A long time ago, years and years before I ever considered getting pregnant, I’m sure I had some kind of conversation with my mom about childbirth. It probably had something to do with the infamous story about how my dad threatened to punch out my mom’s obstetrician for complaining that he was going to miss his vacation because I decided to show up earlier than anyone expected. Sometime during that conversation, I’m sure I probably asked my mom questions about her deliveries and hospital stays. I probably even told her that if I ever got the chance to have a baby, that I wanted her in the room with me.
Fast-forward many, many years and I totally changed my mind. The only person I wanted in the delivery room was my husband. I didn’t really want any visitors in the hospital, and I definitely didn’t want any other relatives there to greet us when we came home.
My husband went to all of my prenatal doctor visits with me, and we were kind of surprised at how we’d see other couples there with somebody’s parents in tow. There was always one couple who had a small entourage. Those ultrasound rooms are tiny; I don’t know how they were fitting four people (five if you count the ultrasound tech) in there.
I guess at some point during my pregnancy, I made my mind up that when the baby came, it was going to be just me and my husband. We lived near D.C. and both of our parents lived in Florida, so it’s not like we could just give them a quick call when I went into labor and have them meet us at the hospital. I was OK with that.
Then I went into premature labor at 33 weeks. We hadn’t finished the nursery. We didn’t have the car seat installed and inspected yet. Our kid didn’t even have a name. I was afraid the kid was going to come early, but I figured at least I was in the hospital, and if he was going to come, at least we were in the best place.
Thankfully, the baby decided to stay where he belonged. But when I was finally discharged from the hospital after 12 hours of contractions, two bags of IV fluids, and some drugs to “calm my uterus down,” I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck. Every muscle ached. It was all I could do to stand in the shower and rinse the hospital feeling off me. I felt like total crap, and I didn’t even have a baby. So how was I going to feel when the baby did arrive?
I know how I am when I get sick: Leave me alone. Don’t bother me. You don’t have to wait on me or bring me soup or tell me to drink my fluids. Just let me sleep. I could just picture myself trying to recuperate after childbirth with well-meaning relatives hovering around. I’d be annoyed and pissed off at whomever tried to “help” because I would be exhausted and emotional.
Our parents offered to help around the house and do other stuff for us when the baby was born. This sounded like a good idea, but I didn’t want our parents’ first visit with their grandchild to be about folding our laundry and sweeping our floors. They offered to get up in the middle of the night with the baby, but I was planning on breastfeeding, so what exactly were they going to do?
When it came right down to it, I realized something. For my whole pregnancy, it had been just my husband and me, a thousand miles away from our parents. For every appointment, for every genetic test, for the early labor scare, the two of us were there for each other. We wanted to figure it all out on our own. And we had already agreed that our son was very likely to be our only kid, so we wanted to bring him home and spend our first days together as a family, just the three of us, because we probably wouldn’t ever get the chance to do it again. So we wanted to do things the way we wanted to do them.
I just had to tell my parents that. I don’t think they were pleased with the decision, but they respected it. We asked both sets of parents not to visit until we’d had a week or two at home. I’m sure it killed them to wait, but I’m so glad they did.
Right after my son was born, we were being wheeled from the delivery room to the recovery room. As we went through the maternity waiting room to the elevators, there was a large family standing around, waiting. They looked at me with a kind of tired hunger. They’d been there waiting on a baby for who knows how long. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and felt sorry for whichever new mama was going to have to deal with that crowd. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the energy. I just wanted to go back to the room with my husband and marvel at our son in peace. Of course, between phone calls and texting and emailing the good news, I’m not sure how much peace we had, but at least a phone can be silenced or turned off.
Our first couple weeks at home were rough. I’d had a C-section and recovery was brutal. We camped out in the living room for the first few days so that I didn’t have to get in and out of bed or go up and down the stairs. Then there’s the fact that my husband and I had very little experience with babies. But just like I wanted, we figured it all out together. We got up together for every middle of the night feeding. My husband changed diapers, and I nursed. Our son had some inexplicable crying fits and fussiness that we calmed down on our own. We somehow managed to eat regularly, take showers, and stay pretty well-rested. By the time our parents arrived, we had already started working on a routine and actually kind of felt like we knew what we were doing.
And it was so good to see everyone. It was wonderful to see my dad’s face light up while holding his first grandson. I loved watching my mother-in-law watching her son hold his son. But I’m so glad they waited. I’m so glad that we had that time to ourselves. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.