The final few weeks before welcoming a new baby are equal parts thrilling, exhausting, and scary. Even though my husband and I are now expecting baby #2, in a lot of ways we’re as nervous as we were the first time.
When we had our first baby, we were living about five hours away from all our family and most of our friends. Though the immediate family made the trek down to see us, we spent the majority of her first month of life safely in a little bubble of just us. It wasn’t hard to control her environment and schedule because we made the decisions and only had guests for a day or two at a time. This time, we live closer to home and everything is different.
Not only do we expect an influx of hospital visitors, but I’m sure people will come out in droves to see us at home once the baby has arrived. And to be honest, I’m pretty stressed about it. Don’t get me wrong: It will be wonderful to see family and friends during this special time and to be showered with love. But the sheer volume of germs and opinions that come with multiple generations descending upon the newborn have me freaking out.
With our first, the rules were pretty simple: don’t come if you’re sick and wash your hands before touching the baby. This time, we’ve done more research and have asked everyone who plans to hold the baby to get the TDAP vaccination against whooping cough. (I understand there are varied opinions of vaccines in the mum community. My husband and I are pro-vaccination and taking steps to prevent the contraction of this deadly disease by our daughter is the right choice for us).
Also, I know more mums now. I read more. I’m in the loop more than I was the first time around — and what I’m seeing lately scares me. I had no idea that a kiss could lead to serious infection or even death. Then a perfectly healthy newborn passed away in the news last month and I bawled my eyes out for that family’s devastating, unexpected loss.
Suddenly, I started flipping through the old photos and saw every family member (even the ones who do get cold sores often) smooching on my days-old infant. The cringe factor was very real. Not only cold sores, but even the common cold can be dangerous to newborns. Why risk it with a kiss? In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer.
But apparently, even though I’m Mum, my opinion isn’t the only one that matters. The backlash when we shared our “rules” was major. Even though these guidelines weren’t crazy: Call before you come, don’t come if you’re sick, wash and sanitize hands before touching her, have the TDAP shot if you plan to hold her, and no kissing. The rules apply to friends in addition to family — I just can’t be too careful with my brand-new baby.
“It isn’t fair,” led quickly to, “How am I supposed to hold her and not want to kiss her? It’s natural!” And as for the TDAP shot? You’d think I’d asked them to inhale deadly amounts of cyanide before crossing the threshold of our home.
I’ve been called everything from stupid to selfish. If other generations didn’t do things this way, and we survived as a human race, then these rules must be baseless, right? Wrong, I want to scream. Then there are the people who don’t even have children but are sure I’ve lost my mind and am overly obsessive. Now I know I’ll have to watch our baby like a hawk whenever company is over.
Here’s the thing: I get where people are coming from. Everyone is excited about the new baby and they want to love on her freely. No one wants to be called out for a loving gesture because it could be dangerous. They just want to enjoy her and the moment.
But it’s not that simple. Brand-new babies have precious little immunity, even when breastfed like mine will be. I get that the chances of something tragic happening are pretty small, but they still do exist. And personally, I’m not willing to risk my infant’s life to protect anyone’s feelings.
I pride myself on being a pretty chill mum — we let our 2-year-old stay up late at Grandma’s, eat sugar, and just enjoy life. We aren’t following her from room-to-room and I don’t freak out every time she gives herself a new challenge at the playground. That’s life, and I want my kids to experience it to the fullest. In fact, that’s exactly why I have set these rules up for the new baby. So that one day we can be as chill about her as we are about the toddler.
In the meantime, roll your eyes and talk about me behind my back all you want to. This is our baby and these are our standards. If you don’t like it, you can go visit somebody else’s newborn. But here’s the thing about this “crazy” generation, though: those mums probably have a pretty similar set in place, too.