Two of my favourite people and my dearest friends had a baby on the weekend. She is their fourth child and their first girl and I’ve just been to the hospital to visit her, she’s absolutely beautiful.
Theirs is a story that I have been recording on video, writing about and wanting to share for over 18 months now and I will as it has a phenomenally happy ending but I will give my beautiful friends some time with their precious bundle before I hit them up with more interview questions to share with The Mum Network readers.
In the interim, it got me thinking about a relatively controversial topic (possibly because not everyone agrees with me) about Hospital Etiquette and what the rules are when it comes to visiting a newborn baby. My girlfriend tonight was so relaxed and calm. She was happy for visitors to come and go, hold and snuggle baby and nothing seemed to phase her – it never does. But that’s the type of person she is. Unflappable. But not everyone is as relaxed as her.
My Mum always taught me that having a baby is the biggest and best thing a mother can ever do, I think her own mother gave her the best education as to how a woman’s body is precious when pregnant and when you give birth. It takes its toll on you physically and mentally. My Mum is the kind of Mum who comes over specially to give me foot massages when I’m pregnant and then once baby is born, she simply insists I sit with my feet up and relaxing whilst feeding baby. Not everyone is as lucky as me to have a Mum like that around the corner.
Having a baby is a huge deal and the emphasis on HUGE cannot be understated. At times you’ve spent hours awake the night before baby is born either in labor or anticipating a scheduled c-section the next day. Sometimes things don’t always go to plan and the added stress of the pain of giving birth under emergency circumstances is simply the biggest thing a woman’s body can go through.
It never ceases to amaze me though how thoughtless some people can be when it comes to visiting a new Mum in hospital. I have a few rules that I like to stick by and not everyone agrees with me on these rules but with a few kids under my belt and a few shocker moments in hospital with way too many visitors at one time, I now live by a few rules that I abide by when visiting Mums in hospital at home and when I have my own babies:
1. Do NOT take children under the age of 10 to a maternity ward unless they are a sibling or the type of child who can sit quietly and obediently. So many people forget that maternity wards, whilst generally very happy places, are still HOSPITALS. Medical stuff happens in these hospitals and all new Mums are still very fragile and tired after what they’ve been through. They’re tuned into their little one and being tuned into what medical buttons yours is pressing or cupboards their opening isn’t always the best way to calm their nerves.
2. Siblings should visit of course but not all day – If the baby has siblings yes, by all means take them everyday to visit bub but do your best to get them in and out so that Mum can enjoy her one and only time with bub alone in peace! Siblings, especially younger ones are always impressed with baby for about 30 seconds or they love them too much but after a while, running the corridors becomes a past time and just remember, maternity wards are not a crèche. You will also have plenty of friends who will help out as everyone knows that Dad also wants to bond with baby too – so take advantage of the free babysitting when it’s on offer.
3. If you have to take children, do not entertain them by bringing a picnic lunch with you. As above, little people and crumbs all over a hospital floor is neither hygienic or nice for the new Mum to have to deal with after you leave. If your kids can’t cope without a cookie for 10 minutes, you need to take a look at their eating habits.
4. Do not, under ANY circumstances visit a new Mum within 24 hours of her giving birth. Unless you’re one of the invited few (and make sure you’re invited) then just stay away and let close family and friends bond with baby as well as letting Mum recover from giving birth. Generally (here in Australia we get 4-5 days if in a private hospital so there’s plenty of time). The same goes for being/stalking and sitting outside the birthing suite. Even if you’re the anxious grandparents, STAY AWAY until you’re invited. Birthing suites are messy, noisy and stressful places and unless you’re specifically invited to be in the arrivals lounge the moment the baby is ‘pushed’ or ‘popped’ out (which are my kids explanations between a vaginal birth or c-section). You’re loved one isn’t the only one giving birth in there. So, go and have a coffee until you are called to come in, sometimes Mum and Dad find it really hard to tell others to piss off so they ask the nurses to do it on their behalf. The midwives can’t stand it and give a Mum some dignity and allow her to clean up, have a shower and feel human again before you come in demanding to see baby.
5. Always call and make sure it’s ok to visit – Generally with first babies, Dad co-ordinates the ‘who’s coming to visit when’ schedule – make sure you check and double check that it’s ok for you to pop in (especially with Mum if you have access to her via SMS). It’s such an overwhelming time (mostly with first babies) and sometimes the number of visitors can totally overwhelm Mum (and baby). I’ll never forget having 16 people in my room after baby no 1 and eventually screaming ‘enough, get OUT’ – I wouldn’t have needed to do that if I’d managed it properly and possibly said ‘no’ a bit more often.
6. Day 3 is Baby Blues Day – Be aware that it’s TOTALLY normal for Mums to have their ‘crying’ day on the third day after a baby is born. Their milk comes in and their boobs are the sizes of watermelons. They often start and can’t stop crying for no reason, the high of having the bubba is wearing off and the shock of no sleep is well, shocking. Just be aware of this and be sensitive to Mum.
7. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t ‘get a hold’ – Keep Calm people. It’s not about you and sometimes a baby can be awake for hours and be totally unsettled by being passed around so much. At the same time Mum is trying to make the most of the baby being asleep, it’s unbelievable how many people demand or unwittingly put pressure on Mum where she feels terrible saying ‘no’ to you. All new Mum’s appreciate the visit but you must be mindful of their feelings and the sleepless nights. Whatever works for Mum should work for you and not getting a ‘hold’ doesn’t mean you’ve visited for no reason.
8. Visit but don’t overstay your welcome – Always plan to make a hospital visit no longer than ½ hour. That’s about all a new Mum has the mental capacity for as you’re generally not the only visitor she’ll have. Entertaining guests and telling the same story over and over is tiring but add a newborn to the mix and well, you get the idea. Don’t lob up at the start of visiting hours and stay for the duration, don’t bring a picnic with you, the same goes for adults, it’s a HOSPITAL, not a leisurely day out at the park. A good way to measure your timing is by leaving the MOMENT the next visitors arrive, it doesn’t matter who you are or how closely you’re related. Move on.
9. Be mindful of feeding times – Not all Mums are comfortable with getting their boobs out and if you lob up to hospital with hubby in toe, just watch the baby and if it’s unsettled, offer to leave the room for a while for her to settle the baby with a feed. Don’t ask, just do it because if she’s fine with feeding in front of you both, she’ll say so.
10. Stick to Visiting Times: They’re there for a reason. Not to lock you out but to ensure that Mum and bub gets the right medical care when she needs it. Don’t get snotty with the medical staff if you’re 5 mins late. Tough – you should have been more organized and got there earlier!
11. It’s not about YOU – It never fails to amaze me (and this always happens with your first and the know it all friends who’ve already had one baby) who come in and then become an expert on childbirth. It’s not about you and your story and what trauma you went through to get your child or how the new Mum should hold the baby, settle the baby etc etc., only offer advice when and if you’re asked. Until then, give Mum a bit of time to share her story with you, it’s the one last time where Mum’s life will be all about her because for the remainder of her life, she’s a Mum and it’ll be all about the children.
12. Flowers are lovely but you get loads – Flowers are the first thing I always think to buy when a friend has a baby and then I stop myself by remembering how many flowers we had to cart home, care for and change the water for. I tend to do one of two things, send flowers when baby is 6 weeks old when Mum is at home and the excitement as worn off and all the other flowers are long dead – OR, buy baby an outfit or something it or Mum can use over and over (fresh fruit baskets are always lovely too).
13. When visiting Mum & Baby at Home don’t expect to be waited on. This one always cracks me up. You go to visit a new Mum and she’s the one offering you a tea or coffee. Here’s a tip. Before you go to see Mum can Bub, call her and pick up a takeaway coffee for her and you on the way over and make sure you take the morning tea/afternoon tea. Again, don’t overstay your welcome as she’s undoubtedly still tired and sore from giving birth.
These are only my rules and are aimed to make people think a little more rather than just lobbing up to a maternity ward thinking that it’s a playground for newborns. Many Mum’s will say they adore the attention and visits and that nothing phases them much after birth and to them, I say bravo! To the Mum’s who manage, choose or are sent home within 24 hours of giving birth – I commend you as I know that not everyone has the choice or that hospital is not a place they feel comfortable. For me, it’s 4-5 blissful days (however much I can convince them really) of meals being brought to me, cups of tea every three hours and people caring about me and bub before I go home to care for 6 other people. Just be mindful that it is and remains, the biggest thing a woman’s body goes through and it’s not as easy as many Mums make it look.