Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Every new beginning...

Looking back, I've only been in the hospital twice to welcome a new baby.  The first time was for my godson in 2009 (my husband and I hightailed it out of town upon hearing my sister-in-law was in labor and drove six hours to meet the handsome little Fella).  The second time was to have my own baby.

I haven't really planned it like this.  I love to meet new babies.  Love to hug their high-on-life rockstar mommies and shake the hands of proud new daddies.  Life doesn't always work that way and babies don't come exactly when we want them to come.  So, mostly I meet babies when their parents can find the time between naps and feedings and often this doesn't occur in the allotted 48 hours of hospital time.  But when I do meet them, I make sure to hold them close while their mommies relay their gorgeous birth stories, stare in wonder at the fact that even a few weeks ago they weren't even here, and mostly get really sentimental about the miracle that is life.

I've said it before, but never on here.  If you're still wondering about the meaning of life - just wait until you have kids.  You'll stop wondering.  Trust me on this.

Still, even in my limited experience, I've learned there is a very distinct and important etiquette to be followed when being involved in someone else's birth experience - before, during, and after.  I want to publish some of these rules for those about to visit someone in the hospital before, during, or following the addition of a new member to their family.

Don't ever use the word "boring."
For both parents nothing about this experience is boring.  Visitors may spend a long time in the waiting room in order to meet this new little miracle and then may spend even more time waiting to hold him/her by themselves.  If you are lucky enough to be present for any part of the labor and delivery, you should also know that babies (especially first babies) take their sweet time before they make an appearance.  During this time, mommies are nervous out. of. their. damn. minds.  (Daddies are too, they just are better at hiding it.)  This is the most important time to not say the word "boring."  Or else, mommy ask someone to lift up her heavy epidural-laden leg for a nice kick in the throat.

Don't ever use the word "gross."
Giving birth to a baby is the most vulnerable time for any mother - especially the first time.  I felt gross at times during the experience, but mostly I felt kind of amazing.  The only thing that might have swung that balance the other way is someone telling me that something was "gross."  I wasn't the type to use a mirror or get a good peek at the things going on down south during the birth, but I know my husband did.  I'm sure there were some not-too-attractive going on, but he didn't breathe a word of it.  (And thanks for that, babe.)  I know people say "you won't care" about how you look during the delivery process and that is mostly true, but it is definitely more helpful for someone to flood you with encouraging words rather than saying things like "Ugh.  That was nasty" and dry-heaving in a corner.  Also - don't relive the birth story later on and tell it as though you're reliving some nasty scene from the movie Jackass.  Most mothers (and sometimes fathers) remember this day as the most beautiful moment in their lives.  Don't harsh that buzz.

Do understand you may not be invited for the birth.
People get so excited when a new baby is coming into the world.  And who can blame them?  Babies are pretty awesome and who wouldn't want to experience those first precious moments.  However, those moments can be very emotional and often dramatic and the only thing that makes it more emotional and dramatic is someone forgetting their place in the whole matter.  The only person who really needs to be present to deliver a baby is the mother.  You she is the carrier of said baby.  Dad should be there too if can be.  Otherwise?  No one else is needed.  So if you're lucky enough to be asked to be there, take that role very seriously.  Do exactly what mom and dad ask you to do.  Step out the minute you are asked to step out.  And if you're told you're not invited?  You need to be okay with that.  L&D is a private moment for all parties involved.  It's important to remember that.  You will get to meet that little bundle very, very soon.  In the meantime, see my suggestions below about how to pass the time while you wait for the little miracle to arrive.

Don't try to be Steven Spielberg. Or Ansel Adams either.
Unless you have been given explicit instructions to record this blessed event on film, don't even think about whipping it out.  I am often guilty of being the mamarazzi, but even I was very clear about not wanting pictures taken of any kind in the delivery room.  We took a picture of me and my baby bump before I had even changed into a hospital gown.  The next picture (22 long hours later) was OF THE BABY.  Personally, I didn't want to have a single moment of any of that recorded.  Including pictures of me just sitting in the hospital bed (which stems from my hatred of hospital gowns.)  In the hours and days after TIH made his appearance, I was totally okay with pictures being taken (and there are some GEMS of me looking a hot mess on Facebook to prove that), but not everyone is like that.  Ask before you snap a picture.  Also, ask before you post any images on the Internet.

Don't announce anything to anyone without consent.
My husband and I are very traditional people.  (So traditional that, at one point, I think my husband actually believed he would be handing out cigars in the waiting room while I delivered the baby. I cleared that up for him real quick.)  But, I did have an image in mind of my husband running out to the waiting room and announcing our son to our visitors and making some proud, excited phone calls to our family and friends.  That task should not be left up to anyone other than the parents unless decided upon ahead of time.  (My husband and I had a "phone tree"-esque list that we handed out to our mothers so that they knew exactly who they needed to call.  And no one else.)  Getting to announce the birth of your child is so exciting and such a proud moment, no one should be able to steal it from you.  In the age of social networking and texting, it's really easy to spill the beans.  For this reason you should wait several hours, if not several days before you start posting any announcements or details on the Internet.  Mostly, just wait for mom and dad to tell you when they're ready for you to share the news.  Or ask them and respect whatever answer they give you.  This is not your story to tell.

Do give mom and dad some space and respect their wishes.
Even if you have been cordially invited for the delivery of the baby, mom and dad should have a moment by themselves before you barge over and demand to cuddle the swaddled little bean.  That moment was so important to me and ours was so beautiful, I cannot even imagine if someone else had been there.  Also - frequently throughout the hospital stay, nurses, doctors, lactation consultants, photographers, and God knows who else will be traipsing in and out of the room.  Be ready to excuse yourselves at that time.  It is so important that mom and dad get all of their needs met and all of their questions answered before they leave the hospital.  Mom and dad should never have to ask you to leave the room when one of these visits happen.  Grab some coffee in the cafeteria, go stare at the babies through the nursery window, find a wheelchair in the hallway and challenge other visitors to a chariot race - just give mom and dad some time.  My grandpa was awesome at this.  We had a visit from the lactation consultant, the nurse (to check for, thanks), and the photographer all during their visit.  It got to the point where he'd start to leaving the room the minute the door open and we'd have to be like, "It's okay, grandpa - they're just here to collect the garbage."  This is also another moment where the last thing mom and dad want to hear is that you're bored.

Don't ever ever ever ever ever EVER say, "You're doing it wrong."
This rule honestly goes for the entire LIFESPAN of the child, but it is the single most insensitive thing to say to a new mother and father.  Most of the comments made in this category come from someone just trying to be helpful, but there are a lot of ways to give advice that do not start with, "You're wrong.  This is right."  Mom and dad have to make a lot of huge decisions in the first hours their child is born - whether  to try breast feeding or bottle feed or both, whether to room in or not, shoot, even the child's official name is decided upon in the first few days.  My biggest advice on this is bite. your. tongue.  Even if you're saying what you mean in the nicest of ways, mom will probably have a meltdown about it in her hormonal, post-partum blur.  Also, the more information piled on top of mom and dad in those first few days the bigger the meltdown will be.  And the more likely it is that they'll forget some very important information relayed to them by a nurse, doctor, or whomever.

Do understand that things might change at any moment.  Go with it.
Mom and dad reserve the right to change their mind without any notice during this process.  It's an emotional time.  Decisions made while you're in an emotional mindset really may not make the most sense, but the last thing you need is people reminding you, "But before, you said..."  Mom might have sworn up and down that she was going to deliver this baby naturally in a field without any medical intervention and yet the minute after the first contraction she is screaming for her epidural.  That's okay.  Mom and dad may have said all along that you are invited into the delivery room and at the last second decide it's no longer okay.  Excuse yourself.  Like, now.  Before someone gets hurt.  (And, sometimes, like in the event of an emergency c-section, it isn't even mom and dad's choice - so seriously, be prepared for anything that can happen.)  A great example of this happened when I had TIH.  I swore left, right, and center that no one other than my husband was to be admitted into my L&D room once any...shall we say...fireworks started.  After more than 12 hours of absolutely nothing happening, my husband decided to drive home to let the cat out and grab some dinner - which was the exact moment the doctor arrived to break my water.  With no other option, I asked my mom to stay in the room with me so I didn't feel so alone.  If she would have left the room, I might have totally lost it.  Things change.  Roll with the punches.  If a mother looks pleadingly at you on the twentieth failed attempt to get a baby to latch on and no lactation consultant is in sight, that's your time to step up with your sage advice as long as she needs you.  (And don't be surprised if later on she just wants to give it a go on her own.)  Maybe she dreamed up an Oscar-worthy recording of the entire birth experience, but decides at the word "crowning" to turn that thing the #$^% off.  Turn it the #$^% off.  Mom and dad may decide they don't want to bother with the phone calls, so they ask you to take care of that detail.  They may decide they want absolutely no visitors - respect that.  You can meet the baby in a few days.  And bring a casserole.  They'll really appreciate that.

I was lucky enough to have every single dream come true surrounding the birth of TIH.  (You know, including the whole getting to have a child thing.)  It was a truly magical experience and I found that being a bit proactive about sharing our wishes with our families prior to that day in the hospital really helped the situation.  My advice to all parents-to-be is to be honest and open about your expectations for the birth of your child.  Setting your own personal limits will be respected by your family members and friends (you know, unless they're total a-holes - and let me tell you, you want your birth experience to be a-hole free.)  Better yet, if you've done this once before and were unhappy with the way things went down the first time around, you might know even more what you want to happen and what you don't want to happen which might make it easier to set up these boundaries before you're in the throes of it all.

And, lastly, try not to be too upset if it doesn't all go perfectly.  After all, the main goal is the health and well-being of your child and however you get there, it really is a miracle in the making.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

So, readers - what did I leave out?  Anything you would add?  Any horror stories to share?


  1. Great post! Definitely should be in a handbook for Yeah, I really think people need to at least call before they show up at the hospital. #2 was a VERY fast birth, I'd just gotten out of the shower and was awaiting the arrival of #1 with my mom - I really wanted him to be the first to meet his new brother. Instead, out of nowhere my SIL, and her family showed cousin got to meet his brother before he did. I was a MIGHT perturbed about that. :S

  2. @Azhita - OH. That would have made me VERY angry. That was really unfair for you.

    Yeah, definitely call first. Definitely.

  3. BTW, I am giving you an award! Come stop by tomorrow morning and pick it up!

  4. So I LOVE this...would you consider being a guest blogger for Our Cups Runneth Over ( Since 2 of us 4 ladies are pregnant (NOT me) and due this summer we are doing at least a post a week about pregnancy and this would be PERFECT. Let me know!!

  5. @ Dawn - OF COURSE! I would be honored. You know I love your blog(s)! :)

    Let me know what we should do. You can email if needed.

  6. Good lord, I wish you were posting this for my world to read when the Bean was on the way, because it would have saved a LOT OF ARGUMENTS. In the end, she came unexpectedly quickly and I got what I wanted which was that NOONE was to be in there staring at my you know what pushing out my you know who except the person that knocked me up. So I guess it worked out, but really, I wish I could have shown this to everyone to read before arguing with me about what I "should" do.... Don't ever tell a pregnant-ready-to-give-birth woman what she "should" do is so absolutely correct. EVER. Idiots.

  7. I swear I am considering printing this out and handing it to everyone at the hospital. Ha!


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