Monday, August 22, 2011

A Letter to Grandma-To-Be: All the Things You Want to Say But Can't

A few years ago, I took dinner to a dear friend who had just had her 4th baby.  It was the day she had gotten home from the hospital -- in fact, she had only been home a couple of hours -- and what did I find?  The Grandma sitting on the couch holding the new baby and the mom up, rushing around, helping the other kids get their dinner dished up.  When I left, she walked me to my car, and we had a heart to heart.  She didn't want her mother-in-law to be the one to hold the baby, but she felt so awkward about asking her to trade places.

As so it is with many new moms.  As a childbirth educator, I see so many pregnant women worried about their mother or mother-in-law coming to help after the baby is born.  Since it is so hard for many of these women to say what's in their heart, allow me:

Dear Mom-

I am so excited you will be spending some precious time with us after our baby arrives.  We are committed to letting the baby come on his/her own time, so we hope that waiting time is enjoyable for us all.  Let's make the most of these last few days together before our world is turned upside-down!

We have prepared for the birth by taking classes and we have talked a lot about our hopes for after our baby is here.  Breastfeeding is so important to us both.  In order to establish a good milk supply, I plan on holding my baby and feeding her a lot!  I am so excited for this experience.  I know that you will also want to get in some good bonding time with your new grandbaby, and there will be plenty of times that I'll need your help with that, including when I shower or nap. 

We have discussed what we hope to be able to do ourselves, but also made a list of things that we would happily accept your help with.  Among that list is cooking, shopping, dishes, and general pick-up.  Everyone has told me to "sleep when the baby sleeps", but I know that will be hard for me to look around and see the mess.  I would be so grateful for your help in those early days of helping to keep things straightened around the house so I can enjoy and get to know my new baby.  

Everyone tells me how much the baby will change in the first month and I don't want to miss a thing!  Thank you so much for coming to help us and for respecting our wishes as we embark on this new journey called parenthood.  I love you.

If you have not made a list of how people can help you after the baby is born, do so.  Have a talk between you and your husband too.  Decide who will do what in the first couple of weeks postpartum.  You may not be comfortable with other people doing certain things for you.  For example, I don't want anyone doing my family's laundry.  Weird?  Maybe.  But cook for me, shop for me, do my dishes, mow my lawn -- I can make a list!

Their job in coming to help you when you have a baby is not to actually help with the baby -- it's to help you with housework so you can bond with your baby and recover adequately.  Your emotions will be in overdrive and being able to just focus on the baby will help you transition from pregnancy to being this baby's mother.  Let your mother help you do that, but give her a road map.

You want to cry when she leaves because she was that helpful around your house -- not because your relationship is damaged due to her lack of help at your time of need.  Communication is the key.  I hope this letter is a starting point if this is a difficult topic for you or your husband to approach with your family.  Enjoy your Babymoon!


Mama E said...

Love this post and I may use your letter word for word!

We sent out an email asking for overnight visitors to wait until we were home a week before planning a visit and I got SO MUCH grief from my MIL. Just thinking about it still pisses me off! She wants to come for our next one... I am just so hesitant. This helped put things in to perspective!

Life After Piggie Smalls said...

This reminds me of when my MIL came over in the first few days after the baby was born and immediately took him away from me. When he was crying, she told me he was hungry and I should give him formula because my milk hadn't come in yet. UGGGH! I wanted to say "Well give me back my baby so he can bring my milk in!!!". It can be a very frustrating time...a letter like this is a good idea.

Ginger said...

I can't even imagine my mom or MIL coming and staying - no thank you!

RaisinCookies said...

That's the kind of grandma I want to be, but I pretty much hate having people staying in my house when I'm bleeding, sore, tired and trying to establish breastfeeding. I'd rather they visited after a month or two, to be honest.

mleawicks said...

I wouldn't take any advice from my mil. she abused her kids. my husband more then other kid. We both agree very limited visits and never left alone with our kid ever. MY mom was great and would have never overstepped her bonds in my way of raising kid. but she has gone home to the Lord.

Brittney said...

I was very very blessed with an amazing and intuitive mother. I never had to ask her to do anything and the only times she even brought up holding the babies was when she was telling me she would do it so I could shower/pee/eat.... She never offered during naps because she encouraged me to nap WITH them. The house was always picked up and the older kids always taken care of, by her, not me. She fed me, kept the house running smoothly and encouraged me to sit and enjoy baby. My MIL on the other hand... Not so much. She came to visit after my first was born, and wouldn't put him down.... I think MY mom actually had a talk with her about it. My MIL hasnt come after the births of my last 2 children, and I suspect it's because my mom put her in her place, lol! I've encouraged my mom to share how she helped me with all of her friends who become new grandmas because she was such a blessing! I bawled when she left, each time, because she really did make a difference.l

Unknown said...

I've been referring childbirth ed students and doula clients to this letter for inspiration in writing their own. Thanks. (I also suggest they keep a "to do" list on their refrigerators, so guests say things like "let me know if you need anything" they can refer them to the list.)