When my cousin’s wife announced to the family that she was pregnant, it was as if she had told the entire clan that we were all, collectively, going to be having a baby in six months’ time. Almost immediately all the older women began to chatter about where she would be delivering, who would be delivering the baby, and how they were going to handle the phone tree. It was the words “phone tree” that I think really pushed her over the edge. Apparently she had not been prepared for the overwhelming experience that is my family when a new baby is being born. No babies had been born in the family for nearly nine years, and all of the aunts, cousins, mothers, grandmothers, and even uncles, brothers, fathers, and grandfathers were all chomping at the bit to get a new little one in their arms. This automatically meant that they felt ownership over the baby and intended to swoop in and take over as immediately after birth as possible. The mother-to-be, on the other hand, was having none of it.

It turns out she came from a family that had a very healthy respect for boundaries. They certainly loved each other and were involved in each other’s lives, but they allowed each person to make his or her own decisions and then respected those. Things like how many people could fit in the delivery room or how soon after the baby came out would they be able to pass her around were not considered group discussions. Of course, when she brought up the fact that she would prefer no one in the delivery room but her husband and mother, and that she would be the one handling letting people know when the baby had arrived and inviting people to visit, everyone in the family was suddenly offended.

 

I could see her point. After all, she would have just gone through one of the most dramatic experiences of her life and would be trying to bond with her new baby. Did she really need all 18 members of the family who lived within driving distance piling in on her? I saw my family’s side of the issue, as well though. This new baby was a member of the family. Didn’t they have the right to meet her as soon as she was born? Is there really any harm in immediately welcoming a new baby?

Though it is custom for family and friends to gather together soon after a baby is born to meet him, many experts suggest that it may be a better idea to spread out the well-wishes. Being suddenly surrounded by visitors can be incredibly overwhelming for an exhausted mother, and being passed around can be even more stressful on the baby. New studies suggested that newborns who are separated from their mothers are put under tremendous psychological and physical stress, to the point that their heart rates increase drastically and they are incapable of sleeping properly. Newborns need time to acclimate to their new surroundings and bond with their mothers before the big reveal. Gradually allowing guests to visit for a few minutes at a time is usually considered fine—so long as the mother is agreeable to it and not being forced to receive guests when she does not feel up to it.

Source: Elsevier (2011, November 2). Maternal separation stresses the baby, research finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 2, 2013.

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