Though it depends on your family and on your community, a newborn’s arrival often means that you’ll be receiving lots of visits from family and friends. This can look like a friend dropping off a freezer meal to help you ease into the first few weeks, or it can involve your mother-in-law demanding to be in the delivery room. As a father, there are a lot of things that you can’t do during the delivery and immediate aftermath. You can’t swap places with your partner or start breastfeeding. But you can manage the comings and goings of family and friends. And you should.
The first step in this process should be talking to your partner. Maybe she’s an introvert, maybe she’s an extrovert, and maybe those sorts of things have nothing to do with whether she wants her mom seeing your baby crown. Find out (for more, see making subtext text). Get a sense of how much contact she wants to have with family and friends leading up to the birth, after the birth, and in the hours, days, and weeks to follow. Then — this part is equally important — understand that these preferences may change. “Yeah, I’d love to have my parents present at the birth” can turn, at hour ten, into “get those people the fuck out of here.” If you’re on the fence, lean towards having fewer people in the room for birth and the 24 hours or so after than more. It isn’t the place for democracy.
I’d recommend restricting the visitor’s list to immediate family until you’re out of the hospital, assuming a standard 2-3 day hospital stay. Give yourselves some time to meet the new addition and adjust.
Once you’re home, more family and friends may want to visit and/or help. There’s a good chance you’ll want to limit visiting a big in the first few weeks so the new kiddo can build up his or her immune system a bit. But don’t let that stop you from accepting help from people. Just make sure you take a minute to think about what “help” looks like. A lot of times, that won’t mean help in caring for the newborn directly – looking at you, breastfeeding. But it’ll look like taking care of other things in your life that aren’t caring for a newborn. Things like shopping for groceries or picking up takeout or cleaning the dishes in the sink. Friends, and especially family, are often perfectly happy to take stuff like this off your plate so you can focus on your new addition. Let them. But make sure that everyone – and particularly family – understands that you won’t be “entertaining” anyone during this time. If they want to help, great, but if your in-laws plan on crashing on your couch for a week and letting you entertain them, correct that misunderstanding before the new kid arrives. And take this opportunity to screen your partner from some of this drama if at all possible, since she has plenty on her plate at this point.
It can be a tricky balance between accepting help and not getting overwhelmed. But the better you walk that line, the easier the first few weeks home with your baby will go.