Dear Prudence

How Do I Tell My Overbearing In-Laws to Back Off When Our Baby Arrives?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

A hand at left is shown ringing a door bell. At right a mother is shown holding a newborn.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Tero Vesalainen/iStock/Getty Images Plus and kieferpix/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Baby boundaries: I had a baby 10 months ago and am expecting another baby at the end of August. I’ve had lots of anxiety regarding delivery and recovering. My in-laws are lovely people but they really drove me crazy when I had my daughter. They made the entire first month’s postpartum miserable for me: posting photos of me moments after birth, bruised and bloodied; entering the delivery room after explicit instructions to stay away were given; coming over when I asked them not to. Any time I said I was in immense physical pain, was exhausted, and couldn’t receive visitors, they would acknowledge my concerns and show up in large groups (five to eight people). Prudie, I couldn’t sit because I was in too much pain. Sleep was nonexistent. Their only concern was and has remained their one-on-one time with my daughter, regardless of my schedule or time.

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Beyond the exhaustion that I know I’m in for when you have a newborn, I can’t fathom dealing with them again. Is it out of line to let them know our birth plan this time around doesn’t include guests for the first three to four weeks of birth? I have learned that even hard boundaries with them are difficult to enforce. I think that a head start, and my husband, will help. Am I an unreasonable Scrooge? Should I just put up with their demands and understand their excitement for a new baby?

A: I’m relieved to hear that your husband agrees that a head start will be helpful, because having him in your corner when it comes to setting limits with his family is going to make a world of difference. (And to whatever extent you can use shelter-in-place/quarantine restrictions as a boogeyman, please feel free to do so. Do whatever you can to make life easier for yourself right now: “Gee, we’d love to have you over, but the doctors recommend no visitors for the first month due to _____.”) Since you’re going to be physically exhausted and vulnerable in the immediate postpartum, your husband should start practicing to be the bad guy now, even getting ready to close the front door to his parents if they show up unannounced again: “Sorry, we said no visitors and we meant it. We can’t wait for you to meet the baby when it’s safe.” Assume they’re not going to do anything to help making enforcing these boundaries easier, account for their likely resistance when you make your plans for the first few weeks after giving birth and cheerfully go for broke when it comes to being Scrooge-like, miserly, and covetous over your privacy, safety, and peace. There will be opportunities further down the line to have difficult but open conversations with your in-laws about limits and expectations when it comes to the grandkids; the first few weeks you spend recovering from childbirth and looking after a squalling newborn is not one of those times.

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