As you may know, I planned a homebirth, but 20 hours into labor I transferred to the hospital and 14 hours later had a c-section. (You can read more about it here.) I did NOT have a smooth recovery, to say the least. And we didn't have an easy time breastfeeding. (Read more about that here.) Basically, the first couple of weeks was a mix of pure bliss and pure struggle.
In stark contrast and to add to the struggle, was my mother-in-law. She came in the same day as my sister-in-law, but she did it uninvited. I never would've asked her to be there (well, I never would've asked her to come period, but...) a week after I'd just had a new babe and major surgery. She arrived, declared she was on vacation, stayed for an entire week, never once lifted a finger to help with ANYthing, made messes in my kitchen with the junk food she brought for herself to snack on, held our son only two or three times, refused to look at me as I breastfed, never spoke to me, and sat in one of my two favorite breastfeeding chairs every single time she came in. In short, she was a nightmare.
Folks, when you visit a new parent, here are some guidelines:
1) ASK first.
2) Bring food.
3) Do chores.
4) Love the babe and the new parents.
5) Don't overstay your welcome.
It's just that simple.
Partners, when someone visits and finds themselves in violation of any of these guidelines, YOU get to run interference. And by "get to" I mean MUST. I don't care if it's your little ol' granny...you take care of your partner and new babe first and foremost. In hindsight, one of my husband's big regrets is that he allowed all of that to take place with his mother. Whatever small fissure there was between me and my mother-in-law before that "vacation," has now widened to one beyond repair. Don't let that happen in your home.
In short, helpful guests are good, unhelpful guests are bad. I would've thought this went without saying, but, clearly, it does not. Learn a lesson from these three women. Take the good, dismiss the bad. Next time you find yourself in a position to visit someone postpartum, be a good visitor, a helpful one, a conscientious one - if you can't, please, for the sake of the new parents, stay home and send a lovely greeting card instead, maybe even include a gift card for the grocery story or something helpful like that.
New babies are miraculous. Everyone wants a look, a chance to ogle the new life. It's important to remember, though, that while this is an amazing time for the new family, it can also be a stressful time and adding to the stress is, obviously, not helpful. Follow my simple guidelines for being a good visitor and you should be on your way to having a perfectly lovely visit with that perfectly lovely family about whom you care so deeply, I'm sure.
(Note: I would've added a picture of my mother-in-law holding our son, but we only have one from the few times she actually did hold him and it's this odd hold where he's kind of just laying across her lap as if he were a blanket for her cold legs instead of a child being snuggled, so I left it out.)