Speaking Up and Setting Boundaries

December 18, 2023, Pollywog Staff

Newborn Isaiah being held in front of a lit Christmas treeMy son was born last November, right before the holiday season. While it was exciting to have our little baby with us during such a special time of the year, it also created a lot of questions about how we were going to handle travel and guests. I found myself juggling the potential risks and benefits and needing to decide whether we would take a more cautious or lenient approach. All the while, I was afraid of hurting people’s feelings if I prevented them from seeing the baby. Being a new mom, I was very worried about coming across as overprotective or rude. Now that my son has just turned a year old, I have been reflecting on this time last year and all our decisions. This year, I plan to speak up more and set better boundaries.

Family members holding baby IsaiahBefore Isaiah’s birth, my husband and I tried to create a plan for how we were going to handle guests. We both agreed that we were excited for our families to meet the baby soon after he was born but that we wanted the visits to be short and for people to wear masks when holding Isaiah. When the time came, those plans seemed to fly out the window. Thirty hours of labor later, we had our baby boy. Riding high on adrenaline, I was feeling surprisingly good and excited to share him with the world. Within the first couple of days, we had both sets of grandparents visit, along with several friends. We also ended up not enforcing the wearing of masks. When the adrenaline wore off, I found myself completely depleted from the birth and all the activity. While it was special to share our son with the people closest to us, looking back now, I see that their presence significantly impacted my ability to rest and bond skin-to-skin with my fresh baby. One of my biggest regrets is not allowing myself more time to rest and recover with just Isaiah and my husband.

Family members holding baby IsaiahA week later was Thanksgiving. I started becoming really concerned about our upcoming plans to visit family due to the RSV surge I had been hearing about. I remember asking our midwives what they suggested for traveling with a newborn during the holidays when sickness was going around. They made it clear that exposing a new baby to a large group of people was not ideal but that it could be done if we followed good health practices. Ultimately, it was up to parental discretion, so I was left to decide. The decision carried a lot of weight, and I was surprised at how stumped I felt. On the one hand, I wanted to celebrate the holidays and make happy first memories with our new baby. Plus, I thought it would be rude to withhold our extended family from meeting Isaiah or ask them to wear masks in their own house. On the other hand, I would be potentially risking my baby’s life and pushing myself to be more active than what my body was ready for. In the end, we decided not to make a big deal of it or set any conditions, and we traveled to Washington to visit family. A couple of days later, my husband ended up getting a nasty case of the flu, and we were terrified that the baby and I would get it, too. Thankfully, neither of us got sick, but it was a big wake up call to realize that it would have been terrible if my newborn had gotten the illness. I was also left to care for Isaiah and my husband less than two weeks postpartum. Looking back, I wish I had not been afraid of offending my family and would have gone with my gut instinct to hold off on visiting.

Child patting newborn Isaiah as he sleeps in a bassinetThese two experiences taught me that it’s important to find your voice and advocate for what you feel is most important for you and your child. As parents, and especially as mothers, we have an innate sense of what our children need. In my experience, I often ignore that inner voice or inner “mama bear” because I’m too concerned about what other people will think of me or the situation. I am carrying this lesson forward with me this holiday season and for our next baby. We are planning on visiting family this year for Christmas, but I am prepared to speak up if I feel like it’s not the best decision at the moment due to illness or whatever other reason. When we have our next baby, I am going to request ahead of time that the first week postpartum be free of guests and reserved solely for rest, recovery, and bonding.

Natalia and Isaiah looking at Christmas lights December 2023I think it’s important to remember that your family (hopefully) has your child’s and your best interest at heart and that they should respect your decisions as a parent. Even though it might be scary to speak up, we are our children’s advocates. Speaking up and creating boundaries is definitely easier said than done. I have been growing in finding my voice over the last few months, and it’s my goal to be strong this holiday season out of love for my son. Our children need to see that we can create healthy limitations and that we know how to stand up for ourselves. Hopefully, one day, they’ll be able to do the same.