I was that new mom who cringed every time someone offered to hold him so that I could attempt to sleep. I was that new mom whose anxiety soared when someone tried to touch my dirty laundry and dishes. And I still am the mom, at nine months postpartum, who brushes off babysitting offers.
And in confiding with other moms, I have come to learn that I am not alone in this controlling thought.
For some of us, taking our babies and taking over our households is exactly what we need. For others, it’s the most stressful thing you can do. And we don’t always know how to kindly tell you this, because we see your heart pouring out with generosity.
In those early colicky months, I knew that my baby hated being swaddled. I knew that he hated behind cradled. I knew that he didn’t care for loud “Shhushing.” And yes, he really was “hungry again.”
It’s not that I didn’t want to share him with loved ones, but hands down, the best way for all of us to get sleep was with him on my chest. Truthfully, all I wanted and all I needed was to hold him in privacy, skin to skin.
It was so heartwarming to hear offers for household chores. We couldn’t believe how many people – some who barely knew us – were willing to lift up their sleeves, pause their own hectic lives and tackle mundane tasks for us. It guilted me that I simply wanted to shut our door to the world at the same time.
But I did, because the best way for us to build a new routine was to sort it out ourselves. Truthfully, all I wanted and all I needed was space to find our own way.
And while the thought of having a child-free night is glorious to some, it’s a stressor for us. New parenthood is bringing us together as a couple in a beautiful, unique way, and the best way for my husband and I to connect is something that we get to define, even if it just looks like sharing a bottle of wine while binge watching Netflix with the baby monitor between us.
Truthfully, all we want and all we need is time to soak up these fast-escaping moments.
I’m sharing this because I’m often asked “My friend just had a baby. How soon is too soon to visit? What can I do?” And on the same token, I often hear from expectant moms nearing their due dates, “How do I politely manage the influx of people already planning to visit? Am I even going to want visitors?”
The kind of support that new moms need looks different for every mom. And the support that we think we will need while we are pregnant can actually be totally different once the baby arrives. Many people still assume that a woman going into labor signals a green light to race to the hospital, or that bringing the baby home is an open invitation. We as a society tend to overlook the privacy and intimacy that is child birth and instead focus so blindly on the celebratory bundle of joy. Recovery for mom? What’s that?
Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all except for wait. Wait for them to heal. Wait for them to bond. Wait for them to figure out the kind of help they need. Or drop off food with minimal social interaction required (all hail the meal trains!)
Truthfully, all I needed after taking my baby home was to be with my baby at home. To know the support, encouragement and love was there, but that I didn’t owe anything in turn just yet. That I could unapologetically get to know my baby on my terms and that my loved ones would be ready to celebrate with us when we were ready.