Parents Want to Bond With Their Newborn—Alone

by Donne Davis on May 29, 2009

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I was having lunch with my dance teacher, Sherry and empathizing with her dilemma. She is expecting her first baby in September and her parents, who live on the East Coast, want to come out for three months after the baby is born. Sherry and her husband live in a tiny space and want time alone to bond with their baby. Sherry’s mom is crushed. That’s not the way she did it when she became a new mom. Her whole family came over to help and offer suggestions.

That’s just what Sherry fears—too much interference from her mother in this brand new phase of Sherry’s life. Sherry and her husband are a quiet, reflective couple who are planning a home birth. They want to “hunker down” after the delivery and bond with their newborn without all the intrusion and hovering she fears her mother will bring.

And thus begins the new dance between mother and daughter when a grandchild is added to the mix. Adair Lara, author of The Granny Diaries describes the Mother/Daughter relationship as the “most fraught relationship in the world.” You can be certain that any pre-existing issues between mother and daughter are going to intensify with the arrival of a grandchild.

My heart goes out to the soon-to-be grandma. I know she has the best of intentions, but she must respect her daughter’s wishes and learn to be patient until her daughter feels ready to include her in the “inner circle.” This experience will be the first of many for the new grandma when she can’t get what she wants. And the more she grasps, the more her daughter will push her away.

Both of these women are anxious about the unknown and the feelings their new roles will bring. Sherry has no idea how she’s going to feel after giving birth and her mother’s pressure to be present is probably intensifying her anxiety. The new grandma is so afraid she’s going to miss out and be excluded from her grandchild’s life that she’s grasping even harder.

I suspect that after a few days of “nesting with their newborn,” Sherry and her husband will welcome her parents. They’ll want their son to know his grandparents and will feel proud to show him off to them.

{ 3 comments }

Thelma January 9, 2011 at 9:53 am

Your blog is very insightful about the grandmother’s perspective. This article reminds me of the extreme challenges I faced & continue to face with my mother-in-law with the arrival of our first child, her second grandchild.

Like Sherry, I wanted to hunker down to bond with baby, and reinforce the inner circle Jackie Long describes. However my MIL simply never accepted nor respected the boundaries set. The first months of baby’s life were fraught with tension about her needs & desires trumping that of our family. She rejected many proposed scheduled visits claiming it was too rigid for her taste & not how she parented my husband. My MIL believes she should see the baby everyday for as long as she pleases. Even his brother & cousins have commented to her that her demands aren’t realistic. So I guess, I’m wondering what advice you have with establishing healthy boundaries with my MIL regarding baby?

I’m really glad I found your blog.

Cheers,
Thelma

Donne Davis January 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thelma, thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found my blog, too. I really like hearing the mother’s side of the story. I feel for you and your MIL. It sounds like she is not able to understand or respect your needs and may be focusing too much on her own. My first thought is to give her a copy of It’s Either Her or Me by Ellie Slott Fisher which I reviewed on my blog.
You might also want to take a look at my recent post on Mamapedia. Developing a satisfying relationship takes time and patience, as well as a willingness to understand each other’s perspectives. It sounds like you are both in the early stages of this relationship and she may have some expectations based on the relationship she has with the parents of her first grandchild.
How about giving your MIL a gift certificate to the GaGa Sisterhood! She could get a little reality check from the collective wisdom of other grandmas about their visiting privileges and maybe she’d respect your wishes.
In Sisterhood,
Donne

Jackie Long June 2, 2009 at 10:25 am

Donne, Thank you for writing this important piece. As a mommy-to-be with parents who live far away, I can relate to Sherry’s experience. However, my own experience of wanting time to “hunker down” after the birth has more to do with a sincere desire to focus my attention on the nuclear family and to strengthen the new ties of our “inner circle” than it has to do with pushing my parents and in-laws out due to fear of intrusion. Like the grandma-to-be in your blog, my own mother is very crushed about the boundaries I have set, and she is pushing back against the boundaries because she – quite understandably – wants to be a part of it all. It is indeed a very challenging time for both of us. We are both trying to get our needs met, and it is hard because we have conflicting needs. What I love about your blog is how you so sensitively addressed both sides of the issue and seem to have such compassion and understanding for both the mommy-to-be and the granny-to-be. I look forward to sharing your blog with my mom! Warmly, Jackie

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