Subtitled: 8 rules for being an awesome family member or friend during childbirth and early parenting
Rule #1: Childbirth is not a performance. It is a medical event. There are no front-row seats to medical events. Therefore, if the mother in question does not want you to attend, you should not guilt her into letting you attend or make passive aggressive digs about how you can’t attend. Do you know what happens during childbirth? I will tell you. The odds are high that someone is going to shit themselves, vomit on the floor, cry and curse, and spew blood. Think of it as the Shamu Splash Zone. Do you really want to be in the Splash Zone? No.
Rule #2: If the mother in question does want you to attend, do not do the following: complain about how long it’s taking; tell childbirth horror stories while she’s in the middle of contractions (“My friend’s friend died during labor…”); eat anything that has a strong aroma. Do not take pictures unless the mother permits it. Do not assume you can post any pictures to Facebook (side note: do not scoop the parents by announcing the birth on your Facebook before they can announce it on theirs). After the birth, do not tell a detailed play-by-play story to relatives and friends who were not there. Unless the mother decides otherwise…
Rule #3: If someone tells you what they are naming their child, the following statements are appropriate responses: “I like that name,” “It sounds like that name is very special to you,” and “The first and last name go well together.” The following statements are not appropriate response, “I hate that name,” “That name is weird,” and “You should name your child after me.”
Rule #4: “But we’re faaaaaaaaamily!” is not an appropriate excuse to act like a citizen of Crazytown. Family is about something much more than blood relations – it’s about years and years of respectful behavior.
Rule #5: The following is the polite way to ‘help’ a new mother and father after birth. You call ahead of time to schedule a time to visit. You promise you will only be there for thirty minutes. You bring food. You actually only stay for thirty minutes unless the new parents ask you to stay longer. You observe the baby from a loving distance unless the mother or father offers the baby to you. You wash your hands before holding the baby. You do NOT kiss the baby on the lips. Ever. Other ways to help new parents: vacuuming the house, unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, folding laundry, holding the baby while the mother showers, or walking the dog. Ways not to help: monopolizing the baby, overstaying your welcome, asking the new mother to fix you something to eat. For the love of God, never drop by unannounced just because you are ‘in the neighborhood.’
I feel the need the clarify this rule: At no point did I say relatives and friends should be new parents’ maids. I said if you want to help a new parent, don’t monopolize the newborn and overstay your welcome. Seriously, I think it would be extremely hard to find a mom or dad who would rather their Uncle Bob hold their two day old baby for half a morning. New parents probably don’t want to play a drawn out game of pass the baby. If you truly want to help a new parent, do something they can’t because they are bonding with their child. You can never get the first few days back and moms especially need that time for healing, breastfeeding, and bonding. Of course it’s cool to give baby a little cuddle if the parents don’t mind! I did not say this very well in the original post, which is regrettable, but really… At no point did I say, "screw you, clean my floors."
Rule #6: Never begin a sentence with, “When I was a mother, we did things this way….” or “We did X, Y, Z with you, and you turned out fine.” A new parent has a way they would like to try to do things, and unless they specifically ask you for advice, they are probably not looking for unsolicited feedback (even if you just *know* it will backfire).
Rule #7: If the mother says, “I think the baby is hungry,” that is your cue to hand the baby over. Do not continue to hold a crying baby if the mother or father is reaching for them. Doing the twisty shoulder thing to body block the parent is totally inappropriate.
Rule #8: If you are visiting the new mother, and breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, politely excuse yourself. Do not give the mother the stink eye in her own home. Furthermore, do not suggest that the breastfeeding mother should switch to formula just so you can give the baby a bottle. Ever.
A disclaimer: My immediate family is actually really decent about boundaries, so this post is not a passive aggressive dig at people I know in real life. One or two items are true (won’t say which!) but this list is mostly compiled from stories that friends have told me. For example, no one tried to weasel their way into my delivery – thank God. If they had, I would’ve intentionally bled all over them… Seriously.
Okay – so. What are your rules regarding childbirth and early parenting? Go ahead, vent.