I definitely think it's unusual/uncommon in our society (I'm in the US, I suppose other cultures may differ). The ritual seems to be the phone tree, everyone floods into the hospital, then you get home and everyone floods into your house. I don't think I want that either, but people just assume that is what will happen. I guess also, for me, I have a small number of people whom I am very close to, and it wouldn't bother me for several of them to visit early on- but I think I will want at least a day or two to recover from the birth and get used to being with my baby, and I think in the first few weeks I will just want those in my close circle to be around for brief visits and assistance.
Plus, I have a postpartum doula hired as well, I think that is a great idea, and my mom can take off work to help as much as needed, but really, I have a few weeks of vegan meals in the freezer and I have my baby supplies all set.. what am I really going to need? I mean, if I need more groceries or cat food or something of course my mom or doula can bring them, and the doula can provide nursing support, but I just can't see the need to have someone around for more than brief time periods, since it seems I would want to be sleeping or nursing or otherwise caring for me and baby and another person might just be a hindrance at best, and pointless at worst (I mean, who wants to sit on the couch while I am in bed with baby, sleeping or nursing? lol.. And I sure don't want them in the bed staring at me while I try to figure everything out!)
I guess I know myself, and while I love people, I can spend hours or days alone, reading, cleaning, journaling, sleeping, hanging with my cats, and not be bothered or lonely, I enjoy it! So I figure with a baby to care for and bond with, I'll be even more likely to want to fully engage in that and not likely to want other people there? It does seem a very intimate time, and seems that for some people including myself it would feel natural to use that time for intimate bonding with the new family member. I am not ruling out having people around at all, and could see how some might really want someone around even more frequently- I can't say for sure what I will need or if that will be the case, and if it is, I am open to it. Again my mom can be around as much or as little as I find I need, as can my postpartum doula. But I just don't see myself wanting many people over for awhile.
The thing is, it seems the people who are most pushy about coming around early are those who I don't really have a close bond or a lot of contact with.. Several acquaintances whom I rarely see, as well as my aunt and teenage cousin, who I see at major holidays only, have insinuated that they want to be called right away and come see the baby. Others who are closer to me, and probably know my personality and that I like my space, have been wonderfully loving and supportive, but not in a pushy way- offering any help I need, and making it clear that they would love to visit- when I am ready for visitors.
I guess it is a bit different too because I am a single mom and don't have a partner or in-laws to factor in. The people who I would probably contact on the day of the birth are my mom and dad and my grandma, and my grandma will be gone on vacation so the likely visitors will be just my mom and dad, either the day of or the day after the birth probably? I think also some people think because I am single I am going to be overwhelmed or need a lot of help, but I don't know.. i can certainly ask for help when it is needed but I am not thinking I will automatically be overwhelmed, or that having a lot of people around would make me less so- I feel that even if it is rough and I am stressed at times, which may be the case, it would only add stress to have additional people around. I am sure not everyone feels that way, but that is often my experience.
I will probably also tell my close friend within the first few days, a friend who just had her baby this past week, and whom I have gone through this whole pregnancy and birth preparation with, and have her stop by at some point. But reflecting on her birth, she had her baby in the morning, sent me a text in the evening, and invited me to visit the following day. I could tell she genuinely wanted me there (I would never have contacted her or asked to visit her) and it was wonderful to talk through her birth story and meet her little one. I think I would want the same from her with my babe, that one person to share my birth experience with, since we have shared this journey, and since I don't feel comfortable with discussing those issues with my parents (as supportive as they are, we just are not on the same page about birth). But it was hard for me to see how things played out with my friend, in that her partner was on his phone texting pictures and memos to everyone, they had his boss and coworkers and some mutual acquaintances stopping in and out all day, and family too. It wasn't that this is necessarily a bad thing, but she seemed a bit overwhelmed by it. She actually told me her one piece of advice is NOT to contact family or friends when you are in labor, to wait until the baby is born and you have some time to bond and rest before contacting anyone, because her partner had contacted her mom and others and she wound up with a huge flock of people awaiting the birth and wanting to visit immediately afterward. She also mentioned feeling smothered by her mom's presence and expectations, when she just wanted some space to be with her new baby. But she didn't know how to tell her that, because it can be so hard when family has those expectations and you know they would be hurt if your needs differed from their expectations.
That all said, I think it is important to be sensitive to close extended family and their role in the baby's life, but I don't think that has to come at the cost of mama and baby's needs and preferences- your new/immediate family unit has to come first. I actually kind of like the idea of having the grandparents stop by the hospital, because there is much less pressure to "host" and it makes it easy for a quick meet-the-baby and show support without staying for hours. I think if I meet that need and get an initial visit "out of the way" (that sounds bad, but you know what I mean) then there will not be this building pressure or sense of being left out on their part- now if I really felt that would be detrimental, I would not do it just to spare their feelings or meet their expectations, but I do want their support and for them to meet the baby, it doesn't bother me, at least I don't think it will.
Beyond that though, I can't imagine I would want casual friends stopping in in the hospital setting just after birthing.. then when I get home, I want to be able to be naked, maybe a robe and obviously panties and pads lol, and have the baby in a diaper but no cover, and do a lot of skin to skin contact and learning how to breastfeed, learning my baby's sleep habits and resting together, and learning his/her elimination habits for EC, etc. It is just not feasible to do this fully with people coming and going. I also feel very protective of my babe already and have no desire to "pass the baby," so limiting casual visitors early on avoids that issue, as many people feel entitled to that and I don't want to get in that awkward situation of being the one to not let someone hold the baby, yk?
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world"
DS Feb 2009