Some of the happiest times in my whole life were the two weeks at home after both my babies were born. For nine long months, we had anticipated the arrival of our first baby, and with him, the simultaneous birth of our new family. We had done all the prepping and primping. The nursery was ready, and the car seat was installed. All we needed was our baby.
When I was pregnant with Michael, we lived in Connecticut, while the rest of our family lived in Florida. In order for anyone to be there when he was born, we had to make arrangements for when everyone would visit. Chris and I talked for several weeks about how we wanted to schedule our family’s time with the new baby. They certainly wanted to be there on the day he was born, and we wanted them there, too. But we were also very aware of our own personalities and needs, and the needs of our new baby, and we knew that we were going to want and need some downtime of our own. Neither Chris nor I function well with a lot of change when there are lots of people around, giving opinions and “helping” to the point of exhaustion. We had waited for nine months to have our little family of three, and we knew we wanted to make sure we had some time with just ourselves. Because Bean was breech (and fat and happy, I might add…his ultrasounds made him look like a little baby Buddha sitting in there…), we knew about two weeks before that I would probably be having a c-section. I was a little worried about that, but mostly just wanted whatever was best for Bean. So, we decided that we would ask family to be there at Bean’s birth. All our family on both sides bought plane tickets for the weekend before he was born. They were afraid I’d go into labor that weekend, before my scheduled c-section on Monday. That weekend ended up being really, really wonderful. We sat around and basically waited for a baby to be born! But while we did, we spent some really great, quality time together. My dad cooked us dinner, my mother-in-law helped us install the car seat, my mom taught me how to use bottle liners, my sister and I figured out how to work a Diaper Genie. It was a relaxing weekend that put me in the right mindset for that Monday.
Monday morning when it was time for us to head to the hospital, Chris and I took our own car to give us some time together. Our families would follow in their cars, but we wouldn’t see them again until Bean was born. That was one of those minor details that we didn’t necessarily plan out but that ended up being really nice. It gave Chris and me the entire birth experience just to ourselves. And we really needed that. One thing I know about Chris is that he does much better in situations where he can figure things out for himself, and I knew that having a baby would be the same way. He needed to hold our son for the first time without having other people show him how. He needed to connect with Bean and get to know him without an audience and cameras flashing. And having that part of the day to ourselves, away from our family and friends, really gave him that opportunity.
When Bean was born later that day, the nurses promptly handed him over to Chris, who promptly brought him over to me. I don’t think there are words to describe that moment. I was absolutely speechless. I still am today, even thinking about it. In a word, it was just perfect. Absolutely perfect. My entire life just sort of popped into focus. It was the happiest day of my whole life.
Later, when they were finishing my surgery, Chris walked out to the waiting room and told our families that Bean Man had finally arrived. I could hear the shouts and squeals from them all the way back in the operating room. After the doctors finished, I was sent to recovery for about an hour. Chris and I sat on my hospital bed, holding our new son and just getting to know every inch of him. Our family was out in the waiting room, just beyond the swinging double doors to recovery, and every 5 minutes or so, they’d start yelling back to us, “MICHAEL!” they shouted. “COME PLAY WITH US, MICHAEL!” All the nurses and doctors died laughing every time it happened, and Chris and I pretended we didn’t know who those people were. Secretly, though, it was wonderful to know that my family was there. When we finally were taken up to our room, our family was able to come up and meet Bean. I realized that afternoon how important it is to have your family involved. It wasn’t just OUR family that Bean was changing. He was changing our entire family. He made our parents grandparents, our sisters aunts, and our grandparents great-grandparents. Everybody got a new title that day, thanks to Bean. And it was wonderful that they were all there to celebrate that with us.
I was in the hospital for five days because of my c-section, and my family stayed around for most of that. They stayed at our house with our dogs, which gave Chris and me time alone with Bean in the early morning and evenings, and gave our families time with him during the day. Just like we planned, our families all left the day that I was discharged. So, it was Chris, Bean, and I who drove home to our house by ourselves. And, let me tell you, after five days of being under constant surveillance at the hospital, I was so happy to come home to an empty house. We spent the next week by ourselves, getting to know Bean, but also getting to know each other as a mommy and a daddy. It was a chaotic time, I’m sure, but looking back what I remember the most was how sweet that week was because it was our little family getting to know each other and trying to figure out how we were going to make this parenting thing work.
Now, a couple days in a hospital was not long enough for my family or Chris’s family with the new baby, so we agreed that they could come back up to see us a few weeks after we were home and settled. This gave us the chance to get ourselves into somewhat of a routine and back on our feet before our house was filled with people. It also meant that each family got to spend time with the baby because they each came at a different time. Mostly, though, it was a godsend to have them there because the first round of visits started the week that Chris went back to work. My parents came to stay for that first week I would have been alone with the baby, and it was wonderful. I couldn’t do a whole lot because of my c-section recovery, so it was nice to have people in the house to help. And then the following week, Chris’s family came up and did the same thing. I think we had a week off before my sister came up to stay, too. It was so wonderful to have them around to help, and I know they enjoyed getting some quality time with the baby.
When we moved back to Florida to be closer to family and I became pregnant again, we told our families we wanted pretty much the same visitation schedule we’d had with Bean’s birth. We loved having them at the hospital, but we really wanted the house to ourselves that first week we were home. We now had a daughter to get to know, and we were also thinking about Bean Man, too. He needed some time to adjust to this new member of our family without lots of people around him. (He’s just like his daddy.) So, after our hospital stay with Gracie, our families left again for the entire first week and then they reappeared to help out when Chris went back to work. And, just like before, it was the perfect balance for all of us.
Before my babies were born, I’d never really told my family what to do before. They kind of showed up when they wanted and left when they wanted, and that had always been fine. But with the arrivals of Michael and Gracie, I learned that part of being a mom is speaking up for the welfare of your family, and, in this case, that welfare meant getting some quality alone-time together. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions we made. I really think having that first week at home alone helped us get our bearings a lot faster and gave us the confidence that maybe we could really do this. Maybe we could really be parents after all.