the delicate situation of having guests postpartum

 

Having company...

 

after having a baby 

About a year ago, I wrote an article for a Jewish women's magazine about prenatal and postpartum anxiety and depression. I wrote a bit about my own experience, spoke to some friends, and asked women on social media if they would be interested in telling me a bit about their stories and struggles for the article (anonymously, of course). It became clear that having space and privacy was one of the most important - and elusive - parts of the postpartum experience for women coping with anxiety, depression, or the general roller coaster ride of emotions that's common for postpartum moms. A lot of women talked about the pressure they felt to make everyone happy, and to never say "No" to anyone who wanted to spend time with the new baby and mama. I unfortunately couldn't use all of their stories for the article, but have always wanted to find a way to share them in hopes that other moms feel less guilty about their own needs postpartum. Here are some of the women's thoughts and feelings about having guests who wanted to visit - or wanted to be visited - postpartum, when they weren't quite ready.  


The huge pressure from family to visit or to bring the baby to show family is very difficult. Yes, great grandma should see the baby but a new mommy doesn't have the energy to pack up the other kids and dress herself up when the baby is even two or even three weeks old. Somehow even the loving grandparents don't always remember how awful the new mommy feels.


When my first (now 4 years old) was born, I had no clue about the emotional roller-coaster I was already strapped into. I had always been a very outgoing and social person, so I totally stayed and hung out with my own and all of my parents' friends [a few days after the baby was born].  When the guests left, I sat down on my parents' basement steps and started crying so hard I could barely breathe. My poor husband was like, "Huh? what's wrong? You were fine one second ago" and I couldn't even answer. I just felt like speaking even one more word would be too much effort for me.

After my second was born, I was more prepared, but the anxiety was much worse and I kind of went off the grid, ignoring calls from friends and relatives until just about everyone I knew was kind of ticked off at me. Thank God for anxiety medication!  I am kind of similar to a normal person again.  Some days. Sort of. If you aren't looking too closely. 


Right before I was having my in-laws sleep over for the first weekend, I had an appointment with a lactation consultant. She told me I had to nurse, feed pumped milk, feed formula, and pump at every feeding! It was not at all ­­sustainable... That night, with everyone in my apartment, I broke down. My baby was being held by someone else and I went to the armchair in her room and just cried. The tears flowed down my cheeks. All my anxiety and worry came to the forefront, and I just couldn’t stop crying. I was still physically recovering, nursing, there were way too many people in my apartment... I just couldn’t cope.


I remember with my first I had postpartum anxiety... and I remember the second day in the hospital trying desperately to calm my body down so that I could rest and every time I felt myself getting drowsy there would be a knock on the door and a well-meaning relative had shown up to meet the baby. Some friends came too. So I learned and the second time around we said no visitors at the hospital... when we came home from the hospital with my second- my husband was like a bodyguard of sorts - he prevented people from coming over and from me having to chat. To keep my anxiety in check I really just needed space and to be alone and focus on myself and my family... I think people are very well-meaning and I don't begrudge anyone for visiting - everyone wants to see a new baby. But you have to know yourself well and put up good boundaries if being with people postpartum makes you anxious or prevents you from healing. I just needed calm and quiet and space. I remember sitting in my room with the baby for hours and I had quiet classical music playing in the background. My husband or baby nurse (the second time around) would come in and they knew to speak in calm, quiet soothing tones. My husband took my cell phone for about two weeks - he checked it a couple times a day in case anything needed responding to but I didn't look at my cell phone because it was too overwhelming to have to respond to Facebook messages, emails, texts etc... I knew I just needed time alone to be able to keep my anxiety in check and be able to move on. Helped immensely.


I'll add that in addition to visiting when the mommy is home people should think twice before visiting a new mom in the hospital and make sure the visit is really wanted. Second - when making meals for new moms - as tempting as it is to come in and see the baby and chat for a few minutes - be mindful that the biggest help might be to just drop the meal off with a congratulations and see the baby another time.


Thank you so much to the women who shared their stories! And for helping other women feel understood. 

P.S. A post on anxiety in six words or less and the tough emotions that come after losing it with your kids

 

 
Nurit Siegal2 Comments