managing intense relatives 101

macaroon-886562_1280

You’re pregnant. Your baby’s coming soon. You’re wondering how you’ll be getting any sleep with a newborn in the house, among countless other things.

The good news is: your mother-in-law* wants to come help! The bad news is: your mother-in-law wants to come help! [*or whichever big personality relative is about to descend upon you]

The thought of it is so stressful you’re ready to bury your head in a platter of macarons and eat your way out.

What can you do? Is there a way to get the sleep you need and maintain your sanity while not totally alienating your MIL?

Absolutely.

When managing big personalities, there are some tools you can use.

mother-in-law-advice
“back in my day, we did everything exactly the opposite and you all turned out fine!” omg stfu

1. Your partner needs to be the heavy and run interference. She or he is your personal security detail. If you’re a single parent, you may need a trusted friend to play this role—helping you strategize in advance how to manage the visit and distracting the intense relative when possible. Your bouncer needs to step in and protect your space when you say your safe word, like “get your mom outta here before I murder someone.”

2. Brainstorm tasks and activities that can be a useful distraction. What are her skills? Organizing a minimalist nursery? Prepping some freezer meals? Setting up baby gadgets? Running around the city for the perfect new carrier? Planning a bris? Finding the right balance between allowing her time with baby and keeping her busy with tasks she enjoys that make the most of her strengths will benefit you both. 

Maybe MIL can hold the baby so you can get that all too important daytime nap in. Maybe she will help you hire a postpartum doula (similar to a baby nurse, but more mother/family oriented) so you can get more nighttime sleep in those early weeks. See if you can make the most of the things she likes to make the visit more bearable. See if you can find the win-win.

3. Practicing your best nod and smile will be helpful, too. “Thank you for the suggestion!” Repeat ad nauseam. The main key to managing big personalities is remembering: would you rather be right or be happy? Let it slide, as much as possible. Vent to your sympathetic friends later. 

4. Take care of yourself. I know, it is a cliché and triple hard as you adjust to life with baby. But making sure you’re eating, getting rest, and otherwise honoring your needs as much as possible will go miles in terms of helping you survive a challenging visit.

Before you know it, you’ll be getting a fresh pedicure and breathing a sigh of relief to have your space to yourself again. A little planning will help you get through that initial visit during the newborn days, with the sleep and sanity you so desperately need.  

Choose happy, choose your battles, choose a more peaceful way to get through the visit in the best way possible. It will be over soon and you WILL survive. And who knows, MIL may even really step up and surprise you. That would truly be some good news.

what’s in a name?

rose reading room nypl michaelms flikr creative commons

 

People ask me all the time where the name “postmodern childbirth” comes from. I’ve probably been asked 3 times in 5 years, and I think 2 of those came from the same person. I thought it was time to finally answer this burning question.

I was in academia for a long time. Too long. (Hmm, that might be a theme with me– overstaying my welcome. But I digress.) One day while working in the beautiful Rose Reading Room of the main branch of the New York Public Library, I was daydreaming about being done with my studies and able to pursue doula work. I was reading yet another postmodern theorist and trying to figure out what the hell it had to do with my research. And while there are some postmodern writers who I truly enjoy (what up, Zygmunt Bauman), and I generally like the concept, there are many who are just spewing pretentious nonsense. It’s a real life version of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

I had started doing some doula work and wanted a name for the business. I didn’t want something place-based; it wasn’t interesting to me. I didn’t want to go the whole beautiful birthing belly radiant lotus yoni mother earth; it’s been done. Really done. I was trying to think of something unique and meaningful to me. It was one day, painfully slogging through yet another tome of dry academic blather, that “postmodern childbirth” came to mind. It was a nod to the world I was eager to escape, and also an acknowledgement that contemporary US women are, in fact, figuring out how to birth and parent in a postmodern world. I liked it.

Now both of you who have been dying to know the answer to this compelling mystery can finally sleep easy tonight. You’re welcome.

As for the elephants– I have always had a deep love for elephants. They are incredible creatures. I knew all along that I would incorporate them somehow. My talented friend Nicole Truelock designed my logo and color scheme.

photo courtesy of Michael M.S. via flikr creative commons

 

Have Smartphone, Will Nurse

“No pictures, Ma!” A photo of Leo nursing, taken with my iPhone.

In the 4+  years between my babies, the smartphone was born. I held out for a while, not needing one of them fancy contraptions, but finally my dinosaur phone (i.e., just over 2-year-old flip phone) was falling apart and I figured, why not? Maybe I will love it as much as everyone else seems to. I got the iPhone last summer, and as predicted, most of the technology is lost on me. I downloaded some apps but never use them. I still use an actual laminated map if I’m going someplace new in the city. I do like the better texting and being able to check email, the odd website, and Facebook. I also occasionally use the camera to snap a photo or video of the kids and send it instantly to the grandparents. I listened to some Hypnobabies tracks while I was pregnant. That’s about it.

And then suddenly I had a baby nursing at all hours and I was busting out my phone A LOT. It helped me wile away the time during those marathon nursing sessions in the wee hours. Specifically, I’d fallen in love with the Dear Sugar column a few months prior to Leo’s birth, and was able to catch up on the backlog of her beautiful posts while nursing. Additionally, I used a breastfeeding appto help track feedings, diaper action, and sleep (ha ha ha) since I couldn’t remember one moment to the next in the newborn fog. With my older son, I have notebooks filled with my OCD scrawling of every nursing and diaper change until whatever time I realized I could let it go already. So, what are the pros and cons? Let’s see:

Pros:

  • a toy to keep you company during long nursing sessions, especially if you watched the whole Battlestar Galactica series with your previous baby
  • a variety of apps to track feedings, changes, and sleep
  • keep up with friends via text, email, Facebook, and maybe even a good old-fashioned phone call while nursing– helps to feel less isolated and find instant support at any time if you’re in a rough patch
  • you could follow a suggestion I saw on Best for Babes (probably while nursing) and video your baby nursing, to be viewed later when you’re back at work or otherwise separated to help get your milk a-flowin’ for the pump

Cons:

  • you’ll totally jack up your eyeballs from squinting at the tiny screen in the middle of the night
  • perhaps you could have safely dozed while nursing but now you’re obsessively ‘liking’ stuff on Facebook
  • the electromagnetic waves are probably melting your baby’s brain
  • maybe I should be cooing over my baby now and then rather than the pretty phone?

So, that’s been my experience and inner struggle so far with the smartphone in my role as a breastfeeding mother.

What about you? Do you play with a fancy phone while nursing, or something else?