managing intense relatives 101

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.

stacking the odds

I knew I wanted a “natural birth.” I didn’t know exactly WHY I wanted that, or WHAT it meant exactly, or that it would be such a BIG DEAL to want that. I had a lot to learn. I knew that birth could be unpredictable and potentially complicated, but I wanted to do everything possible to increase my chances for a positive, healthy, natural birth.

The way we approach birth says so much about our personalities, families, cultures, and histories. Maybe you asked friends and family about their experiences (or you didn’t have to ask because they bombarded you with stories and “advice”), maybe you jumped in and forged ahead following your gut, maybe you went solely with advice from a trusted midwife or doctor. Maybe, like me, you read 101 books and solicited advice from online forums and a few select friends.

One of my trusted friends gave me the first of the many birth books I’d read, The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. She’d had a positive natural birth and found the book helpful. I also highly recommend it, and found it very accessible and practical, good for anyone who wants to, well, give birth with confidence.

As someone who needs facts and data, I liked how they built the case for the best things you can do to have a healthy birth. Drawing on the meta-analyses of the respected Cochrane library, they distilled and simplified the data into their six healthy birth practices. Visit their website for more information on each practice, including short videos.

Following these practices are no guarantee, but they greatly increase your odds of having a birth that’s positive, safe, and healthy for you and your baby. For me, following these steps worked well. I knew I couldn’t control it all, but I wanted to feel in control of the things I could. Just like life.

One key step that isn’t mentioned here (but is addressed in the book) is to do your best to find a midwife or doctor and birth location that you trust. Ultimately, you’ll be working with your care provider to make decisions and having a trusting relationship will be critical. Good luck!

Lamaze_6HealthyBirthPractices_Infographic_FINAL

 

 

a kind word

I walked to the back of the elevator, heading up to my office. A flustered young woman came on after me, pushing the button to her floor impatiently. The doors closed and we dutifully faced forward and didn’t speak.

Her back was to me and I noticed a small simple tattoo of a bird hidden behind her left ear. I debated for a few seconds if it would be weird to comment on it, if she’d rather be left alone. The lyrics from an old country song popped into my head: A kind word never goes unheard, but too often goes unsaid. Cheesy but true.

“I like your little bird tattoo,” I said, pointing at my ear.

“Oh!” She reached up to touch it, but never met my eyes. “Thanks. I sometimes forget that it’s there.”

We reached her floor and the doors opened. As she got out, she paused to say, “Thanks again. You helped me to feel a little bit better.”

I’m usually a huge fan of elevator silence. But I’m glad I spoke up this time.

OMFG is it winter break yet?

Only about 2 weeks to go. My family is lucky in that our work and school schedules allow us some real downtime over the holidays. We are so looking forward to seeing friends, no morning or evening rush, hanging out together doing not much of anything. Oh, the new Star Wars, of course. The grandparents have already given my kids everything Star Wars (merchandising! where the real money from the movie is made!), so a very merry Christmas to you, J.J. Abrams!

How’s your holiday shopping going, anyway? You know the whole thing about going for experiences over things, right? You don’t want your thoughtful gift to be konmaried right out of the house come spring cleaning.

The gift of a doula is the best gift I ever gave myself. It’s one of the most thoughtful, loving, nurturing experiences you can gift to the expectant parents on your list. The onesies are so cute, the tiny booties and softest blankets, the high tech strollers… but the postpartum doula is the one who will make sure the new parents are fed and rested. That the laundry isn’t piling up. That they are remembering to take care of themselves while everyone around them is asking about the baby. That they aren’t alone in the middle of the night and the baby won’t stop crying and they are too tired to see straight. A postpartum doula helps them figure out how they want to parent, the best approach for their family at that time. A birth doula cares for the family before and during that most intense and unique of human experiences– bringing a baby into the world, be it naturally, medicated and assisted, or surgically.

Every person, every family is unique in what will be most helpful to them. A doula can adapt to their needs to assist them in the best way possible. Pretty much the best gift ever.

decorative gourd season

Fall is my favorite season. The turning leaves– just incredible. The cooler weather, very welcome. Tall boots. It also means another year is nearly done flying by, which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me anymore.

I’m feeling big changes in the air. Time will tell if that comes to pass or if it is just wishful thinking.

I’m looking forward to a short week— extra time with friends and family. Special foods. Not having to rush into rush hour. Getting ready to help families welcome new babies in December. We just started putting out our Hannukah and holiday tchotchkes but you can bet I’m keeping the decorative gourds out for now.

Next week, I’ll get to make a fun announcement. I’m excited for what this will mean for future clients. Good things.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday! And as you review your gift list, consider gifting doula support to the expectant parents in your circle. I may be biased, but honestly there is no better gift. We’d be happy to work with you on gift certificates or a wish list.

falling into postpartum

I’m looking forward to working with clients as a postpartum doula. The role is quite flexible depending on your needs, but the focus is on supporting the mother (whatever that might mean to her) during the first 3 months with a new baby (also known as the “fourth trimester”). Set aside your other concerns so you can bond with your baby, learn each other’s patterns, and adapt to your new normal. A postpartum doula will also help you figure out your parenting style, so you feel more confident as you step into parenthood or a bigger family. Let’s talk!

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? 

The Best Postpartum Gift

Your friend might be a little odd, but if he wants to bring you a warm meal in his Superman outfit, LET HIM.

Leo is already 3 months old and my return to work is around the corner. I know it is a nauseating cliche, but how time flies! I’m already feeling overwhelmed with the juggling balancing act I’ll have to figure out anew.

Our wonderful friends and neighbors set up a meal chain for us, so we’ve been receiving one or two meals a week for the past three months. Some people cooked elaborate gourmet menus worthy of a Saveur cover story, while others made a simple dish or ordered us some take-out. Whatever it was, we appreciated every bite. How glorious to tuck in to some delicious food with no prep and minimal clean up? I don’t think I could put into words what a huge help this was during the new baby adjustment. We are so sad the meal chain is over! We used a website called Meal Train but I know there are a few others sites that do the same thing– making it easy for friends to choose dates, get a reminder, see your dietary restrictions, address, any other pertinent information, and help out in the best way possible– feeding you.

There are lots of great posts out there about how to best support a family with a new baby. Here are a few that I like.

How friends and family can help:

After the birth, what a family needs

Good reminders for mama:

Planning for Postpartum

A Time to Heal

Think ahead about what will help make the transition as smooth as possible for your family. Lean on friends and family and call in those favors. Make life as easy and simple as possible so you can focus on rest and bonding with your baby as much as possible.

What was the best thing someone did for you as you adjusted to life with a new baby? 

And maybe for fun, what was the worst/most annoying thing?