let mom bond with newborn, father bonding with newborn,

Step Away From My Newborn. Right. Now.

Family Featured GeekMom
Let new parents bond with newborn.
The first few days are especially vital for bonding. (CCo public domain, gaborfejes)

I am dedicated to our extended family on both sides. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law lived with us for 10 years, my kids make handmade gifts for relatives, and I continue to host most holidays. But I learned to warn others to leave us alone for at least a full week after a baby’s birth. I became fervent about this after my husband’s grandmother ignored my plea to let us have this time to ourselves.

It went down like this.

Three days after our first child was born, she left a voicemail. She was coming over. Right. Now.

My husband and I were just settling in to the new circle we’d made of mother, father, and baby. Benjamin was a wonder to us with eyes that hinted (I swear) of ancient wisdom. This time was our initiation into family life. It felt sacred to me in the way that life-changing experiences can. I didn’t want it muddied with polite conversation or awful clichés like “you look great.”

I was also exhausted and overwhelmed, as many first-time postpartum moms can be. We wait three-quarters of a year to see the baby we’ve been gestating. Plus we’re dealing with sore nipples, interrupted sleep, and estrogen levels that drop 100 to 1,000-fold in the first week after giving birth.  I knew plenty of other new mothers who thrived on connecting soon after birth. Not me. I wasn’t feeling remotely sociable.

When my husband’s grandmother arrived, my resolve melted a little. As she leaned over to kiss our baby’s cheek the gentle wrinkles on her face twanged my heartstrings. She was looking down at her descendant, a boy who would grow up into a world beyond her time. My tenderness, however, instantly evaporated when she snatched him out of my arms with a thief’s deftness. Her perfume-doused wrists cradled him closely. He started to fuss almost immediately but she refused to hand him back.

“I know babies,” she said, surely trying to reassure me. I was not reassured.

His eyes crinkled in pre-cry mode. She hoisted him to her shoulder, his precious face against her sweater which had, I kid you not, fake rhinestone decorations pressed against his skin. Immediately I reached out for the baby but instead of handing him back she turned and, bouncing him up and down, walked to the other side of the room. The baby was now crying for real. Squalling. Those desperate cries that activate every nerve in a new mother’s body.

The hair on my arms stood up and my scalp prickled. My mouth swung open and growl in my throat threatened to roll out. I’d never experienced such a primal reaction, a surge of energy that transcended emotion. I hustled up to her with the ferocity of a mother grizzly bear and managed to sputter a few words instead of actual growling.

“I need that baby back RIGHT NOW,” I said, “or I can’t be responsible for what I’ll say.”

She, who had bestowed the fond nickname of “sweet little girl” on me when I first dated her grandson, looked shocked. She had no idea that, in this moment of postpartum rage, I was close to sinking my teeth in her arm.

I grabbed my crying son, hustled off to the bedroom, and closed the door. Adrenaline still coursed through me. Nursing him calmed us both, but not entirely. I stayed there until she was gone. When my husband carefully turned the knob and slid the door open just a bit, I realized even he was a little afraid of me.

I’m sure I could have handled the situation better. Honestly, she could have too. I know the incident taught my husband that he needed to do everything possible to preserve our family boundaries in a newborn’s early weeks–skills that were essential as we had three more children, some with serious medical problems. It also taught me that nothing is more powerful than a new mother’s impulse to be with her baby.

I guess there is a moral to my story. Don’t visit a newborn if the mama urges you, even politely, to stay away. She means it.

What would you like visitors to know during the first week of your baby’s life? 

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9 thoughts on “Step Away From My Newborn. Right. Now.

  1. Don’t take the baby would be the top of my list. Give the baby back when mom asks. Geez I don’t know how many times I was close to losing it because I wanted my baby back because they were crying. Sorry, no you are not a baby whisperer mom is and I can’t stand to hear my baby cry like that.

    I am not sure if we will have visitors after our next child is born because we are so far away from family at this point.

  2. I’m right there with you. I personally gritted my teeth, took a couple percocet and managed to get through everyone coming over at once, which, to me, was far better than one or two at a time. But they seriously just brought food for the party, nothing for the fridge or freezer. WTH? At least they did the dishes before leaving.

  3. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I never had an issue with family visiting during the first couple of weeks. Since I knew they were visiting to see the baby and not me, I took those times as opportunity to take a shower since there was not telling when the next chance would be.

  4. Ahhhhh new mom instincts! I have held newborns, only before asking first, and if they cry I immediately give them back. Also if a newborn is snuggled nicely with someone……LEAVE THEM ALONE! I don’t know why this isn’t common practice among human beings.

  5. I agree with you Laura Grace. I respect anyone’s request to stay away until they are ready for people to meet baby. Every parent and child first days home are theirs alone, and should be in peace, however that is defined for the parents.

  6. Every parent is different. I think the main point is to respect what the parents need! I am not sure why people feel entitled to “their rights” to visit the baby. Wait a few weeks, bring a yummy casserole, and enjoy the baby then.

  7. I wish my husband had been as caring. I told both sets of grandparents we wanted a couple of weeks to ourselves. His parents showed up the day I got home from the hospital with luggage! He would not tell them to leave. I had to entertain, cook and clean with a newborn and a toddler while they sat around talking, talking, talking for days.

  8. Just wait until it is your turn to be a grandparent and see if it is so easy to keep distance. I would love to visit your blog then, when you write, my selfish daughter in law refuses to let us see our first grandchild until she finds a suitable time for us to visit. You need to look at this from a different perspective.

  9. Being a grandparent is the most wonderful part of life, and, it can be the hardest part of life! As a mom and a grandma, shame on you! I am sure that your husband’s grandma meant no harm whatsoever! She probably went home and cried herself to sleep. I have extremely controlling daughter-in-laws also! I NEVER kept grandparents away from their grandchildren! Grandparents are very important in a child’s life. I have 6 boys and 1 girl. Five are grown with children and I have waited for so long for a granddaughter. I am finally having one and she is 5 mo. pregnant and I am not allowed to tell my friends!!! It is a control issue! She wants to be the one to tell everyone! Wow. I do not know how anyone can feel the need to control grandparents at all times, but, I guess there are more than I would have guessed. Enjoy your babies and one day let them read your story and let them know just how you treated their grandma.

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