Boundaries with family and friends after birth of a baby
In my experience there are few things sweeter than holding a newborn baby. They are warm, small, cute, and gosh they smell so good. If you are pregnant your family and friends may already be planning to visit you and meet your little baby. There are some important things to think about before the visitors start coming.
First, how do you do with boundaries. Are you good at being assertive? At saying "no" when you mean it? Do you have trouble with saying "no"? Do you want to please others or avoid hurting peoples feelings (at the expense of yours)? What about your partner? How are they with expressing their boundaries? This is something to think about and discuss with your partner. Throughout your pregnancy you are sure to get a lot of advice (much of it that you did not ask for). This will continue after you have a baby. It is good for the couple to spend time together thinking about what they want for their new family. And to work on saying "No" together. Repeat after me. "No".
Some boundaries to consider:
1. Who do you want in the delivery room?
At the hospital I delivered at we were allowed to have two people in the room. I chose my husband and my doula. I have talked with mothers who said that their mother wanted to be in the room, or their mother-in-law wanted to be there. Sometimes mothers had mixed feelings about this. Take some time to decide what you want and then clearly, and lovingly, describe your wishes.
2. Who do you want to visit you at the hospital?
Currently, during the pandemic, visitors are not allowed at the hospital, so this does not need to be discussed now. When the pandemic has passed, this will become an area to discuss again. The hospital can be a stressful time because you have just delivered your baby, you are getting to know your new family member, and you are trying to figure out breastfeeding. Among all the other things going on.
3. When/If you want visitors at your house.
This is especially important right now with the pandemic. Do you want visitors to come to your house? Would you prefer to do a virtual meet and greet with baby? Or could you do a visit at the window of your house, you and baby on one side and the visitor on the other side? If people want to bring you food do you want to organize it so you can do a touch-less delivery at the door? Or would you prefer gift cards for take out? These are all things to discuss and make clear with your family and friends ahead of time.
4. What are your boundaries around holding the baby?
This naturally follows the visitor question. If you are allowing others into your house to meet the baby, do you want others holding your baby? It's your baby, which means you can say "no". If you are ok with others holding your baby, you can ask that they wash their hands, wear a mask, sit down while holding baby, etc. Think about the circumstances that you would need to help you feel most comfortable. And if at anytime you feel uncomfortable, you can change your mind and assert your wishes.
5. What do you need?
Are you overwhelmed with your dishes? Or laundry? Are you in serious need of a nap? Do you need help with meals? Others typically want to help you, but they often do not know how to help or what you need. One idea a mom had was to set up a "chore chart" on a dry erase board that was in a general area of the house. When someone came to see the baby she asked if they could please help with a job on the chart. This helped her to get caught up on chores in the house that she really needed help with and helped her feel supported in the way she needed.
If you need help with meals, you could ask a family member or friend to set up a meal train for you. They are free to organize on mealtrain.com. My wonderful sister-in-law did this for me and it was such a lifesaver... now if I ever have a friend that has a baby I ask if I can do this for them. Basically you create an event, set up a calendar, share the link, and allow family and friends to sign up for dates to come and bring meals to the family after the baby has arrived. Such a useful tool and this can be so helpful for families.
Do you have trouble making clear boundaries? Here are some examples of how you can phrase different boundaries.
-"We will not be allowing family or friends into our house for two months after the birth of our baby. We will reassess this as needed and will let you know when we feel comfortable with allowing in-person visitors. Until then we can arrange a Zoom call so you can see baby."
-"Mom, I really appreciate that you want to be in the delivery room with me. I have talked with (partner) and we have decided that (partner) will be in the room with me while I deliver. I would really love if we could set up a time for you to come stay with us after baby is born, and I know we will need your help once we get home. Can we arrange that together now?"
-"I really appreciate that you came over to visit. There are a lot of chores in the house that we have not been able to keep up with. Could you please help us with one of the listed chores? I would really appreciate it."
In conclusion, part of preparing for a baby to arrive is preparing how you will set boundaries with your family and friends. Be clear and specific about what you expect. Boundaries are so important in life, increase your self-esteem, and increase trust in your relationships. Setting boundaries before delivery will make your time after delivery much more enjoyable because you can reduce the added stress of how to handle family and friends, reduce the feeling that others are not listening to or respecting you, and will be able to feel supported in the way that your family needs.