His parents basically told us that they are going to come up for Thanksgiving anyway, because it is convenient for them and it’d be too difficult to come any other time (they are taking a month-long international vacation over Christmas). Essentially, it’s a “we don’t care what you want or need, we are doing what we want anyway” kind of situation. Both my husband and I are furious at this reaction, and my anxiety levels are through the roof. His dad has a tendency to lean in VERY CLOSE when he is talking to you (think inches away from your face), and his mom is the type of person to snatch things out of your hands if she wants them… I can guarantee that this will include my newborn child. We live in a very small apartment, and, if we tell them, “Okay, stop by for 30 minutes, but when its time to nurse/put the baby down we need you to leave,” they absolutely will not respect that request.
I don’t know how to handle this. I’m concerned about starting a huge family feud, but I also feel absolutely terrible for the position my husband is in. They are his parents, he understandably wants them to meet his child, and he doesn’t want to have a huge confrontation over their complete lack of disregard for our wishes. But I have incredible anxiety at the thought of his parents descending on our hospital room uninvited, refusing to give me privacy while breastfeeding, or snatching my baby out of my arms. Any advice on how to handle this?? I feel like I’m walking a fine line between protecting my own mental health, taking care of my new little family and standing up for our needs, and not making things even harder for my husband than they already are. – Anxious New Mom-to-Be
First of all, congratulations on your baby-to-be. This is the start of a wonderfully exciting and bone-tiring life-long adventure that will be filled with an abundance of love, joy, and, yes, lots of anxiety and tension. Get used to it. I guarantee this won’t be the last time you feel your boundaries are being tested and your privacy being encroached upon. Having a baby and being a parent strips your autonomy and disrupts any sense of control you might have felt (and needed) before. What’s that old saying? “You plan, and God laughs”? Well, there is a lot of laughing when one becomes a parent.
Here’s maybe one of the biggest laughs of all to your plans: that due date you’ve been counting down to? It’s pretty meaningless. You could have your baby two weeks past then or two weeks before. And, hell, people have preemie babies all the time. I mean, talk about really disrupting your plans! My point is, your in-laws could come at Thanksgiving, and there might not even be a baby yet for them to snatch from your arms. Or, you may have already had that week you want after the birth. There’s really no telling, and since your in-laws say Thanksgiving is when they can come and that’s what they’re going to do no matter how much you don’t want them to, what’s the point in fighting them? Especially if it may cause a huge family feud at a time when you want anything BUT added stress? You’d be fighting them for a week of time that, at this point, is arbitrary. I say let it go and hope that timing is on your side.
Hope that timing is on your side and come up with some back-up plans in case it isn’t. (You’ll be making a LOT of back-up plans, and a lot of last-minute plans, over the next 18+ years.). You can’t control when your in-laws come to your town, but you can control when you let them in your house (and certainly when they come to your hospital room, which is as simple as telling the nurses not to allow any guests). If you aren’t ready for them to come over yet, tell them you have doctor’s orders to keep your baby “quarantined” for a few days to protect her from germs. Tell them you were only allowed to leave the hospital if you promised to avoid the public, including extended family, for a week. Or, if you think they won’t buy that, tell them they can’t come to your house because it’s much too messy but you’ll bring the baby to their hotel. And then bring the baby to their hotel for 45 minutes (you’ll be bringing the baby out in that first week to go to the pediatrician’s office, fyi, so you already won’t be 100% house-bound). That way, you can leave when you’re ready.
If you simply cannot avoid having your in-laws at your house for longer than 45 minutes, take your baby to your room and lock the door and only come out between feedings to let your in-laws see their new grandchild. You’ll be nursing around-the-clock in those early weeks (I’m assuming you’ll be nursing since you mention breastfeeding, but even that is something you don’t have total control over…) and, truthfully, there won’t be a lot of time for anyone else to hold the baby anyway. You can bring the baby out for 30 minutes to be held and then take her back to your room, lock the door, and enjoy your privacy.
Finally, we’re talking about a few days here, right? A few days that may or may not fall in your first week of parenthood. And you’re so wound up about protecting your space which, again, may not yet even include a baby, that you’re concerned about starting a huge family feud over it? Look, I know how crazy the pregnancy hormones can make you feel, and I know how overwhelming the thoughts of first-time parenthood are. I know those early days as a new mother are so precious and it’s natural to want to protect that time and keep it as free from intrusion as you can. But I also know what the reality of all of this is. I know what the other side looks like and feels like. And I know that parenthood is nothing if not a very long exercise in sacrifice. You sacrifice your time, your energy, your own wants, and often your own needs. Most of all, you sacrifice your plans and fantasies of life with a baby or young child for the stark realities of that life — including a stunning lack of sleep (and privacy!) — and you do that over and over and over. And as you do that, you continue re-adjusting your boundaries and learning what your true deal-breakers are. You continue re-calculating and fine-tuning your needs, re-charging your batteries in the tiny pockets of time you find to breathe deeply, even if that means shutting and locking your door to the outside world for five minutes.
In short: In the coming years, you will be faced with many, many potential battles over what you want. I suggest you pick the ones that are really important to you and let the others go. It’s hard to know now what could be more important than the first week at home with your new baby, but, if you can manage to avoid a “huge family feud,” you will have more leverage in the future when the stakes might be higher and you won’t have doctor’s orders as an excuse or the explanation of breast-feeding to lock yourself in your bedroom and shut yourself off from the rest of the world for an hour at a time.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].