Emeralds are a precious gemstone (the State Gem of North Carolina, in fact), which are long thought to promote love and hope, and quiet an anxious or troubled mind. Emeralds can be used to bridge the hearts of two people together and are also said to bring wisdom and reason to their wearers.
You’re settling down on the couch for the next feeding with your newborn. You’re just getting nestled in with your breastfeeding pillow, water bottle, maybe a snack, your phone, and are just about to kick your feet up on your nursing stool (or sure, maybe one of those Amazon boxes laying around from your midnight Prime ordering sessions). You get your squishy new baby to breast, just about to execute the Most Perfect Latch Ever and then, ….
Your newly-promoted-to-Big-Sibling-status older child has capitalized on this quiet moment to take advantage of their newfound climbing skills and independence, sending a few household items tumbling down, along with themselves.
Transitioning into life with a new baby is exciting. It’s also so. much. change. for your older children.
Suddenly, they’ve gone from the center of your world, to sharing their limelight with this entirely new person. And yes, eventually, they’ll build a beautiful partnership with each other and a love that will last a lifetime between the siblings. But until then, Big Siblings will often flex their “Big Kid Independence” in the light of hearing (more than) their fair share of “Not Now”s, or “Just a Minute”s while you tend to your newborn.
Enter: Busy Bags.
These low cost, simple activities for your older children will become your new best friends in the moments when your newborn’s needs can’t wait.
Busy Bags allow for your older child to work on a project that’s *just* for them while you feed or care for your newborn.
They’re activities that occupy their curious little minds, and their busy little hands, all at the same time.
Some of our postpartum doulas even carry a few Busy Bag selections in our tool kits when we support new families. What are some of our favorites?
Pom-Pom Balls and The Old Yogurt Container: We cannot even begin to tell you how popular this game is. Truly! All you need is about 20-30 small pom-pom balls, and an old yogurt container with a lid. Cut a small hole in the lid and smooth out the edge with a file if it’s scratchy. Invite your older child to push the pom-poms through the lid. Sounds so simple, and it is.
But wowza, do we have a rush for this game each time it’s brought out during our Big Siblings Classes!
Paint Swatches and Clothes Pin Matching: Again, super simple but also a hit! Swing by your local hardware store and collect a couple of those paint swatch strips. Then, cut the edge off of each color. Glue a part of that edge to the top of a clothes pin. Your little one can work on their color matching and their manual dexterity at the same time!
Popsicle Stick Velcro Shapes: Grab a few popsicle sticks (The giant, tongue depressor size ones work really well, but any size will probably be fine) and put some Velcro sticky dots on the ends. Your toddler can spend quite a while building shapes and letters from them!
Felt Hamburger Creation: This one requires a little bit of creativity, but it’s also usually a hit! Grab a few sheets of felt from your craft store, and cut out shapes in the form of layers of a hamburger. Two buns, a patty, lettuce, pickles, cheese, onions, etc. Your child can spend a while forming custom hamburgers for you while you feed the baby! This also works great for felt pizza toppings, cake and cupcake creations, etc.
Spending a Saturday afternoon together creating these simple, and most importantly, quiet activities engages them in the preparation for baby.
It creates excitement for their baby to arrive!
Once the bags are made, they go into a special basket and only come out during the times that you need a few minutes to tend to your baby. This helps the activities maintain some of their “specialness”.
Oh, and Busy Bags can also translate well into Special Snacks, too! Offering a Special Snack (fruit gummies, Cheddar Bunnies, banana coins, or fruit smoothie popscicles) are another great way to help your older child not feel left out each time your baby has a feeding!
Thanks to several local university graduations and celebration events around town, Mother’s Day in the Bull City can be a fun, but often crowded weekend. This week on the blog, Emerald Doula Vanessa is sharing her best suggestions to help you celebrate the favorite moms in your life, without the hassle of long waits and out-of-towners.
The Foodie Mom
This mom loves to eat and is determined to have a foodie baby too! Why not treat them one of these tasty new spots around town?
Zweli’s: Making waves as the country’s first and only Zimbabwean restaurant it’s also a flavor powerhouse of a place that will surely have something to please everyone at the table.
Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter: Okay, this spot may have a few extra visitors this weekend, but get there later in the afternoon when each Sunday after 5 p.m. they offer a whole or half fried chicken, plus the option to add a glass of bubbles to drink. Enjoy the sunshine and nice weather, and sit in their outdoor dining area. Plus, don’t forget to try the French silk pie! It’s ah-mazing.
The Crafty Mom
This mom loves her kids but don’t get caught touching their crafting supplies – or else!
AR Workshop: This fun local spot is hosting a Moms and Mimosas Workshop, Sunday from 2-5 p.m., where your Mom can flex her crafting skills on one of many projects.
Handcrafted Night Out: So this one isn’t in Durham but it’s worth the drive. They’re hosting a metal stamping class at Trophy on Maywood in Raleigh! Learn to create your own charms, necklace or bracelet!
The Movie Loving Mom
This mom has never met a rom-com, tear jerker, action flick they didn’t like, so why not treat them to their favorite movie snacks at one of these events?
The Alamo Drafthouse in Raleigh (again, not in Durham, but isn’t Mom worth the drive?) will be showing Dirty Dancing and came up with a special menu that will put Kellerman’s to shame.
The Fit Mom
This mom knows that endorphins make you happy and you should want to make her happy by joining her for some cardio and outdoors time.
Rent a kayak or canoe at Lake Michie: Take Mom out for a paddle around one of the most beautiful spots in Durham! You can snag a kayak (single or tandem) or canoes for 6-hour rental. Take lunch with you, and picnic from the shores before you take off or enjoy it out on the lake (take your trash back with you of course, and help keep the water clean!)
Take a hike at Penny’s Bend Nature Preserve: This beautiful, often overlooked spot along the Eno River is another great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the typical Mother’s Day Brunch crowds. With hiking trails, stops along the river, and really lovely vegetation and flowers, Mom can step away from the sounds of the city and enjoy nature’s soundtrack for a couple of hours.
Oaks and Spokes Mother’s Day Ride: Work up a sweat on Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. The route takes families from the Capital Building to JC Ralston Arboretum’s rose garden.
Community Yoga: If savasana is more Mom’s flow, check out the Mother’s Day community yoga event at Lululemon in Durham, happening Sunday, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
The Wild Card Mom
It could be diamond tiaras or t-shirts and jeans – who knows?! This mom is so multifaceted you never know what they’ll be in the mood for, so here are some ideas that seem like they don’t match…but they could because, that’s who this mom is.
Axe throwing? Sure!Urban Axes says bring mom for a mimosa and a bullseye! Bonus: You can treat her to brunch across the street at Geer St. Gardens, or walk next door for some arcade games and pizza at Boxcar Bar + Arcade (kiddos are welcomed before 9 p.m., as long as they’re with their grown-ups).
Have other ideas? How are you celebrating Mom this year? Tell us in the comments!
There are a lot of reasons why pregnant people and new parents hire doulas.
In birth, it’s often because we offer a deep well of information when you need it. Providing evidence-based information about your birth options, interventions, and suggest labor positions you might try. We often bring a lot of hands-on comfort, too- massage, counter pressure, reassuring touch, etc.
As postpartum doulas, we offer a lot of practical help. Folding laundry, tidying the kitchen, cutting up fruit and vegetables as quick snacks, or prepping tasty, nutritious meals. Postpartum doulas also sometimes take over baby care so tired, exhausted parents are able to nap, shower, visit with friends and family, or just have some alone time.
Sometimes, though, the magic of our work as doulas isn’t in what we actively do. Sometimes, the magic comes from just simply, being.
That magic might come in the form of sitting quietly, nearby a laboring person as they cope beautifully through active labor. Occasionally, we’ll offer a sip of water, a bite of a popsicle, or a verbal reminder of the strength we’re seeing right before our eyes.
However, in that moment, our support mainly shines through the form of just being.
We offer quiet reassurance through a smile, a knowing and understanding look, a tender touch, and a cool cloth on the forehead.
We act as your partner’s memory, quietly suggesting options when needed, so they can be fully present in the moment, instead of mentally running through things you learned in birth class together. We hold your partner in our arms if your birth goals shift or go off course, allowing them the space to fall apart and feel all the feelings. Then, we help pick them back up, help rebuild their strength and composure, and so it’s available to you when you need them most.
At home, once your baby’s arrived, our gentle support continues as you learn about your new baby. We’re there as you learn how to lean into your instincts as a new parent, and as you learn how to navigate life in your new roles as parents.
Yes, we’re there to help with the little things that can grind a sleepless, new parent down over time (oh, that baby laundry is endless, isn’t it?).
But we’re also there to just be.
We’re there to witness your confidence grow as you care for and feed your newborn. We’re there in the vulnerable moments, when it feels like everything is really hard (because it often is really, really, just that hard), to quietly remind you of all the ways that you’re all flourishing and growing.
We’re there when you’re ready to share your birth story, however it unfolded, with a hug and a grounding touch. And, we’re there to wipe the tears, both from overwhelming happiness and sheer frustration and exhaustion, when they fall.
You see, yes. The work of a doula is very active and sometimes very physical. We do a lot of things for our clients and for their families.
But really, the art of our work isn’t in the things we do. It’s in the act of the things we don’t do. The work of a doula truly shines in the moments when we are just being.
If you’re considering adding a doula to your birth or postpartum team, we’d love to set up a consultation to learn more about your needs. Email us today to find out more about our approach to supporting new families.
While listening to one of my favorite podcasts recently (Where Should We Begin, by Esther Perel) I was intrigued by the discussion between a couple, who, among other challenges, were struggling with the balance of the “emotional labor” of their lives.
What’s Emotional Labor?
Emotional Labor is the invisible work, the “behind the scenes” efforts that keep a life, a family, a relationship in motion.
It’s the things like, noticing that your low on toilet paper, and purchasing more, or remembering all the appointments and ensuring that they’re made on time and kept, or the mental load of a perpetually running list of things like signing forms, ordering cat food, scheduling important visits, or even just remembering to do the laundry.
How is this relevant for new parents?
As postpartum doulas, we see the emotional labor of a family become one of the hardest parts of a family’s life following birth. Sometimes that’s because life with a newborn is so chaotic that things just slip through the cracks. But more often it’s because the Birth Giver has historically been the Do-er of the emotional labor in that family, and in the days following labor, the sleeplessness, the feedings, and the sheer physical recover that has to happen for a Birth Giver, they are simply unable to continue with the burden of that “invisible work” any longer.
How can partners help with this burden?
For this, I’ll go back to Esther Perel, who during the podcast said, “You do not ask a drunk person if they want to drive. You simply take the keys from them and drive the car yourself. One cannot ask for help if you’re flooded and underwater emotionally. You just do what needs to be done, without being asked to do it.”
In postpartum, this means not waiting until postpartum to have some hard conversations about ways your relationship may shift after the baby arrives.
Talk through your current responsibilities within your family’s lives together and consider how they may be impacted and even redefined after birth.
Have the conversations NOW about your expectations for each other and the roles each of you play in your family, and the roles you each will play when you’re new parents.
Work together to identify each of your most important, has-to-be-done-or-you-feel-overwhelmed household task and make a plan for ensuring it’s done each, and every day.
Then, remember “You can’t ask for help if you’re flooded”, so don’t wait to be asked to do the dishes if you know your partner is currently responsible for the majority of your newborns needs in those early days.
Just make sure that the sink is clean each night before bed (and maybe refill their water glass each feeding too!). Don’t ask your partner to decide what to order for dinner each time. Consider picking up something you know they’ll love on your way back from work or an errand.
And, don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.
Pull in your family and friends as resources. Print off and leave up our 5-Minute Task List if you need ideas of how they can help pitch in to support your family.
Discussions about Emotional Labor and navigating difficult conversations with your partner in postpartum is just one, small topic we cover in our monthly Community Prenatal Meetings; which are an exclusive benefit for Emerald Doulas clients. If you’d like to join us at the next one, consider scheduling a consult today.
As birth doulas, we often hear from clients in their last few weeks of pregnancy who excitedly report on their prenatal visits with their providers. Often these reports include some measurement of cervical dilation that occurred in those visits.
Cervical dilation is measured from 0 centimeters to 10 centimeters (with 10 centimeters being a “fully dilated” or “complete” cervix) and is assessed through a vaginal exam by your midwife or OB.
But, did you know that your dilation isn’t the only indication of labor progress?
In fact, prenatal cervical exams do little to tell us about what will happen in the coming days or even hours; only what’s happened up until that point.
Very often, pregnant people who consent to cervical exams in late pregnancy are left with one of two feelings:
Initial excitement that their cervix has started dilation, and then disappointment that active labor and birth may not follow “soon” after.
Initial disappointment that their cervix hasn’t begun yet to dilate, only to be surprised that they are greeting their baby Earthside or are in active labor in the immediate days or even hours after the exam.
Unfortunately, your cervical dilation alone isn’t a crystal ball for when your labor will begin, or how fast or slow it might be. Instead, think of cervical exams as a history report; one which tell us what’s been happening up until the moment of the exam.
Now, that’s not to say that cervical dilation isn’t useful at all.
That history report can be valuable when needed. For example, if you are considering an induction, and need to know which method of induction you might choose. Or, if you are in labor and are requesting pain medication, a cervical exam can reveal whether you have time to benefit from that medication or if your baby is very close to being born instead.
But, it’s not the be all, end all for a complete picture of your labor pattern.
There are also a few other ways to measure labor progress. These include additional evaluations which give us a more complete picture of how your labor is progressing or which tell us that your baby and your body have begun the earliest stages of birth.
What might they be?
Your cervix shifts from back (posterior) to front (anterior), in preparation for birth.
Your cervix begins to soften, often called “ripening”.
Your cervix begins to thin or efface (and is measured in a percentage of 0% to 100%).
Your baby begins to engage in your pelvis (measured using as assessment of “station” from -3, or not engaged to +4/5, or crowning).
Why is this important?
It’s important because you, your baby, and your body will do such hard, beautiful work together in labor and birth.
A single assessment of dilation doesn’t fully honor or reflect that effort.
So, if you are presented with the option of a “quick check of your cervix”, consider asking for all of the findings of that exam. Ask your provider to also inform you of your cervical position, your effacement, and your baby’s station.
Finally, if you’re unsure of your baby’s position, ask for your provider’s opinion, or try Belly Mapping. Consider registering for an upcoming Spinning Babies Parents Class to learn more about how a baby’s position can impact your birth.
Information about labor progress and how you might evaluate decisions like consent for cervical exams are just two of the many topics we cover in each of our Modern Childbirth Education series. Whether your schedule needs a weekend-full class, or a three-week series, we’ve got the best, most comprehensive class available in the Triangle.
If you’re currently pregnant, or have children already, you might be familiar with a common possible Labor Sign known as “nesting”; or the (often uncontrollable) urge to organize and clean all. the. things. in your home prior to your baby’s arrival.
While you’re organizing the spice cabinet by height and alphabetizing the soups in the pantry, you might also channel some of that urge into a different form of nesting- Postpartum Nests.
What are Postpartum Nests?
These are little strategically placed bundles or baskets of needed essentials in and around areas of your home (where you’ll care for your baby or your own body).
What goes into each nest depends on which nest, and which location, we’re talking about. We advise clients to break these nests into three categories: Bathroom/Physical Recovery Nests, Infant Feeding Nests, Infant Care Nests, and (maybe most importantly) Snack Nests.
Let’s take a closer look:Bathroom and Physical Recovery Nests
This nest will have items that are essential for your, the birthing person’s, recovery. Think items like: disposable mesh underwear or Depends, peribottle(s), witch hazel pads, disposable maxi pads for postpartum bleeding, Sitz bath herbs or bottom sprays (like Dermablast or herbal sprays), etc. Anything you might need to tend to your own healing following birth goes into this nest.
We suggest that you place a Bathroom Nest in each bathroom your home has (even if you never use that half-bath on the East Wing, or the one in the basement that’s only for company because you may not feel up to running back to your own bathroom each time you need it!).
Infant Feeding Nests
This nest will contain all the things you might need to make infant feeding easier for you and for your baby. Items in this nest might include: nipple balms, breastpads, burp cloths, your feeding and diapering tracker (if you’re using one), your phone and an extra long phone charger (because it will run out of battery just as you sit down to nurse!), tissues, the television remote, and your pump and pump supplies if needed. Plus, don’t forget a water bottle for you (preferable with a straw, and a lid, so your partner can help hydrate you when both of your hands are occupied with baby, without dumping water on either of you in the process).
Place these nests in any locations around your home where you might feed your baby. Yes, that means in the nursery, but also consider a station in your bedroom, the living room, or any other space in your home where you’re spending your days feeding your newborn.
Infant Care Nests
That nursery that you’ve spent 9 months lovingly preparing and planning? It’s so beautiful. But, in the real world of postpartum, you’re unlikely to make the trek to that changing table each and every time you need to diaper or clean up your your little one. Instead, put together Infant Care Nests as “docking stations” for the essentials when you need to clean-up on the fly, and don’t want to climb up the stairs 8-12 times in a day.
Consider adding things like: diapers, wipes, a full extra outfit or onesies, diaper balm or Butt Paste, lotions or coconut oil (for impromptu baby massage!), hand sanitizer (for those spur of the moment diaper changes without access to a sink), extra swaddling blankets, and pacifiers if you use them. Plus, those disposable chux pads you’ve brought home from the hospital? They make really great diaper changing pads, and you can toss them if/when they become soiled in the process.
This is the arguably the *most* important nest you’ll make for those early days. If you’re breastfeeding or pumping, you’ll be HUNGRY (you’re feeding a growing human with your body after all!), and even if you’re bottlefeeding, you’ll still need access to easily consumed, nutritious foods.
Our best piece of advise in this arena is to imagine you’re trying to find snacks to feed a toddler. Calorie dense. Easy to eat one handed. Preferably squeezable or bite-sized. Things we’ve seen our postpartum doula clients really love in the past include: squeezable yogurts and applesauce, peanut butter packs, deli meat and “cracker cut” cheeses or cheese sticks, pre-cut fruits, carrot or celery sticks, granola bars, calorie-dense smoothies, “handful snacks” like trail mix or shelled nuts, and pre-portioned bags of pretzels.
Leave some of the shelf-stable snacks in or around your Infant Feeding Nests (refer back to the breastfeeding makes you hungry idea above) and put some of the snacks in your pantry or in a small basket in your fridge, ready to grab you need them. Prepping snack stations is one of our postpartum doula team’s favorite tasks, but it’s also a great way partners can be supportive of their birthing person’s recovery in those early days.
Did you have any other stations or nests in your home during postpartum? If so, tell us about it in the comments!And, get more helpful information like this (and so. much. more.) in our Infant Feeding and Newborn Care classes, happening monthly at our office!.
This week’s blog post comes from Emerald Doula, and resident foodie, Vanessa. Vanessa is, in addition to being an incredible doula, an amazing home chef. She can make nearly any meal Instagram ready (and her InstaStories back up that claim!). Today, she’s sharing some of her favorite recipe links to help pregnant people consume the fabled “6 Dates A Day” for a possibly easier birth …
Studies show that eating 6 dates a day from week 36 until birth, potentially could help shorten the duration of labor. However, eating 6 dates each. and. every. day. can sometimes feel more like a chore than a chance to flex your best Top Chef skills.
Whether you wrap them in bacon, eat them warm, or just place them on a cheese plate we are here to help you stop dreading the dates!
Dates are a great and easy way to add texture and sweetness your favorite morning meals!
Date Nut Overnight Oats: This recipegives you options for the different kinds of oats you may have on hand or want to grab at the store.
More than salad? We’ve got you covered: For something a bit heartier try this cauliflower, date, red onion, and parsley salad. Add your grain of choice (rice, barley, quinoa) for some extra energy from good carbs and don’t be shy to top with your favorite lunch time protein.
When snack time rolls around we have two words for you: Boursin Cheese! Just spoon it into some split dates for a yummy before dinner ,or late light snack!
Not feeling up to cooking?
Quick Bite, Two Dates: If you are just not in the mood to make anything,RxBars boasts two dates per bar and you can grab them in any number of flavor varieties.
However you choose to eat your dates, we hope you can look back on your last days of pregnancy as ones filled with lots of love, delicious foods, and, okay, maybe even a shorter labor.
Being a parent is hard, no doubt about it. Taking care of yourself, especially now that you are a parent can seem like a difficult task when so many demands are made on you every minute of the day.
The truth is, self-care can look like lots of different things and can be done when you have 10 minutes before the baby wakes up, or just a couple minutes while you put your feet up, or the moments before you drift off to sleep at night. It can’t, and doesn’t always have to be, a day at the spa that we WISH we could schedule more often.
Today, postpartum doula and EmDo Co-Owner, Suzanne Lee, shares that quest to find those enjoyable self care avenues which you can do quickly and which help make for a lighter part of the day (even if you’re a busy new parent!).
In that journey, she’s discovered a few really great apps that might make a difference for you, even if you’re squeezing in these fun moments between the more trying, stressful times:
Smule - In Suzanne’s words, “Seriously, this choir girl loves a good duet. Now with Smule, my dream of singing This is Me with Keala Settle is now a reality!” There you have it… go make your vocal dreams come true.
YouTube - Okay, we get it… its not a NEW app. But, have you really looked at YouTube? Its not all Cats vs Cucumbers videos. There are lots of interesting people sharing their corner of the world with the rest of us. Suzanne’s current crush is Pasta Grannies. (AKA: Her new winter hobby)
Calm - This is a meditation and mindfulness app that has a lot of features to help you through a lot of situations. You can drift off to sleep listening to rain or other different white noise sounds, go through a variety of meditations, masterclasses, or have a book read to you (even in ASMR) while you go to sleep. Its heavenly.
Best Fiends - Ok, so you can tell she has an 8 year old? This is a hot new game that is highly addictive and a fun way to relieve a bit of stress while you wait at the DMV, or in the pediatrician’s waiting room.
Forest- Forest incentivizes us to put down our devices by allowing us to grow virtual trees. Open the Forest app, plant a tree and time it for however long a break you want to take (5, 25, 45 minutes, maybe?). Set it for that and do your non-device tasks. When you come back to your device you will have a full grown tree. Interrupt it before the time is up, and you are now a tree killer. Each tree you grow you collect points and badges as well.
What fun, new apps have you discovered that help you add in a few, easy moments of self-care as a new parent?
Most often as birth doulas, we’ll talk about and share ways in which we support the birthing person during pregnancy and birth. That’s fair, though, right? Birthing people are doing a good portion of the work, and will need that support as they move through the process.
But did you know? Birth doulas also provide a lot of support specifically for partners, too! How? We help share the load of the support a birthing person needs.
Birth can take a while. Partners, you’ll need occasional time take care of your own needs. Go ahead, take a nap. Go get lunch or dinner. Step outside to get some fresh air or update your anxious family members. Alternatively, we can be the ones who step out to update your family, or grab you a bite to eat bedside.
Having a birth doula by your side ensures that your birthing person is still receiving the support they need, while you fill up your own reserves. This way, you can be there when they need you most!
Birth is… well, it’s birthy. It can be an experience straight out of the textbooks, or it can be an experience we never envisioned. A birth doula plays an important role in either case.
We can tell you that yes, this really is normal and expected (even if it feels like there’s no possible way that it’s true!), or help you plan for and discuss decisions that may change the course of your baby’s arrival. The result is a calm, more relaxed partner, who can focus and connect with their beloved, instead of worrying about what comes next.
Allow us to be an In-Person Google. We offer suggestions and tips that help a partner’s support shine.
A birth doula’s role is never to overshadow a partner’s important spot on birth team. Instead of replacing their hands in your support, we add a layer of care. This may be the first time your partner has ever seen a baby born. At the very least, it’s the first time they’ll ever see *this* baby born. The emotions of labor can make it hard to recall all the information you learned in Childbirth Ed or Community Prenatals.
We can be your partner’s memory for your favorite comfort measures and preferences. Or, we can suggest new things that you didn’t even know to try! As experienced birth doulas, we carry with us a learned history of things that might bring you comfort.
To be sure, a birth doula is not an “either/or” for your partner; but rather, a “yes, and” to your birth team.
In what ways did your birth doula support your partner? Tell us in the comments.
The holiday season is a really special, beautiful time of year when families gather near one another. For those of you with newborns, this might also be the first time your extended family and friends will have the chance to meet your family’s newest arrival.
But, between the sparkle and dazzle of holiday cheer, and the (sometimes lengthy) visits, it can be hard to balance their expectations with your little one’s needs, without leaving your newborn or yourself, feeling overwhelmed. (Read: How to know when your newborn is overwhelmed.)
We get it. The holiday season is not normally a time when you get that advice. But this holiday season isn’t like any other.
Before your family arrives (and ideally before they even schedule the visit), sit down with your partner and discuss your own goals and expectations for the visits. What do you want? How long do you really want your family to visit? Who do you really want to see? Do you want all visitors to have flu shot? Wash their hands? Remove their shoes? Not be sick? Decide together now and set the rules for moving forward.
Utilize schedules and write things down (#babybrain).
Sit down and look at your calendars together. Make sure you don’t have too many people visiting on the same day, or visits lined up too close together, or that you don’t have gaps in your support. Use a simple list to track it down (Here’s one we created a while back!).
Build in a cushion for each set of visitors to account for the adjustment in your baby’s needs. Their sleep may be affected by being overstimulated from visits, and they (and you!) might need a day or two to “regroup” before you begin again or try to cram in all the sights and highlights of their visit on their first day there.
If you aren’t naturally a Happy Hostess, don’t add stress to a visit by forcing that role on yourself or your partner. Offer to meet your family at their home or nearby restaurant (Bonus: You get to control the length of that visit and and scoot out at any moment if needed). Alternatively, if you are typically the host for your family’s gatherings, and it’s a position that you truly enjoy and draw energy from, then utilize all forms of modern convenience to help you out. Have the food catered, delegate cooking, cleaning, setting up to other family members, or accept all forms of help when offered.
Please hear this loud and clear: It is okay to set boundaries. This year and going forward. Really. It is.
For a lot of new parents, this may be the first time you’re setting expectations and making decisions that are best for your, newly created or newly changed, family.
Your extended family? This might be the first time they are no longer “The Parents” and that might be hard for them in a few ways. They may have opinions about your choices and they may not agree with what you decide is best (shocking, we know.).
That is okay.
Acknowledge this. Thank them for their input (it’s coming from such a sweet, authentic place of love and concern, we promise). Be ready to stand by your decisions. If a verbal conversation isn’t easy for you, consider an email before your baby arrives (the emotional stakes are a lot lower while the baby is still in utero!)
Finally, be flexible.
Allow yourself the grace to change your mind.
You might decide you really do want your mom, her sister, all your cousins and the family’s children rocking around your Christmas tree when you previously thought you might want limited visitors. Or, you maybe you initially did want that and then later decide that, actually, a Silent Night is all you’re really hoping for.
At the end of the day, you get to be the expert on your baby and your family now. The gift of parental instincts are is already there within you. Lean into your intuition and unwrap it layer by layer.