Many women spend a lot of time writing birth plans, but I find a common forgotten element of birth prep is ensuring that family communication is prepped. I chose to prep my family with an email that told them the plan, what to expect, and what I expected of them. Let me walk you through the basics.
Name your Jane: who is your communicator?
The communicator role breaks down into two parts: who will be transmitting information from your birthing site and who will be relaying that message to the family members of your choice. My plan was to have my best friend, Amy, use my phone to text my sister-in-law updates, who would then relay the information to the family members of my choice. That covered my side of the family, and Joel figured he’d just call his parents since he has no siblings, and they in turn would pass along the news to any aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. On the
day night in question, this all broke down because it was the wee hours of the morning and everything happened in a flash. But it was good to have it in place once we got back to our room and I could communicate “yes, we’re open to visitors!” to one person and have everyone else passed the message.
Don’t go all Lady Catherine: tell visitors what to expect.
I didn’t mind visits. For some women, this part of the email will be expressing their desire to be left alone until they feel like their lady parts are in one piece again. For some it will be detailed hand-washing instructions. For others it will be a free reign to see the baby, but an understanding that mom will probably be too tuckered out to entertain. Consider the following:
- Do you want visitors? Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re not sure if you’ll want visitors, inform your family with your best judgement. If your family is intrusive and pushy, tell them no visitors and change your locks. If your family is laid back, let them know you’re flying by the seat of your pants and they’ll be informed when you’re ready to receive.
- What do you expect of your visitors? Are they to wash their hands in your presence? sanitize? Do you expect visitors at your home to bring a prepared meal or do one of your household chores while they’re visiting? I highly recommend chores, especially if you’re on weight restrictions due to any stitches. Anyone can bring a bucket of chicken, but a fresh load of laundry is a breath of fresh air, especially when you’re on your last spit-up-free shirt.
- What should your visitors expect from you? I gave my family a heads up that I would be recovering and I wasn’t sure what that would entail. I might have mood swings, be lethargic, asleep, unwilling to see visitors at all, etc. I also let them know I’d be breastfeeding and had no interest in using a cover. I didn’t want to set an expectation that I’d be modestly breastfeeding quietly when I was just learning and it could have been a nightmare. Luckily Sisu was a natural and my family never once blinked when I disrobed. This is also a good spot in the email to include information regarding housing arrangements for long distance relatives or hospitality expectations (such as asking your house guests to do chores or prepare meals as room & board).
- How much notice do you expect from your visitors? My personal requirement was two days, and I turned down a number of visits that didn’t meet that requirement. I also broke it a few times it wasn’t terribly inconvenient. All of our visitors were relatively local and didn’t require long term preparation. If you have long distance guests coming into town, they should give advanced warning so you’re not caught off guard and they’re not wasting their time and money. I’d also recommend not leasing out your own guest room. You have no idea how you’ll feel postpartum and there are huge changes after birth. Even if this is your second or third, remember that all pregnancies are different.
- Do you need to make specific requests? Do your relatives smoke, wear easily grabbed jewelry, laugh or talk loudly,or have children of their own? Does your family need to request certain foods aren’t brought into the house to avoid allergies? Do you have any family members who choose not to vaccinate themselves? Think over each individual family member who may want to visit. Babies cause relatives to come out of the woodwork, so don’t exclude a generalized request in the email. It could lead to a direct confrontation later and, frankly, you probably won’t have the energy to be tactful.
Prep your wardrobe.
This will vary by person. I personally preferred a nursing nightgown which easily doubled as a day dress. I didn’t like waistlines for months. Some women prefer clothing that hugs but isn’t too tight so that there isn’t a constant “brushing” across sensitive areas. Have either available. Also, be sure to have nursing bras, even if they’re the wrong size a few months later. Soma has totally awesome nursing bras. I swapped out two for about six months in the tail end of my nursing and wish I’d had them all along. Unlined bras are GREAT for nursing because they expand as your milk comes and goes.
Have sanitizer ready. Bath and Body Works sanitizer is my personal recommendation. Even if you don’t need it for yourself, can you guarantee that your relatives always wash their hands post bathroom trip? I can’t.
Silence phones completely. Silent ringers and silent camera. My mom had her camera shutter sound set to full volume and the flash on (in dim daylight). It only happens once.
Silence, remove, or put a sign over your doorbell/knocker. Guests can knock lightly or text you when they arrive at your home.
Let nurses and dad run interference.
At the hospital you, your spouse, and your kiddo will all be pooped. Inform the nurses if you have any preferences for visitors, ask if they can help out in any way. They’re used to helping new moms get some peace and quiet.
Expect to fall asleep breastfeeding. The rush of oxytocin caused by breastfeeding often causes new moms to fall asleep immediately. Plan your visits and your pillow supports accordingly. And if you have a particularly squirmy baby, have a spotter nearby.
Tread wisely. If anyone is going to ruffle feathers by telling you what to do constantly or how easily their pregnancy/first child was (or how difficult), leave them out of open visit invitations.
Be wary of Mr. Collins.
We’ve all got that one friend who invites themselves to everything whether they’re welcome or not. Ensure that you are prepared with a response for people whose visits are more trouble than they’re worth. Something like, “I’m only receiving family at this time.” or, “I’m not feeling up to a visit today. I’ll contact you when I’m ready for a visit.” Sometimes these folks need you to be blunt and firm. Be prepared to keep a strong arm, or have your spouse back you up if you’re too fatigued to turn away visitors. Certainly exclude these kinds of people from a general invitation email. No new mom wants to be stuck with Fordyce’s sermons for any length of time.
Speak Plainly. When you write the email, proof read it a few times to be sure that your wishes and requirements are clear. Ask your spouse to read over it and ensure that there is nothing passive aggressive or confusing. The point of the email is communication. You will still be asked questions, but make an effort to be sure your text is as clear and direct as possible.
I hope these tips helped you out! Do you have any communication tales around you birth that made your experience better? Or worse? Let me know in the comments! ^.^