I know it's too early to be thinking about stuff like this (at least that's what everyone tells me) but I can't help it! I'm hoping you fine ladies can give me some advice :) (it's lengthy, sorry!)
Here's some background info about me and my husband's families:
- We have been married for nearly 4 years and have a 2 year old son. We moved from Cleveland, OH to Portland, OR when our son was 18 months old (nearly a year ago). All of our families live far away- mostly in Ohio but also a sister in Chicago and my parents are traveling (mom is a traveling nurse) so she can sort of be wherever.
- Our relationship with my husband's family is rocky- always has been. We do not get along at all- it's a weird situation though because they try hard to be on their "best behavior" (they are total brown-nosers) but are kind of two-faced and have hurt us too much in the past for us to trust them. We also don't agree on many issues (they are very conservative, we are not, for example), hence we just try to keep our distance. Hubbs is firstborn, first out of house, first married and they cannot let go.
- As a relevant example, when our son was born we were having a hard time with breastfeeding and the day we got home from the hospital they were hounding us about coming over so that we could celebrate my FIL's birthday (which was also that day). We allowed it, but FIL was grumpy because everything wasn't about him- we obviously had a newborn to attend to and care for, and we were exhausted and had just arrived home (we had to beg for just one hour to ourselves once we arrived home, which they reluctantly gave into). So selfish- so frustrating.
- In-laws live in Cleveland and both of my husband's siblings live at home with them (and take the parents' side because that's the side of things that they hear). Sibs are ages 24 and 18.
- My family is spread out geographically (chicago, cincinnati, NW ohio, and my mom can be anywhere) and we don't have a good relationship with them, either. Very different, very different parenting styles, we don't agree on many issues. We have a relatively poor relationship with them but it's not as dramatic as with the in-laws.
- My mom wants to be here on the west coast (chances are not great that she will be in Portland, exactly, but somewhere nearby, perhaps WA or northern CA) for the end of my pregnancy/birth of the baby. She would be here for approximately 6 weeks after the baby is born, based on the EDD.
- neither set of parents is particularly "helpful" when it comes to having a new baby OR watching our toddler. Additionally, we have never let either set of parents babysit for our son because we do not trust their judgement (we are also vegetarians and don't trust them not to feed him meat. They don't agree with our diet.) There are a slew of other issues- my stepdad is a chain-smoker, in-laws are crazy evangelicals, etc- that keep us from wanting them to supervise our kids. Also, they are all more likely to monopolize the baby while I do dishes, laundry, etc. than to offer to help around the house while we spend time with the baby.
So, when it comes to visiting post-baby we have some issues to think about. Namely:
1. I don't want my mom to be here all the time (if she ends up being nearby for work). She is the type to drop in unannounced. I am also nervous to discuss this with her, especially until she has a firm placement that I know would have her very nearby.
2. Hubbs is off work for two whole weeks and then goes back half-time for a while so he can be here with us. We don't NEED the help, though I know a few extra hands won't hurt. To that end, we have wonderful neighbors that we consider family that we trust to watch our son if we need some time to nap or just decompress.
3. We do not- do NOT- want any out-of-town visitors for at least the first two weeks. Husband is on vacation, we want time to bond as a fam and establish breastfeeding, and I want time to heal a bit from childbirth before we are hosting guests 24/7. When do we let them know this?
4. We will not be induced (having a birth center birth with midwife) so it's possible that baby will show up +/- 3 weeks from due date. Because of that, we don't want people scheduling flights based on our EDD (which we have kept a secret and opt for a "mid-november" due date). We think telling them they can schedule a flight once we are in labor/baby is born is the best option. Thoughts? (they will be so mad)
5. Hubb's siblings are in college and have finals mid-December. This might cause issues with them visiting since early-to-mid-Dec is when we are thinking would be an optimal time (we don't want to host people for holidays, either. Our tiny 2-bedroom is wayyyyy too small for that) but they will still be in classes/finals. After that is Xmas and New Years. Then they go back to class. We'd like to avoid having the parents and the sibs come at a separate time (unless it's very spread out. We don't want to be hosting visitors nonstop, if you can't tell :)) so how do we navigate this?
So, if you were a laidback parent who wanted to relax and enjoy your newborn without a ton of stress from out-of-town parents you don't get along with, what would you do???? :-)
I don't have a long time for a reply right now, but I also happen to live in the Portland area. I host an AP mommies lunch at my house every Tuesday. It's lunch, chatting and lots of kids! We're a great group and can offer lots of support (plus we're the same amount pregnant so it will be fun). PM me if you'd like to come and I'll send you the info. :)
I know what you mean about balancing family, birth, and the newborn period. It sounds like you have a firm grasp on the pros and cons of your families and since you have been through this before it sounds like you also have a solid idea of what you want and do not want. I will say, though, that with my second, what I thought I wanted during the second trimester changed quite a bit when I was half way through the third tri. I started to get really in tune with my emotions and my birth desires. So I want to throw that out there as a possibility that your thoughts could potentially change over the next few months.
Because of my experience last time, I too, feel as though I know exactly what I want and do not want, but also b/c I know I changed my mind toward the end last time, I have firmly told both our sets of parents that I refuse to make any decisions until later. Both our families live in WA state and we will be living in Illinois- so far away as well. I do not want hurt feelings or messed up plane tickets. I am flat out refusing to agree to any visitations around the time of the birth. I understand that if I do change my mind and want people there, it may not be able to happen b/c of plane tickets around the holidays, but I'm willing to take that risk. It's better than what I went through last time- extreme family drama detracting severely from parts of my birth experience, which is something I can never get back. Both families have been very amenable to my answer and are not pushing or continuing to ask.
So, my advice to you is to hold your ground. Just be firm and tell them straight up what your desires are and if you're not sure what they are, just say you aren't making any decisions right now. I think that simple and direct is best. It's when there is ambiguity and maybes on the table that miscommunications happen and miscommunication is the infection that festers and spreads and causes all the problems and resentment that this type of situation is prone to.
Good luck with your decisions!
Mama to Avalon 1/07 , Austin 1/10 in between and Avery 12/11
Oh, and as a frequent mover to new states, away from my support network, I highly recommend joining up with like-minded parenting groups to get that support. Sounds like Abra has a group going near you and I'm sure there are other Yahoo Groups, LLL groups, and there is a local API chapter in Portland (http://www.attachmentparenting.org/groups/webor.php).
Mama to Avalon 1/07 , Austin 1/10 in between and Avery 12/11
Great advice, Jaimee! We haven't broached the subject with them yet, and they have not brought it up. We're nervous about the conversations but we also feel pretty certain (as of now, like you mentioned). We'll see if anything changes. I hope they understand our position! If you don't mind sharing your decisions (from last time- what didn't work, and this time- are you just going to tell them when you're ready post-birth?) I'd love to hear what other people do in these situations.
Oh goodness... where to even begin? Warning: I think this will end up being a cathartic vent....
I had invited my sister (who was a doula at the time) to be present for my first birth. Well, she didn't believe I would have the baby the same day I started having my first contractions. Though she tried really hard to get there by rescheduling flights and rental cars, she ended up missing the birth by a few hours. I was fine with that and she stuck around for a few days to help out with the baby. I ended up asking her to leave a bit early so that dh and I could have some alone time with dd and adjust to being new parents before he had to go back to work fulltime. As we got used to being parents I learned just how nice it is to have help around and when I got pregnant with #2, I didn't want to refuse help that was being offered.
So, I once again invited my sister to be my birth assistant (at this point she had become a CPM and a birth assistant was required by my hb mw) and I invited my mom to be childcare for dd during the birth. I thought it would be nice to have these two women present and helping at a time I knew I would want/need extra help, especially with dd who is quite spirited. Having just moved to a new state I didn't know anyone that we or dd trusted enough yet to rely on for care in the middle of the night. So there was that additional issue, too, which lead to my decision. As I mentioned above, I made this decision right after we moved here and I was only about 18 weeks. Shortly thereafter, I found out that not only was my dad coming, but so was my BIL. It was around Christmas/New Years and everyone wanted to be together. They had made arrangements to stay with my uncle who lives 2 hours away. I wasn't sure how I felt about this b/c I knew there was potential for complications with all these people around. But I tried to remain flexible- they were coming out to help me after all. I just made it clear that I did not want my dad or BIL in my house for the birth. No one seemed to mind this.
Well, around 32 weeks I started really focusing on the birth and honing my desires for the experience. There were some issues with dd's birth that I didn't like and wanted to avoid this time around. At the same time, my mw started having some emotional issues and wasn't being very responsive to me or dh during our appointments and she was refusing some of my birth requests, wanting to stick with her protocols (she was a CNM). Eventually after much back and forth, we ended up letting our mw go and opting for a UC. I had to tell my mom and sister since they were planning on being here. My sister completely flipped out. She could not understand why anyone would want to birth unassisted. She was terrified that I would die and the baby would die. I told her that we were prepared for complications and would go to the hospital just around the corner if anything seemed off. I was confident in my body. Even though my sister is a midwife, she has not yet given birth herself and I think this fact caused her to have a very hard time wrapping her mind around the idea of UC. She said that she would not come if we went through with it and hoped that we would chose a different midwife instead. Next she told my mom before I had the chance to. My mom freaked out and the two of them went drug intervention style on me. I was on the phone every night hearing about how selfish I was being, how my mom was having nightmares about the death of her daughter and her grandson. My mom picked up a copy of Laura Shanley's book, which even I think is a bit out there, and freaked out even more. She also refused to come if we went through with this. My sister started calling mw's behind my back asking if any of them would take me. Basically I was facing a family apocalypse and I sensed that my decision was going to damage my relationship with my sister and mom forever. I was 37 weeks at the time.
Dh and I agreed to interview one other mw that had a reputation for being very experienced and relaxed about protocol. As it turned out, we loved her and agreed to hire her at 38 weeks. She was happy to remain in the next room while dh and I labored and birthed by ourselves. So my family was ecstatic and agreed to come again. But a severe amount of damage had been done. I had a lot of resentment and I was having a very hard time appreciating their presence. The baby decided to wait until the last minute to come- the day before my sister was scheduled to fly back. She had needed a place to stay closer to the airport that night with her husband, so they were staying in my basement when I went into labor in the middle of the night. I couldn't exactly kick my BIL out of the house and because of this, I was thinking between contractions about how he was hearing my moaning and screaming. My sister felt trapped in the basement with him b/c she knew that I didn't want any help. My mom apparently felt trapped upstairs with the monitor listening to hear if dd woke up. The two of them were texting each other about how awful they felt b/c they couldn't help me. I didn't need or want help. When my son was born, dh went and alerted them. My mom came down, but my sister didn't come up for half an hour. When she finally did she was scowling. She didn't smile, she didn't really help. The next day my mom had to take them to the airport. She was still scowling. My BIL said, "cute kid" and left. Dh and I were home alone with a mess. Dh needed to pick my mom up from the light rail later on. We missed my mom's call b/c, well, we were dealing with a newborn and a 3 year old and a mess of a house. My mom freaked out b/c she was cold (it was 19 degrees outside) and her cell phone battery was dying. When she finally got a hold of me she was screaming at me on the phone. I finally yelled back that I had just had a baby and she needed to stop screaming at me. I hung up and told dh to go pick her up. I felt bad that he was going to have to deal with her wrath. When they got home my mom apologized for screaming and told me that she was so angry she was going up to her room. She stayed there for the entire rest of the day, leaving us to clean up the house and deal with out two kids alone. I was lugging bloody sheets down to the basement to soak and dh was emptying the birth pool. We were doing dishes, cleaning up trash, and cooking for ourselves- just hours postpartum. My mom slept most of the day. As if WE couldn't have used a nap!!! When she finally came down she said that she had some things to say and then she was going to put it all behind her. What she had to say was that I was being selfish- that I was demanding just how I wanted help instead of accepting help how it came. I didn't know what to say to her. I think that every birthing and new mother has the right to ask for exactly the type of help she wants/needs and shouldn't have to deal with other people's notions of what she needs. Wanting desperately for it all to be over, I just let her talk and "put it behind her." She ended up leaving a few days later instead of staying longer. I didn't mind at all.
So basically, if you've made it this far in my post you can see how everything pretty much backfired on me and we would've been much better off with no "help" at all. This time I am not inviting anyone around the time of the birth and they can all visit afterward. Even though we are once again moving to a new state where I will know no one and may not have anyone we trust to watch our two kids, as of now, I do not want to risk the drama happening again. We will hire a doula to watch the kids if we have to.
Mama to Avalon 1/07 , Austin 1/10 in between and Avery 12/11
Wow! It always surprises me how people can ignore that the mother/father are the ones welcoming a new life and having their world turned upside down. Instead, they want it their way! Just like your mother said- basically that you should take the help or leave it. Well, if it's isn't "helpful" from my perspective, is it really help? You know? My FIL was just like your sister- scowling and pouty. Pretty obnoxious behavior for an adult, if you ask me. I understand that the grandparents have their desires for how things should be with their kids/grandkids, especially surrounding such a beautiful event, but at the end of the day it's MY new family and MY life and MY baby and MY body. I get the impression from both my mother and MIL that they don't recall how difficult birthing is, how hard the recovery period can be, how stressful it is to have to take care of a new life with little to no sleep. (i hope that doesn't sound like I don't like mothering, I do, but it is certainly very trying, especially in those first weeks.) I'm sure there are mothers who deal with it better than me, but I certainly have a transition period where I need to learn how to balance caring for myself, my baby, and my husband. Its a tough job :) All I'm asking is for people to ask what we need instead of imposing their ideas, and to understand (maybe even sympathize) when what we want is different from what they expected.
Thanks for sharing, Jaimee :)
I don't really get people wanting to HELP, as much as just visit. Which is annoying. We are considering waiting 3 or so days until after the baby's birth to let people know he/she is here. JUST so we have that time to ourselves. My doula and the friend I'm having encapsulated the placenta are the only ones we'd tell. And I trust them to keep quiet.
I am fortunate to have a good relationship with both my parents and MIL. both live 3+ hours away. It was helpful for me to have my mom and dad around for a few days after birth, because my mom actually Did stuff - cooking, dishes, laundry, played with older kid. MIL, not so much, because she brought along her lump on a log husband (love him, but man, all he wants to do is sit around and watch TV or talk theology), and the 4 kids of theirs still living at home. She's wonderful, but not helpful. Mostly we were hosting/entertaining them.
After having learned from my first birth about how people around me impacted my laboring and postpartum experience, we decided not to tell anyone about the birth until after it happened, which assured us of some family time before guests arrived.
It sounds like at this point, you have a pretty clear understanding of your preferences. I'd be as up-front as possible - tell them you don't want visitors the first two weeks. Tell them you don't want back to back visitors. I think as for timing - I'd wait until they bring up coming out to visit. Even if they bring it up by saying, 'So I booked a flight in the middle of november to come and visit' you say, oh, I hope that you can get a refund or transfer the date on those tickets.' Whenever they talk about staying, recommend a nice local hotel. I suspect that this won't go over well at all with your families no matter how nicely you put it.
If it isn't going well, them tell them to schedule a flight about 4 weeks after you due date (as in, tell them a specific date, not that it's x number of days after due date) so that it would line up with your early-mid dec preferences. It's possible that your husbands sibs will be done with finals at mid december, before christmas, so that still might line up okay for you.
Really, I don't know that I have any useful suggestions, except to stand your ground, and be very clear - You don't have to open your door to let people in the apartment.
Carrie, wife to J, sahm to E, N, and A, followed by a bunch of crunchy labels and acronyms