And oh, we tried to protect that space, but just like this post, we didn’t make the boundaries clear enough.

    The two worst parts were when my in-laws came to visit the day of her birth. She was born at 5:08am and they were there by 9am and didn’t leave until almost 3pm. The only time they left were when I had to tell my MIL, sitting at the end of my bed, to leave because the LC had come to help me latch. I got a bitchy comment about how she had breastfed too “but whatever, I’ll leave.” And then they left to have lunch, which I attempted to take the time to get some food and take a hot herbal bath while the baby slept. It wasn’t very long until they were back, where I was so adamant that I would not get out of the tub that I actually chose to contine my bath 5 feet away from my FIL, where the postpartum doula also sat there discussing my care instructions to take home (talking about how to take care of your vagina in front of your FIL is SO FUN). Apparently me being totally naked, trying to relax and discussing intimate details of my aftercare wasn’t enough of a hint to LEAVE.

    And it didn’t end there, oh no. Anyone having read my blog or saw my guest post here would know the absolute HELL I went through trying to breastfeed and the fact that I had a nervous breakdown by the end of the first week. Well apparently rejecting my in-laws’ request to visit our first weekend home because I still hadn’t breastfed, hadn’t gotten any rest AT ALL, it was our first weekend home with her and the last few days before my husband had to go back to work wasn’t enough to stop my MIL from posting passive-aggressive crap on Facebook and inciting one of my husband’s grandmothers from sending him a nasty email about how she knows I’m the one behind this and that he should be more considerate of what his parents want because “wives are not always forever, but family is.” I guess his mom is supposed to matter more than his wife and daughter’s health?

    If my husband weren’t sitting next to me while reading this, I would have bawled my eyes out. You don’t know just how precious that time is directly following the birth until it’s ruined. New mothers to be, take heed!

  10. Donna says:

    Oh, so well said!!
    We are still suffering in our relationship with my husbands parents because almost 2 years ago when we had our 3rd baby daughter, after an intense 50 hour labour, they wanted to visit within the first 24 hours of her birth and we said no. They live 2 hours away from us and had come up for a visit in pregnancy that was horrible and my father in law was very mean to me personally. I knew I could handle then coming and visiting after such a HUGE long and exhausting labour that was very emotionally draining. They also are not the helpful kind either and we knew they would not bring a meal or offer to help once here plus they would expect tea, coffee and food. It was a hard thing, but thankfully hubby was firm in telling them no and boy did they let everyone know how unhappy the were including long posts on facebook making us look like the worst people ever. I am SO glad we said no though, as on top of a 50 hour labour with no sleep, Aurora feed for the first 24 hours straight!!
    But as I said, our relationship with them has being under strain ever since and with this new bubba due in the next few weeks or so, we dont even know if they will want to visit at all. Its terribly sad that they had no respect for us and me especially but what I was struck with in reading your post was that I was exactly that, not a person just a THING that had given birth to THEIR grandchild. Makes my heart feel broken all over again.

  11. Donna says:

    coulnt handle, not could!

  12. Jeremy says:

    Thank you all for your fantastic comments. I’m sad to read of some of your tales, and yet it validates my feelings even more, because I see that others have experienced these things.

    However, I don’t claim to feel what mothers feel. I think it must be especially rotten to feel like you are just the deliverer of the baby, especially in light of all of the physical, hormonal and life changes you have gone through in such a short amount of time…Not to mention that your identity changes when you grow and birth a baby…At least, I think so.

    Sharon, I appreciate your thoughts and experiences to, and am so glad that they have been positive ones, both as a mother and a grandmother.

    I do see what you’re saying about the mother trying to relate to the excitement of the grandparents. But I’m sure it’s not that simple for many women. And in many cases, the excitement of the grandparents is the very thing that makes the birthing mother feel alienated, especially when it’s the in-laws, and they have already made her feel a bit like an outsider prior to the birth.

    Glad to have shared our experience. And, like I said, we’re still working through the fallout of this experience.

  13. serena says:

    So well said! we had a 3.5 week babymoon with our first born based on our pediatricians advice and it was wonderful!!! of course our family was upset! We did see part of the family, in our home, for 15 minutes with them just staying in the front enterance, no holding the baby or anything like that, but the majority of them and the most of the grandparents had to wait and I dont regret it at all!

    We’re having our second baby now (in a little less than 8 hours!!!) and are already getting nagging emails from the in laws about when they can see the baby and trying to disguise their want to see the baby by offering to bring food to our house – of course we see right through this! We’re sticking with our plan and having OUR babymoon, the way we want it :)

  14. Annie says:

    I didn’t notice so much with my first birth in the hospital (although I was super annoyed with family showing up in the waiting room after we told them specifically not to!), but with #2 at home I knew I wanted to claim some space/time beforehand – I was just guessing at what was needed though, so I think with #3 next winter (at home) I will be able to be more specific like you are suggesting here. I thought 5 days was enough of a cushion between birth and seeing grandparents, but after 2 days in a row (of several hour visits) for the two sides to come meet the baby (days 5 & 6 I think), in hindsight it was too much too soon. I discovered I was a hormonal wreck the following week (so my week #2 after giving birth) and REEEEAAALLY needed everyone to stay the heck away. Even after 3 weeks, a friend came by (not a parent himself) and the conversation NOT revolving around the baby was almost unbearable to me. Although even with all this resolve and desire for family cocooning, I also know I get anxious to share the baby with grandparents and I can’t see me waiting 2 full weeks for them to see the baby. I will likely aim for a brief visit from each side around 1 week, but no one else and NOT for a long visit. The rest of family I’m more of a mind to wait about 3 weeks. Thank you for sharing and for the practical advice on language to communicate these needs!


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