You went in to this pregnancy with one goal in mind; bringing a new baby into your home. One of the most important ways you can prepare for this enormous event is to make plans for those first six weeks after delivery. Bringing a baby home is not about what color is right for the nursery or do the socks I bought match the outfit Aunt Doris sent? There are more important issues to consider before you carry that cuddly sweet bundle across the threshold.
The most important plans include: What kind of help will I need when I get home? Who will come to visit and when? Will your husband take off work during the first week, or will he wait until later when the company is gone. How will you make sure you get enough sleep? Having a well-thought-out plan will help decrease the sense of being overwhelmed when the nurse puts the baby in your arms and you realize this new little person is going home with you. It also will minimize your risk of developing anxiety and depression.
For some women, the answer to these questions is easy: Mom of course. Some new grandmothers go into superwoman mode when there is a new baby in the house. They cook, clean, do laundry, and get up with the baby in the middle of the night. But not every woman is so lucky, or this plan may not work for you. If, for example, you don’t have a good relationship with your mother or mother-in-law immediately after the birth might not be the best time for her to visit. A newborn will stress even the healthiest relationship, let alone one where there is already resentment or hurt feelings. In these cases, ask your mother or mother-in-law to come when the baby is four to six weeks old. You will fell physically better and have a better handle on how to care for your baby. Tell her you want her to come when you’ll be more settled and have more time to enjoy her visit. If she insists on coming immediately after the baby is born, explain that you have a plan for who will be helping when and ask her to honor that. She’s welcome to come, but when you and your baby come home from the hospital, your needs must take priority.
Do not schedule all of your help to come for the first two weeks. Many new mothers have described to me the total terror they felt when all of the relatives went home and they were alone. You go from having too many hands to having none. Ask you mother to come the first week, your mother-in-law the second, your sister the third, and your best friend from Albuquerque the fourth. They will enjoy not having to compete with one another to hold the baby and will have more of your attention. You will enjoy not being overwhelmed with company and will be glad to have the help spread out over a longer period of time. By the end of the fourth week, you should be feeling much more confident in your role as a new mother.
Some new families decide that they want to get used to the new baby without outside interference during the first week. This can work well as long as your partner understands that you will need a lot of help. Other families decide to wait until all the relatives have gone home for the father to take time off from work. That way, he can be with his new family after things have calmed down. It might not make sense for Dad to take time off when there is other help available and he will be competing with being part of the team.
Remember this is your baby and your new family. Make sure that you feel like you’re in charge and can ask for the help you need, when you need it.
©2008 Lucy J. Puryear, M.D. Adapted from Understanding Your Moods When You’re Expecting by Lucy Puryear, copyright © Lucy Puryear. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Lucy Puryear is a practicing psychiatrist specializing in women’s reproductive mental health. She has been director of the Baylor Psychiatry Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine, and was an expert witness for the defense in the trial of Andrea Yates. She is the mother of four and lives in Houston, Texas. http://www.lucypuryear.com/