Monday, January 30, 2017

Postpartum Notes on the Door -- Helpful or Rude?

I've had this in my draft folder for a long time, debating as to whether I should share my view on this or not. In case you are unsure what the title is refering to, let me explain.

In the last few years it's become popular (especially with out-of-hospital birthers and care providers) to put a note on the door of the new parents saying, in a nutshell, if you want to hold the baby or stop by to bring a gift, you should be prepared to help out in some way. Examples include:
* dishes
* laundry
* mop or sweep the floor
* tend to other children
* take care of the baby so mom can nap or shower
* take out the garbage
* clean a bathroom

Now, I get that the family is adjusting and some things might get neglected for a time during this adjustment. I've been there. Mom is tired, especially if there are other children to care for. 

I'm sure midwives or doulas think they are being helpful by taping this to the door, demanding that friends and family help these new parents. But is it possible that it has the opposite effect? 

I was talking with a friend about this recently and she told me a story about her taking dinner to someone from her church after having a baby. When she showed up and saw the note on the door, she felt very unsure about what to do. She had spent all afternoon putting this dinner together and now they wanted her to do even more? She left the dinner on the doorstep and drove away. She had arrived feeling full of service and happy to help this new couple. She had donated the time and resources she had available, but it didn't seem enough.

If someone is thinking of you enough to stop by to say congratulations or to bring a gift, I believe that gesture should be appreciated for what it is. The sign on the door does not show appreciation, but that the new parents are owed something by you. The congratulations, dinner, or gift are not enough according to the note on the door. 

Had my midwife put a note on my door, I would have been mortified. I would have removed it without a second thought. That wouldn't have meant I wouldn't have wanted or have welcomed the help. I just would have felt so akward about it being there. If visitors did offer to help, I would have felt like they were doing it because of the note, not because they really wanted to. Visitors get caught off guard. They probably didn't come over realizing they were going to be put to work. 

Everyone is busy. Everyone. Sometimes I want to show someone I was thinking about them, so a treat or dinner, or a gift for the mom or baby seems appropriate, but I don't know that I want to go inside your house and pick through your dirty dishes or laundry. I'm so sorry. I have my own family's mess to deal with! But I can help out in other ways, my ways. If it's not really what you were hoping for, maybe I should just stay away. Let people help you how they want to help. Save the items found on the door for those closest to you who ask "What can I do to help?" or "Can I come get your children for a play date?" 

I don't think the note on the door really helps people know what you need. It's passive-aggressive, at best.

Is it hard for you to ask for help? Are people not offering? But you are losing your mind and need help. A postpartum doula can help. Do you have family nearby? Do you have a close friend you can confide in and recruit for help? Reach out to your doula or childbirth educator, or your midwife. They probably have resources to help you. 

If I had a friend that said "I need your help!" I would drop everything. People often just don't know unless asked. Again, most people are just busy and think others are fine. But rarely are people too busy to help a friend or family member who needs them. People like to be needed, and ultimately to help out. Don't be afraid to let them know. Having a postpartum plan will also help tremendously. Decide who is doing what job, including the relatives coming to help when the baby comes. Remember, Grandma's job is to help with everything except the baby!