The Rules for Visiting a New Mom

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Rules-for-Visiting-a-New-Mom

You know the scene: A close girlfriend has her long-awaited new baby and you feel the need to hightail it to her house to hold that little bundle of joy. In fact, it takes all of your self-control to not show up at the hospital and interrupt the precious few hours that she’ll have staff doting on her around the clock. Either it’s because you love that new baby smell or you think Mama is going to have hurt feelings if you don’t show interest in her newest family member, but regardless, you are going to hold that baby. This is what we do as women, yes?

Au contraire, mon amie. I distinctly remember being two months into motherhood and realizing that I didn’t need or want any more girlfriends stopping by and over-stimulating my colicky, sensitive child with their scary foreign faces, inappropriately loud voices, or refusal to stop bouncing him for even a few minutes. Give the baby a break from the bouncing, ladies. Do you think I want him to get used to that?  No, I don’t, because I’m tired and I don’t want to have to bounce him myself.

I assure you that I would not have been hurt had no one come to visit me at all. Do you think I made this baby by myself?  In fact, I did not. There is a man who lives here to keep me company in the evenings. During the day I was too tired, overwhelmed, and covered in spit-up to care about loneliness, and having company just meant that I’d have to squeeze my fat ass into something that didn’t fit and vacuum the dog hair off the floor.

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Before I became a mother I was one of those girlfriends who showed up just to hold your baby. I hereby publicly apologize to all of the new mommies that I did this to. No mother I know was sitting around, desperately waiting for me to appear at her house empty-handed and hold her baby. I am no Baby Whisperer, believe me.

There was one instance that I arrived at a girlfriend’s house for no other reason than to hold her new baby and then I sat down and ate the dinner that her husband had been preparing for them. Me! I did not just have a baby! Why was I eating her food?  Shameful.

Now I’m a mother and realize that if you want to hold that babe in the first four months before the yummy new baby smell wears off, then there are some rules governing that situation…

• Bring food that you know they’ll like. This means a take-out lunch from a higher-end restaurant and bring enough food so that Daddy has something to eat when he gets home. Chicken, fish, steak, or something that fits their special diet.  Don’t be stingy; buy enough for leftovers. Don’t make something on your own unless it actually tastes good. It’s best to spend a little money and treat them to something nice since it’s going to be a long, long time before they go to a restaurant again. I hate to say it, but if you can’t afford to buy her a decent lunch, then you need to consider whether you can really afford to hold this baby.

• Don’t eat her food. Does Mama have some pulled pork or a rack of short ribs simmering in the crock-pot when you arrive? Don’t you dare accept any of it if she offers. She is being polite and you are not actually a guest. You are an intruder. Remember:  Everything that you don’t eat is leftovers for them tomorrow, so don’t eat anything at all. You can have some water if you get it yourself. You need to be on high alert to recognize fake offers of food/gifts/favors and so on from this woman; she is likely out of her mind from sleep deprivation and doesn’t know what she’s saying, but she will still remember your greediness years later.

One of my friends left a homemade chicken casserole and fresh chocolate chip cookies at our front door and didn’t even need to come inside. The hallmark of a truly excellent friend is one who will knock quietly, put the food on the front porch, then get in the car and drive away.

• Bring a gift, even if you already gave a baby shower gift. Ask Mama what she needs or check her registry for lingering purchases. Don’t get your panties in a bunch about this one; it can be something as simple as a case of pacifiers or replacement pump pieces–  things that only cost a few bucks. Nobody ever said that a gift had to be a surprise in order to be good. When in doubt, ask what diapers they use and bring those. If you buy the cheapest diapers you can find that are imported from Mexico, she’ll be dealing with scratchy leaky diapers and cursing your name at 4am.

• Snap Away. If you’re a semi-pro photographer, bring your camera and your most flattering lens. Don’t try to sell her the portraits later. Send them for free.

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• No summer dresses in winter. Don’t bring size-inappropriate-for-the-season clothing that suits your taste and not theirs. Babies grow fast. Use your brain.

• Don’t bring decorative kick-knacks. As much fun as you might think it is, no mother wants you to decorate her new baby nursery. Decorating the nursery is strictly relegated to mom and dad and you can keep your over-sized stuffed animals, picture frames, and inspirational quotes out of it. Nobody wants something extra to dust around when they have a new baby. Don’t make Mama waste a stamp graciously thanking you for some random thing you dug up at Tuesday Morning that she never wanted in the first place.

• Make yourself useful. Is your new-mother friend one of those controlling types who doesn’t want anyone helping with her housework?  Your friend needs to get over it because in about 8 months that baby is going to be mobile and her days of being in control of her surroundings are officially a thing of the past.

Do the dishes. If the kitchen sink is full of dishes, turn on the water, rinse them off, and start loading them up in the dishwasher. Load them smart because you know how much we hate it when the dishwasher is loaded wrong. Don’t halfheartedly ask Mama if maybe you can help out in some way because she’s going to say no even though she means “God, yes, please someone help me for once.” Just do it.

• Or the laundry. Look around and spy a pile of clean clothes that needs to be folded? Do you have two working hands?  Fold the laundry, even the underwear.

• Be that friend. One of my friends not only brought food and a gift, but she called from the drugstore to see if I needed anything (indeed, I did need nursing pads for those leaky boobs no one warned me about) and started putting away all of the odds and ends that belonged in the baby’s closet that I couldn’t reach because of my c-section. When she asked what she could do it wasn’t really a question as much as it was a statement and request for orders.

Another girlfriend came over with her husband for an afternoon. He sat in a chair and rocked the baby while she cleaned my kitchen spotless, including shining up the stainless steel of the refrigerator. What did I do?  I took a bath and washed and dried my hair for the first time in a week. You know when your hair gets so dirty that the roots hurt? That was my hair.  I had an entire hour to myself where I wasn’t listening for the baby to cry for the first time since becoming a mother two months prior. When I tried to check on the baby in the living room she whispered, “Get out of here. He can smell your milk.”

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But not THAT friend. I can honestly say that there were a few visitors during that time of my life who had me thinking, “I’m being held hostage by this tiny person who just threw up in my eyes and you didn’t even bring me anything?” Don’t be that friend. Learn from me, the reformed do-nothing baby holder. Last summer when a friend had a new baby, I brought a small gift and lunch whenever I went to see her because I knew she felt so overwhelmed. These days I don’t even give birthday presents without asking Mama what the little one needs, or if my gift idea is alright with her.

If you’ve been a blatant do-nothing baby holder in the past, fear not. Make a mental note to buy the child a special gift for their next birthday party and rest easy knowing that at some point, your day of having vomit in your eyes will come and you will find yourself wondering what the hell these baby-holding friends are doing in your house.

Related: 10 Tips on How to be a Good Friend

Comments

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  1. 1

    Victoria KP says

    I can add another one. Do NOT under any circumstance bring a live plant to a new mother. A relative brought me something else that needed to be taken care of when I had a newborn infant. REALLY?!?!

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    • 2

      sarah says

      with my first child the people i worked with gave me baby clothes and little fun things that were practical. my second baby, new set of people i worked with. i was quitting cause i had 2 under 2. they gave me a plant. guess which people i liked working with better

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    • 3

      Heather says

      Great addition! My MIL actually brought me a wilted plant of hers to nurse back to health THE DAY AFTER I GAVE BIRTH!! She also brought some flowers and said, “I brought some flowers…they’re roses. I know you don’t like roses…just look past them.”

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      • 4

        sarah says

        That’s crazy!! Now I know why people don’t like their mother-in-laws!! I am blessed to have the most amazing, thoughtful and helpful MIL in the world!! I’m sorry it sounds like you do not! :(

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      • 6

        Elissa R says

        I had my baby on a Monday, and my MIL had a party planned on Saturday. When I told her I wasn’t going, she said “But you look so good! when I gave birth bla bla bla. Well if you don’t feel like going, my son can go with the baby”. Really?? No, woman! That baby won’t leave my sight. Then she came over about 3 weeks later or so, and she saw a pile of baby clothes and she only said in that judging tone ” Is THAT all of the baby’s dirty clothes!!!!!???? OMG she’s going to run out of onesies ha ha ha” but didn’t move one finger to help. and not to mention she’ll snap pictures of the baby with her, her daughter and my husband, but never offered to take a picture with me, or a family picture. And for our first Christmas as a family, she has a tradition of hanging personal ornaments since her kids were babies, well she got one for “us”. It was of a Dad and a daughter. NO MOTHER. Her excuse? She couldn’t find one with both parents, then don’t fucking buy anything!!!!!! So yeah, I do not like my MIL One.Little.Bit.

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        • 10

          Mrsp says

          Oh, mine is just like this! At our daughter’s christening, it was very important to her that we’d take a picture with the whole family – our daughter, my husband, his parents, his sister and his two grandmothers. That was the whole family. I had to take the photo.

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        • 11

          Jewels says

          Yup, I understand all too well. My ex MIL begged my then husband to come pick her up (over 2 hours away), so she could “help out around the house”. Her helping out consisted of sitting on the couch insisting upon being waited on and complaining that the house was such a terrible mess. I was freshly home from a c-section. When she became impatient with not being paid enough attention to, (a few hours later) she demanded to be taken home. Another 4 plus hour round trip drive for my husband. Yay.

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        • 12

          Jen says

          Your MIL sounds awfully familiar…she’d always manage to squeeze into our supposedly family photo. Also when hubby would tell her which type of laundry was to be done for the day before he would leave for work, she’d immediately pass it on to me the moment I woke up. And when my baby would poop while I was having much needed rest, she’d wait for me to wake up and tell me the diaper needed to be changed. Finally, shirts that say I <3 Daddy and I<3 My Grandma!

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      • 14

        courtney says

        My sister brought me potted lillies, they were lovely, then the died, they sat on my porch till spring when I dug a hole and buried it, thinking, maybe its a really hardy perenial. 7 years later I have lilies all over my yard and my son is thrilled every spring when HIS flowers start to grow.

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    • 17

      Aislinn says

      another one is DONT bring other kids round the moment the new parents are home from hospital…i had that one personally.
      i was more or less out of it with the horrendous birth. and just wanted to be with baby, when it came to nappy changing i was fine in doing the change myself…but NO i had interfering friend and my hubby..and the nappy when on back to front. my frustration,…and the little child did nothing but WHINGE in wanting to hold my baby as if it was a doll/ toy,,,just wanted peace and quiet and i eventually snapped

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  2. 18

    Laura says

    There was a huge snow storm right after I brought my son home from the hospital, my husband’s aunt and uncle visited us as soon as the roads were cleared. We had been snowed in and were slightly overwhelmed, our cupboards were completely bare and we had no refreshments to offer them, I still hear about our terrible hospitality on that day, my son is now 3.

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    • 19

      Nilzed says

      Next time, take auntie in the other room and read her the riot act. Tell her its her one chance to apologize and drop the story from her repertoire or in future you will follow up with the story if those awful, thoughtless relatives who showed up unexpectedly and expected people in your situation to treat them like you had nothing getter to do than entertain and please them.

      Ok, I know you won’t say it. Neither would I. But I might well cry on the shoulder of the next most gossipy relative. Cause my family is all passive aggressive like that.

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    • 23

      Brandie says

      How rude of them! How about a call asking what you needed knowing you’d been snowed in! Or bring freezer food, ya know heat and eat meals in tupperware.

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      • 24

        kc says

        Ladies,
        in our family hubby monitors who is allowed IN the door when baby arrives,,,,,and the timer is set for 20 minutes and then you are politely told the buzzer went off and it is time to go.

        I always tell the girls to get their hair and nails done as baby approaches, you are going to be in a lot of pictures and you want to look your best.

        I always make 2 meals and freeze one when I know a baby is on the way in our family……I CALL FIRST to ask when it is OK to deliver the food, and I give a home made coupon book for babysitting, doing laundry,
        watching baby on SKYPE or in person while mom takes a shower!

        I apologize for your relatives poor behavior……send them my way and I will have a chat with them.

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        • 25

          Aislinn says

          going back on to my comment where i snapped…my now x hubby misunderstood my plea for peace and less interference with actually banning people from the house…and the miserable b’tard also had me up with being hostess prior to the banning

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    • 26

      Suzanne says

      OH MY. I’m the type of person who has no problem with confrontation, especially when it comes to stuff like this.

      Lord help my family, and my in-laws, if they do and say stupid stuff like this. They already see me as a loud-mouth, but sometimes people need to hear that they are acting rude and selfish.

      I know for a fact that my in-laws are going to act like my children are THEIR children. I can also see them expecting ME to be always hospitable, house clean, laundry, all dressed up as if I don’t have a small thing clinging to me 24/ 7 that can’t do anything on its own.

      I’m not looking forward to these days, because I know for a fact I won’t keep my mouth shut, and they aren’t going to like what I have to say – the truth.

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  3. 27

    bea. says

    So true! Now I’ve been on both sides of this…and when I had our twins and people would sit in my living room and “hold the babies” and ask me for tea or coffee all I wanted to do was lie on the floor and sleep. But I was too polite, and sat and made painful conversation even though I’d never been so sleep deprived and hurting in my life.

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  4. 30

    Elizabeth says

    We live in a beach town, and after the birth of our first son, our family who came from out-of-town had good intentions, but we quickly realized that they also had vacation plans and kids of their own to entertain! I learned my lesson. Now, after baby #2, I speak up and make clear what help I need (and when they are welcome to come over). Otherwise, they will just hold the baby and then hit the beach!

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  5. 32

    Lisa says

    Another to add: Don’t forget big brother/sister gifts. Already hormonal, it would break my heart to see my little though now big brothers look so sad when someone would bring something for the new baby, but not something to celebrate their new role, especially when we had been making such a big deal out of it so they would love having a new sibling vs. seeing him as a rival.

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    • 34

      Genevra says

      Presents for kids can be a touchy subject, but personally I think it’s important to teach little people to take pleasure in the joy of others. When its your sister’s birthday, SHE gets the presents and you celebrate WITH her. Maybe little siblings could even have fun picking out a present for the new baby themselves! (Even a silly or impractical one would be good practice for generosity and thoughtfulness). Good teachable moment.

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      • 35

        Lisa says

        Birthdays should be for the birthday child…yes…but when a new baby is born and a child is becoming a big sibling for the first time, that is different. Our children always picked gifts for the new babies and helped get their rooms ready. We also had a big brother gift waiting for them when they came to the hospital to meet their new little sibling. Becoming a new big sibling is just as important to celebrate as a new baby being born. My children became different people once they each had a younger sibling. It was amazing and it was an obvious change.

        With my second, the hospital played a video about how even if your current children were in love with the baby when it first got home to be prepared for that to change after about 2 weeks once the older child realized the baby wasn’t leaving. We NEVER had that happen with any of our 3 older children and I really think that was because of how we handled the change for them.

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      • 39

        Grace says

        A friend has just had #2, and #1 was about 3 years old. She said #1 was cranky, didn’t like anyone near her brother, so not to worry if she fussed, or sulked.

        When I went to the nursery, I asked older sister if I could visit her new brother (after hello, and a bit of fuss over her, and how pretty she looked, etc.) She said yes, took my hand, and lead me into the nursery.

        All she wanted was a bit of recognition, and in her own way, a bit of power. Her Mom said I was the only one who didn’t get a sulk.

        Honor the Elder!

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        • 40

          says

          Legal stuff aside, you’ll most likely get dead fish. Fish get used to the balacne of fresh water and bacteria in the places that they live. If you suddenly switch that, their bodies get really stressed out and they can become severly ill. Death usually happens soon after. It’s the same as if you switched all the water and put new gravel into a goldfish tank.Been there, done that.

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    • 41

      Katie says

      I always bring a treat for the whole family- ie. big plate of cookies. You can always bring stickers, white paper and crayons, candy (every new mom needs to bribe a toddler now and then!), or a fun book. I also try to talk to the newly-made big brother(s) or sister(s) and take an honest interest in them. Have them help clean the kitchen with a rag and spray bottle, or “help” put away dishes. They like to know they are important too!

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    • 43

      Sean says

      THIS.
      You simply cannot forget the siblings… Especially if they were an only initially, their world has been turned upside down.. They need to still be made to feel special, since, for a while, just about everything is revolving around, because of,or for, the baby. Mom will love you if do something special, however small, for the new big brother/sister…

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    • 44

      plasticcup says

      Really?! There’s nothing wrong with teaching a kid that he/she isn’t the center of the universe.

      What are they going to do when they go to a classmate’s birthday party and have to watch SOME OTHER KID get presents, while they get nothing? Life isn’t always balanced or fair or whatever. Older siblings will have many moments in their lives where they will need to suck it up and do/not do something for their younger sibling. For example, I’m the oldest of four. When I was 9, our grandparents surprised us with a trip to Disney World. I was stoked; what kid wouldn’t be, right? Unfortunately, my siblings were significantly younger than me and couldn’t go on many of the rides I wanted to. My parents had us choose activities we could all enjoy as a family, and allowed me to go off with some older cousins once or twice so I wouldn’t completely miss out. Was I a little bit frustrated and disappointed? You bet. But I understood that the trip wasn’t just about me and what I wanted, it was about all of us.

      Siblings will always need to share. If you teach them that they should get attention for doing NOTHING, on someone else’s day, then you are teaching them wrong.

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  6. 45

    Audrey says

    Be the friend who calls while Mom is in the hospital to see if she can take care of anything at home (put out the dog, bring Dad clean clothes, get the house ready) If you run off in labor from a disaster zone, nothing beats bringing baby home to fresh sheets and a clean kitchen.

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    • 46

      says

      I’m not a mother, but I get it. Being a hostess takes energy and effort. She’s not asking you to come over and do her housework. She’s saying if you’re going to visit a friend who’s just had a baby, you’ll be adding to that friend’s stress. Instead of just going over and being an extra responsibility, help her out. I’m not one to rush over when a friend has a baby, but I’m glad I read this. Now I know to ask first if a visit would be convenient, or or when I can come over to help her out. And if I’m not in the mood to help, then I’ll come around when she has someone already helping her out. The point is not to add to the new mom’s burden.

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    • 47

      plasticcup says

      I agree. If you are a single parent, that’s one thing, but if you have a partner at home who is NOT giving birth, why can’t they handle the laundry and the cooking for a few days?? And hello, you have NINE MONTHS to prepare for the baby ahead of time. You can certainly make and freeze meals and stockpile diapers and formula. It’s not like you wake up one day and there’s suddenly a baby- unless you have a preemie (and if you do, it’s completely understandable that you’d be caught unawares), you should be prepped and ready.

      Almost all animals give birth, they seem to manage just fine.

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      • 48

        Laurel says

        Yeah, last I checked, Ms. Goat never drops by unannounced, visit Heiffy, the new calf, selfishly expecting to be able to be doted on while Ms. Cow hasn’t had a second of just plain silence to collect herself. Do you even have kids?

        I’m just assuming you’ve never pushed another human being out of YOUR vagina, had one cut from YOUR uterus, or in any other way had a child crash land in YOUR life.

        Neither have I, but watching friends experience this amazing, incredibly tough part of life, I know one thing for sure:
        NO amount of preparation is enough.
        Most women don’t find out the absolute second they’re pregnant, so most of the time, they have at most 7-7.5 months to get ready–and who knows how long it takes to get past the vomiting warfare and exhaustion to have the energy to get ready.
        And even with the most loving spouses doing all they can to help, they’re BOTH sleep-deprived, and at least one of them is still working full time, away from home–in some instances for weeks at a time. BOTH parents need whatever support that can given.

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  7. 49

    B says

    I would like to add DO NOT bring your small children with you to visit! That is not nice or helpful. No matter how cute your kids are or how much we love them, they are loud and messy and one more headache to endure.

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    • 51

      AK says

      Oh my goodness, do I agree! I had a friend bring over lunch for us to share, but it was a lunch that required dishes and utensils, and we do not have a dishwasher. Oh, and she brought her 2-year-old. So I spent at least 45 minutes cleaning up after them when they left, because they did not help with dishes or lunch clean-up, and her kid tore apart my living room and dumped out toys, blankets, coasters, books, etc, everything that was neatly put away. The kid even put both my baby’s pacifiers in her mouth, which then had to be boiled. They weren’t asked back anytime soon. Having them over is too much work.

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      • 52

        Suzanne says

        This is another instance where I would be completely honest to this mom. “Excuse me, can you tell your little girl that since she was able to take out the toys to play with, that she can put them back where they belong all by herself too?” Also, “Thanks so much for the lunch. Can you help me clean up? After all, i have a brand new baby and can barely stand on my feet for lack of sleep.” etc. etc. I think these days people are way to selfish to even REALIZE when they need to be helpful. It isn’t selfish of new mothers (and disabled people, etc.) to ASK for the help. In fact, in a lot of ways, its courteous to say “hey, you’re my friend. You’ve come over to be a friend. This is how you can be a friend to me in this moment.”

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  8. 54

    Ruby says

    After having an emergency c-section just after Christmas, a month before we expected to have the baby, I allowed mother-in-law to stay over. I could really use the help as we still hadn’t cleaned up the family party stuff and my toddler’s cloth diapers were overflowing in the bucket. I hadn’t gotten to finish folding laundry and the dishes from the night before we went to the hospital were getting funky. What did she decide to help with? She wanted to hold the baby and take care of the nighttime feedings “so you can get some rest”. NO!

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    • 55

      Stacey says

      LOL. My MIL offered to help with night feedings, too… I told her, “Okay, but it’s going to be a little awkward sitting there with you holding my boob!” Thankfully she has a good sense of humor and laughed, then did the dishes. :)

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    • 56

      Elise says

      Just back home after my C-section, my (young and fit) MIL offered to hold the baby so that I could clean the floor. And let me take out the bins by myself. Still angry 2 years later. Thanks for your “help”, selfish bitch!

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