Until last week I thought I was the only one who didn’t love receiving visitors after I had babies. But then I shared an article on Facebook from a Labor and Delivery nurse who argued that one should NEVER visit a new mother in the hospital and I was shocked how many comments and likes it received! Then it hit me: a lot of people probably feel the same way I do, but just don’t know how to politely handle the situation.
When it comes to birthing experiences, there is very little propriety or mystery left in our culture. Dads are in the delivery room seeings things most men hadn’t witnessed in millenia past. Church pastors are popping their heads in the L & D room when there are still dirty linens strewn about. And just as your extended family leaves you, and things start to settle down, in come the texts from friends wondering when they can stop by and see your new bundle of joy. Of course, it’s great that everyone wants to take part in the momentous occasion. But I am afraid in a lot of cases it leads to unneeded stress on the new mother.
Now, I know some new moms relish in having tons of visitors showering them with balloons and flowers minutes after birth. Most of my friends are like that. But I felt pretty rotten after all my babies were born. Thankfully, by my third child I had learned how to graciously tell people that I didn’t want visitors until the second or third day (when I was able to get my bearings a little bit more!).
Wherever you fall in this etiquette scenario, these tips will be helpful:
For new mothers:
- Talk to extended family before the birth to discuss your wishes/expectations. Express your desires for how long you wish them to stay after the birth so there’s no drama or hurt feelings at the hospital.
- If you do want visitors, I suggest giving visitors a specific time frame. “We are having visitors between 6 and 7 today and would love for you to stop by if you can.” There is nothing worse than wondering all day when someone is going to show up. Will you be nursing? Will you be in the shower? It’s miserable. If they want to come see you, let them plan their day around you. Frankly, I would rather have five visitors during that one hour than have them scattered throughout the day, wouldn’t you? Plus, that’s a good time frame because you can shower and freshen up a little beforehand!
- If you don’t want visitors, use my handy “I know you will understand” line. When someone text or calls, reply with “I know you will understand, but I am just not feeling great today. Can you stop by the house next week?” Believe me, people will understand!
- To prevent any unwanted visitors, put a sign on your door. Unfortunately, some people do stop by unannounced. To avoid any embarrassing moments, ask the postpartum nurses to put a sign on your door that says, “no visitors, please.” No one in their right mind will open the door of a new mother with that sign up! Leave it up all day if you want. This is your baby and your life; don’t feel bad if someone comes all the way up to the hospital and doesn’t get to see your baby.
- Don’t feel bad about saying no to visitors. Some of my happiest memories after my first child was born was the quiet room with just my husband and me while the baby slept. It is a special time that you won’t ever get back.
- Don’t feel bad for kicking visitors out. Some people just can’t take hints. So just be blunt and politely say. “Thank you so much for coming; I am so glad you were able to stop by for a few minutes before I laid down to take a nap.” (The breastfeeding excuse doesn’t work because people will tell you it’s totally ok to breastfeed in front of them. People will not want to keep you from napping, though!).
- Buy a lovely robe and wear it when you have visitors. Wearing a beautiful robe, or comfy lounge outfit, when you have visitors makes you feel about a million times better about yourself than one of those horrible hospital gowns. And if your friend’s husband unexpectedly tags along, you will be glad you have it.
If You are the Visitor:
- Don’t say, “We’d love to come up to see you and the baby in the hospital. Let me know when it’s a good time.” That puts moms that tend to feel guilty about things (which is a lot of us!) in a bad position.
- Instead say something like this: “I want to come see the baby. Tell me, would you rather me come up to the hospital or wait until you get home?” This gives the mother an easy way of declining your visit. You are putting her needs before your own. Good job.
- DO NOT BRING YOUR CHILDREN. Unless they are cousins and invited, or an infant in a carrier, please don’t do it. Especially when it’s a first time mom. They need peace and not screaming children playing with buttons and toddlers with green drainage coming from their noses. (Note: no matter how laid back you may be about germs, not all moms are that way – especially new mothers who panic about things like green mucous!).
- Limit your visit to 10 minutes. I don’t care how nice the new mother is being, nobody should stay in a postpartum room more than 10-15 minutes (unless you’re the grandparents, an aunt of the new baby, or her absolute best friend in the world.) Most new moms do not feel great after birth and are exhausted. You were thoughtful to stop by. She appreciates it. Now leave.
- Always bring food or a gift. If you don’t bring one of these things, then just don’t even bother going. Remember, this is about them, not you. Help the new parents out by bringing the dad dinner, the mom an iced tea from her favorite restaurant. I brought one friend cookies and milk – and she scarfed in down because new moms are starving! (Tip: Tiff’s Treats also delivers cookies and milk in most major cities in Texas!). Flowers are always nice, too. (More gift ideas at the bottom of this post!). Even if you already gave them a gift at her baby shower, still bring something along, even if it’s just something small. The point is to be thoughtful and helpful.
- Err on the side of not bringing your boyfriend or husband along. A lot of new moms feel awkward about having male visors when things are going on with their bodies that are just not that wonderful. Have him wait in the lobby or make an excuse for why he can’t come, just to take the pressure off her. Think about this: our dads would have never visited one of our mom’s friends in the hospital 30 years ago. There has to be some modesty about these things, or at least I think so!
- If you are family, don’t assume these things don’t apply to you. Be sure to ask what they need/want from you and be understanding of their requests. Remember, they are tired, stressed, emotional (and maybe not thinking clearly!). Whatever they ask of their family members, just do it with a smile. And be sure to ask every so often how you can help or what needs you can meet.
What tips would you add to this visiting a new mom in the hospital post? Would love to know!
And don’t miss my darling baby gift ideas!
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Top Photo: Stephanie Drenka