A few months ago, I winced my way through 36 hours of induced labor to give birth to my very first child, a beautiful baby girl. Exhausted, swollen, completely overwhelmed, and ecstatically happy, my husband and I spent the next few hours staring at her in awe, cooing over everything she did, and wondering how we had gotten so lucky.
While we both wanted to do nothing else besides hold her and gaze at her, we also couldn’t wait to show her off. I had to stop myself from shrieking, “Look what we made!!” to every nurse who came in the room. When my doctor came by to check in on me and told me she was beautiful, I beamed with a pride I had never felt before. I could not wait to introduce my tiny little human to everyone in my life.
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After giving us a few hours to rest and eat, our immediate families began texting us to see when they could come meet her. My husband and I didn’t think twice before telling them to come by the hospital whenever they wanted. We’re very close with our families, and wanted them nearby. Before they came, I inched my way out of bed and attempted to make myself look somewhat presentable, excited to have my daughter meet her grandparents for the first time.
Over the next few hours, we had been visited by my parents, my mother-in-law, my brother, future sister-in-law, my sister, and her boyfriend. Over the next two day, a few aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins came by. While it was exciting at first, it wasn’t long before I felt completely overwhelmed. Sitting on the hospital bed watching someone else hold my daughter, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me that I couldn’t explain. I missed her, more than I had ever missed anyone, and she was only a few feet away from me. I resisted the urge to be rude and demand to have my baby back, but when everyone left, I felt a sense of relief to just be alone with my little family, something I didn’t exactly expect. When friends texted and asked if they could come by, I told them it would be better if they visited when we got home.
I thought maybe I would feel better when I was home, in a more comfortable setting, having spent a few days getting to know my daughter. But our first few days home were incredibly stressful: moments after we walked in the door, my daughter started “choking,” (she wasn’t actually choking, but I thought she was), and I panicked, called 911, and ended up back in the hospital. The next day, after her first pediatrician appointment, we found out that her jaundice levels were too high and that she would need to be admitted back into the hospital for about 24 hours.
Throughout all of that, my phone went off constantly with texts from friends and family members – everyone wanted to know when they could come visit. I loved and appreciated every single message of support, but I was very hormonal, very exhausted, and did not feel like myself at all. All of my excitement about showing her off was slowly fading. I didn’t know what to say.
“Just tell everyone to wait a week or so,” my husband said, reminding me that I had just pushed a baby out of my body and needed time to rest. But I felt a strange sense of obligation, and, at the same time, kind of wanted to see people, and so I started making dates with everyone for when they could visit.
The days that followed were a whirlwind. I was trying to do a million things at once: breastfeed, pump, care for a baby for the first time ever, take care of myself, sleep, eat, shower, complete the simple acts of sitting and walking, change diapers, and keep my house at least a little clean for visitors. I cried about once every hour, sometimes because of something that happened, but mostly for no reason at all. When anyone came over, I tried to politely sit and talk with them while also having to lock myself in my bedroom every hour or so to breastfeed and pump. My parents and mother-in-law were over almost all day every day, cooking, cleaning, and helping, and while it was very much needed, I felt like I had not had one spare second to myself in days.
Then, of course, there was the emotional problem I was still having: every once in a while, when someone else was holding my daughter, tears would well up in my eyes and I would feel the sudden urge to grab her and walk away. Seeing other people hold her, even the people I loved most, made me feel like a part of me was missing.
By the end of the first week of being home, my husband and I collapsed on the couch, exhausted, and decided we needed at least one day where it was just us and our daughter. No parents, no friends, no visitors. It was absolute bliss: everything was quiet, I could pump and nurse wherever I wanted, no one took her out of our arms, and it felt like heaven. But it was short-lived: the next day, we were back to regular visitors.
At a certain point, I wasn’t just feeling overwhelmed, I was also starting to feel worried. What if I was doing the wrong thing by having my daughter be so surrounded by other people in the first few days of her life? Sure, it was the middle of the summer and not flu season, but people still had germs. What if exposing her to others like this was going to make her sick? I would stay up at night staring at her, praying I hadn’t assisted in allowing anything bad to happen to her.
I started to kind of wish that my husband and I had tried cocooning, a recent parenting trend where parents hole up in their home with their newborn for a few weeks, just them, no visitors at all (not even grandparents). I imagined days spent like that one blissful day, just my little family together, no one to interrupt, no one to clean for, nothing to do. My first few weeks of life with my daughter were over, and I felt I had spent many of them with other people. As much as I genuinely appreciated the help from our families and loved seeing everyone, I also felt drained.
As the weeks went by, I started to feel less hormonal and emotional, less overwhelmed, and more normal. Visits were exciting for me because they gave me a chance to socialize and see other adults. I stopped feeling the overwhelming urge to scream and cry when someone else held my daughter, which was wonderful.
But months later, looking back on that time in my life, I do still wish that I had held back with the visitors a bit. I now understand why a few of my mom friends texted me to say things like, “I’ll let you get adjusted before coming by.” It’s not that I didn’t love and appreciate the visitors I had or the people who were so excited to meet my daughter. I love that they wanted to come over right away! I love that our parents were so incredibly helpful and realistically know we could not have gotten through those first few days without their help.
It’s just that those first few weeks are such a precious time, especially as a brand new parent. You’re entering a new phase of your life, and for a mother, it’s one of the most emotional experiences you’ll go through. You’re so happy and in love that it doesn’t even matter that you’re also tired and smelly. I’m no longer so sold on the idea of cocooning (it seems a bit extreme), but I do wish my husband and I had given ourselves more time with the baby on our own in those first few days and weeks – maybe we would have felt less overwhelmed.
And the funny thing? Now that we’re a few months in, I’m practically begging for visitors. Oh, and if our parents would like to continue to clean and make us dinner – that would be great too. In all seriousness, though, it’s something I will remember the next time a friend or family member has a baby: I’m going to back off for the first few weeks, and visit when they’re ready for me.
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