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.