A while back I was seeing one of my women on day 3 postnatal. She had a forceps delivery after a long old labour and was feeling rather shattered. Feeding wasn’t going well; her baby was very irritable due to the delivery and he wasn’t latching on and her nipples were cracked and bleeding. And to top it all off her perineum was incredibly sore and could barely sit down, lie down, manoeuvre herself to the bathroom. You get it she was in a bad way. But one thing really struck me about the scene I was witnessing. The people in her home.
Her parents were there. Her Mum, trying to be helpful getting extra cushions to support her when trying to feed her screaming baby. Her father hiding in the kitchen not really wanting to hear his daughter discuss her sore bottom and bleeding. Her sister, sister’s husband and 2 young nieces hovering in the living room ‘just wanting one photo of the girls with their new cousin to send to Granny’. And her brother who had driven all the way from Newcastle but won’t stay long, just wants a little peek at his new nephew. All in all there were waaaaay too many people in her small terraced house. It got me thinking. Who is really benefiting from all these family members being there? The 3 day old irritable hungry baby certainly didn’t need those extra hands touching his sore little head. Her husband was feeling undermined by his wife’s slightly overbearing Mother making annoying comments like ‘What he needs is a good walk in his pram’. And what about the woman, the centre of all of this bravado! She was a hormonal mess unable to express how she really felt, not wanting to push people away so she let all her family members bombard her. *
So what is the right thing to do when hundreds of friends and family are desperate to come over and see you and your new baby? How can you manage the endless texts and phone calls? Rachel from When The Baby Sleeps shares her experiences and tips when visiting new parents.
Visiting new parents is a minefield, and if you’re not careful you can really mess it up. You can leave traumatised by a gory birth story, riddled with guilt because you took totally the wrong things or, worst of all, blissfully unaware of the havoc you have wreaked. Becoming a parent for me meant apologising to my friends-with-kids. Primarily because on that first visit to meet their firstborns I had no idea. I mean I didn’t rock up with wine breath or anything crazy like that.. but you know, I just didn’t quite know how to behave. But I do now. Here’s how:
Take food. Yes, it’s that important that it gets three mentions. Take a staple, take a luxury, take something that can be stuffed in your gob while your friend does three things at once. Don’t text asking what they need and expect an honest answer. Just turn up with some stuff. It will be cherished. Seriously, you remember the bread & milk gifts as clearly as the cool gifts for baby. I learned quite quickly that if you take food, essentially, you rock.
Don’t stay too long. Now one person’s too long is another person’s warm up, right? But when it comes to new parent visits, limit yourself to 45 minutes to one hour absolute maximum. Unless you’re throwing in a bit of cleaning/putting out the rubbish/taking the baby out type activity as a bonus (see next point), which earns you an extra 15 minutes. Energy is limited and there’s a hit-by-a-bus vibe in the air for a good couple of months so be mindful and vigilant. Even if you catch parents on a good afternoon it is highly likely they will wave you goodbye and then quite literally want to lie down on the floor with exhaustion. Most parents will generally be too polite to say ‘please fuck off I’ve started to hallucinate again.’ Pay heed.
Be Helpful. Depending on the closeness of the friendship ‘helpful’ can range from rinsing out your own tea cups to doing a full clean of the kitchen or putting out the rubbish. Make it your mission to do something and do your utmost to ensure it gets done and not rebuffed in a brilliant show of English awkwardness. Offer specific tasks and embrace them with aplomb and beaming. You may have to literally shoo your visitees back to their seats and kidnap the washing up until its ass is wiped, but it will be worth any awkwardness. Definitely offer to take the baby out for a walk if they’re passed the ‘DON’T LET THE BABY OUT OF MY SIGHT!’ phase.
Listen, but not too hard. If you visit in the first month then you’ll probably hit the ‘birth story’ phase. There will be details extraneous, things you don’t understand and the couple will almost certainly disagree or argue over some aspect of what happened and in what order. We couldn’t agree on specifically which swears I’d invoked at one key moment (I swear it was ‘ow, ow, fucky fucky ow ow’ but apparently I wasn’t this coherent.) Nod, pay attention but do feel free to drift off a little if anyone mentions something a bit too gross, particularly if you’re planning on procreating yourself. A well placed ‘hmmm’, ‘ouch’, ‘oh wow’ should cover you. And remember, it’s all part of the fun.
Don’t take flowers. Yes, flowers are lovely to look at, but remembering to tend to them and throw them away before they die isn’t easy. When you’re prostrate, low on energy and riddled with hormones then the changing of the flower water just doesn’t happen. Said flowers become rank quite quickly, and soon your living room resembles a flower mortuary. The flowers’ rapidly decaying visage becomes a direct representation of your utter failure as a mother and member of the human race and circa 3am they haunt and disturb you as you navigate your new life feeling as vulnerable and weak as the shadows they cast. Don’t put anyone through that, alright?
Don’t take alcohol. Again, booze is all fine and dandy but it’s just not on the agenda for new parents. That bottle of plonk, while a lovely way to celebrate what is essentially the happiest event in your life, will instead come to resemble either your past, carefree life of grog and gayness, or the future that you know lies ahead of you but just seems so far away. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when you will wear clothes, go about your business at normal hours of the day and then sit down, like a grownup, and have an alcoholic drink, but in the early days such activities seem baffling and unlikely. So give it a rest would you?
Be careful what you talk about. I met a brilliant mum of twins who told a harrowing story about some guests who spent 10 minutes decrying the difficulty of tracking down a particular size of Brabantia bin liner and their epic quest to get hold of said bin liner on a particularly hectic Saturday morning shopping trip. Six years down the line she remembered this event in excruciating detail, so painful and galling had it been. Poor, brave soul. Another friend spits bile whenever she recounts how a colleague turned up with a ton of office ‘news’ when she was still on Day 7 confusion. Don’t rock up with a load of office gossip or woeful tale about sourcing Brabantia products and expect anyone to give a shit, is essentially my advice here.
Don’t panic. You may be freaked out by the state of your friend, now he or she has crossed the divide and become one of them. Please don’t panic. Your friend will return, even if in a slightly different, stranger format.
On that first visit you may see and hear strange things. You may catch glance of your first nipple shield, pumping device or god forbid a maternity pad. For this we can only apologise. Your friend may say things that are utterly unforgivable totally batshit crazy and she or he may not even pretend to listen to a word you say. They may tell you to wash your hands every five minutes or even ‘shush’ you particularly harshly if you have a barking kind of laugh… all of these things are normal, I’m afraid. And they too shall pass.
And that, dear reader, is it. Easy. You can thank me later.
Trouble is that now I have to take a toddler with me when I go visit new parents and that’s a whole other minefield. All advice welcome before I make a total hash of it…
*This is a fictitious story of a senario and was used as an example to describe an event. No persons mentioned are real.*
I’m back! It’s a funny old thing having no internet. On one hand being totally cut off from Instagram, Twitter and checking the Showbiz section of the Daily Mail online (oh come on I know you all do too!) is quite liberating. But on the other hand you don’t realise how much you use the internet for searching pretty much everything. We’ve just moved into our new house. Yup we are home owners for the first time, totally broke, totally clueless and too nervous to hang a single picture just in case it cracks the wall. But feeling a little uninspired creatively I felt lost without Pinterest and it was almost impossible ordering a new washing machine without going online. Even when Sky failed to turn up to install the rooter and phone line they suggested tracking our progress……….online! See impossible. And of course there was no Birth Story Of The Week last Monday. But alas! Here is today’s wonderful story from Chloe who’s blog is so beautiful I have serious photo envy, but then she is a photographer. I feel a bit connected to Chloe’s birth as I gave her my old birthing pool to use in labour.
Blog: Sorry About The Mess
Like most first time pregnant women, you’re probably feeling slightly clueless about what you are embarking on in preparation for the labour and birth. Friends, family members, colleagues and the lady in the supermarket will all be telling you their horror birth stories just to get you feeling really relaxed and stressed free about the pain. And by the time you’re showing, every hand will be touching your bump telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Not so helpful.
Antenatal classes are aimed at any pregnant woman and her partner from around 34 weeks. This is the optimum time in pregnancy as it gives you enough time to focus and remember the keys bits, but not too far away for you to forget everything the minute you feel your first contraction. There are a rang of classes you can sign up to, both free on the NHS and private. Some are broken up in 4-6 sessions and some are held over a weekend. The most popular are the NCT classes which you attend in your local area usually at the teachers home or near by church hall. On average between 4 and 8 couples attend the classes and they are held in the evenings to allow couples to fit it in their work schedules.
There are however, many other private antenatal classes so it’s worth finding out about all your options in your area. Speak to friends who have had babies and get an idea of what to expect and how they found them useful. Your midwife will be able to tell you about the free classes your local hospital offer which are usually held in the hospital setting. These are sometimes bigger than the the private classes and less intimate but you will still receive the same up to date information.
Here are my top tips for preparing for your classes.
- Try to remember that these classes are aimed at parents-to-be to find out about labour and birth. You can’t possibly learn everything in 6 sessions so doing some evening reading will go a long way
- Don’t be nervous or shy about asking a question in the group. For all you know the girl sitting next to you may also have no idea what ‘cervical dilation’ means but is too embarrassed to ask. Your teacher will be approachable and be able to answer all your questions
- Find out all your options and just don’t just accept that what a doctor recommends you do may be the best option for you and your baby
- Get your birth partner on board. Make him or her swot up too. When you’re in labour you need them to be your advocate, contractions don’t allow for clear thinking and being expected to answer lots of questions.
- Remember it doesn’t all stop when the labour is over. Life with a new-born is pretty full on and getting those ‘survival’ tips are essential to feeling prepared
- Being pregnant and having a baby isn’t a test. Everyone will approach things differently, do things their way and you shouldn’t feel judged by what decisions you and your partner make. This is your experience so enjoy it!