Hospital & Birth Etiquette

I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks, not being sure whether it was appropriate to share.  This is a subject that is now very sensitive to me after my own experience with labor, delivery and visitors.  I truly believe most people don’t understand the rules of etiquette when it comes to baby hospital visits and such, so if this can serve to enlighten even one person, I’m happy.

A few weeks ago I read this fabulous article from one of my favorite etiquette blogs, The Pink Teapot. Janine gives some awesome tips for Moms-to-be as well as potential visitors.  Some of my favorite points:

For the Mom’s to be:
  • It’s okay to say no.  There is no cause to be rude.  Although sometimes we have people in our lives who are pushy or overstep their bounds, we can plan ahead, thus helping to minimize the “drama”, let me explain:  the day you are in labor is the wrong day to discuss with your mother-in-law that you’d rather she not be in the room as you’re delivering your baby.  Think ahead of people who you need to discuss this with and have a candid conversation with them.  If you are unable to do so in person (because of fear or logistics), a sweet email, filled with excitement about the new baby and a clear invite or boundary given, will help ease that tension.
  • You need your rest:  This is more than an etiquette tip, it’s advice from a mother of four.  I so enjoy company and love people, but the 48 or so hours we spend in the hospital with a newborn baby combined with the annoying (but necessary) interruptions of the hospital staff, do not create a restful environment to begin with.  Mix in all kinds of visitors and you’re even more exhausted when you come home even if you thrive on people like I do.

For the Visitor (family or otherwise):

  • Please respect that it is not the end of the world if you are not there for the actual labor and delivery of your grandchild.  Although I understand it may feel that way, it’s simply not the time to be imposing on another person.  I remember my sweet mother-in-law and I having conversations about this when I was pregnant with my first child and I remember her being so respectful of my wishes.  I actually wanted her there just after, and we told the family we’d call them.  My husband’s family as well as mine respected that and we had all of our family around us within hours of my son’s debut into this world.
  • Please don’t ask if you can be there during labor and delivery- and don’t just show up.  Again, this is a private thing, a painful thing, a wonderful thing.  There are so many emotions wrapped up into this event that make it special.  It should not be intruded upon by someone else, no matter who that person is.
  • Don’t get your feelings hurt.  My wise mother always says, “remember it’s not about you, it’s about them”.  I am a tender-hearted person and I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I understand getting my feelings hurt, but this is not about you, this is about the person who is holding that little bundle of joy…remember that.
  • Don’t assume and bring children. It’s always best not to bring children to the hospital for so many reasons. They press the call buttons, run around, bring germs along with their sweet faces… none of these things are appreciated. A visit can always wait until they get home from the hospital so you can find someone to tend to your children to go and visit the baby and mother.

That was pretty lengthy, but I couldn’t really leave anything out! I love how she includes tips for both the mother and the visitors, because really, everyone could use some help in these awkward situations. No one wants to have a horrible birth experience!

I know the comment about getting your rest sure hits home (right, Kourtni, Colleen, Larissa, Kristen, Jennifer, Megan, Jimaie, Kristen, Shea, Lisa, Talia, Nanette, Liz, Natali, Molly & soon to be Crystal, Tristan and Kate? Whew!)

If I can stress one thing, it would be to accept the help that is offered to you.  Those first few days after you pop that baby out are so tough… DON’T TRY TO BE A HERO, lady.  If you have a mom, sister, grandmother or friend who is willing to watch the baby for even 2 hours while you get some rest, jump on that opportunity with no reservations.

Do you all have anything to add? Any good, bad, or ugly hospital experiences to share with the rest of us? A tip or two for the moms-to-be?

23 thoughts on “Hospital & Birth Etiquette

  1. Great Post. Its a shame that there are people that don’t have this as common sense. I had NO problems during my hospital stay after the baby my family and friends knew what was up. Lol.

  2. Thanks for posting this Morgan, good and very relevant post! I would also like to tell moms to be don’t assume being a sweet polite patient will work to your favor and that nurses will automatically help you. My best friend is a labor and delivery nurse, and she always tells me the horror stories of how poorly she is treated at times by rude and demanding moms in labor. I was determined to be the easy going patient who was polite to my nurses and treated them nicely at all times. I figured that would also ensure good care. What I learned is that the quiet wheel gets NO oil! By no means am I encouraging you to be rude to nurses, but I am saying it is 100% necessary to clearly ask that your needs be met. My hospital experience was so horrible I ended up in therapy from it (first time in my life). My bed was not changed, my meds were not given on time, I was in excruciating pain with no pain meds given for hours right after surgery (c-section), I was given foods I was allergic to (as it said on my chart) no one would help me with the baby after my family was made to leave at night and the nursery was “too full” so I didn’t sleep for days. What should have been an amazing and memorable experience was by far the worst experience I’ve had. I truly believe had I not been so focused on being the world’s perfectly easy patient- and had I spoken up for my needs it would have been different. That is a huge regret for me and I would LOVE to help others avoid having the feelings that I do!

  3. Oh yes, the tip about rest is so important! Even though I had a few days before people started showing up at our house, I still felt like it wasn’t enough to prepare me for being “on” when they were there. And as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t stay back in my cave of a bedroom while I could hear everyone else having fun and laughing. I remember reading on a blog or somewhere about people making a notice for their front door that went something like this: “Thank you so much for sharing in the joy of (insert couple’s names) new precious bundle. Labor, delivery and the post partum recovery process are an exhausting and arduous process. Visiting hours are between X and X hours. Please limit your stay to no more than 1-2 hours. While you are here it would really help if you do a household chore for the couple or cook a meal. Signed, XXX midwife/OB/doula”. I seriously wish we had done this! We had way too many people over for way too long of a time in the days following the birth of Bean. My husband being the extrovert that he is totally fed off everyone’s energy and loved every minute of it. Me being the introvert that I am was totally sapped from being around so many people, especially since most of them were from my husband’s family and I felt even more of a need to be “on” for them. Anyway, I’m not completely sure about the wording of the notice, you might be able to come up with something more etiquette friendly, but I still think it is a good idea and I’m really considering it come January.

    OK, also you definitely need discuss with your husband what your needs are before you are in labor. I know for first time moms you think that you won’t know, but I think if your really think about what you would want if you are facing the worse cramps and back pain of your life from your husband that should help. I really felt like even though we went through birth classes my husband was at a loss. I knew this is how I felt even before I went into labor, but I didn’t know how to communicate it to him. He pretty much halfheartedly read over some of the handouts from our class, but I think he would have been a much better coach for me if I had made him read the childbirth books that went along with our class. Anyway, I guess my best advice is that if you are feeling like I did, knowing your husband isn’t going to know what to do, definitely hire a doula. First a doula can help with some of the other things mentioned in the blog like negotiations with nurses and keeping unwanted family members away during labor so that you don’t have to. Or the doula can provide you with the labor support you need (back massages, water, etc.) while your husband takes care of that stuff.

    Anyway, that was kind of long, but that is all the advice I have to offer in addition to what you’ve already said. :)

  4. This is awesome. If only a few people who came to visit me would have read this. Our plan was to invite NOBODY to the hospital the night I delivered, besides both our parents (who would already be there). However we had a TON of people show up and were in the waiting room as I was pushing. In fact, one of our friends parents (whom we don’t even know very well, they just happen to live close to the hospital) decided to just show up AND they were waiting out side our room for a long time… WHILE I WAS PUSHING. The nursing staff had to tell them twice that they needed to go to the waiting room. In the end, it wasn’t a huge deal that people came, I just seriously made them wait. Not only did I push for 3 hours. But I wanted my parents and Kyle’s parents to be able to meet Rowan privately, with out a bunch of other friends and guests around. So our friends had to wait a while. I didn’t feel bad.

  5. wow…lol..I feel like I should just print this out and stick it on the hospital door..hehe.

    And..I think I need to add one just for me: Couple may have a horrible time actually letting anyone else hold the baby, because Hello! It seems like a lifetime waiting for it :)

  6. Oh my goodness, this was wonderful. I hope to be needing this advice soon and I almost want to print it out to be dispersed! I’m a very private person (you wouldn’t know that from my blog!) and I think I would end up being annoyed and exasperated to have anyone more than my immediate family show up in the first few days. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Such important tips! I can’t imagine trying to be a hostess after pushing out an 8 lb meatloaf. No one should expect you to! And it definitely makes sense to get that communication out of the way well in advance!

    Great post :)

  8. I liked the post, it is really important to get rest after your baby is born, but if you’re like me and your son has to spend 2-3 weeks in the NICU before going home, you’ll probably have all kinds of visitors, phone calls, and family wanting to see the baby. And you definitely will not feel up to talking to them all, or updating everyone on your child’s status, so I found it extremely important to have my mom be the person who could relay information to other family members and return phone calls for me, and politely inform family that during that time Justin and I were focusing on our son, and since only 2 visitors were allowed at a time, that we were going to be the ones sitting by our sons bedside, and would appreciate if visitors would wait to come until we were finally home.

  9. Luckily I had a pretty good labour/delivery/afterward with my family because everyone had been through it before and we’re all pretty sensitive about one another’s needs (for the most part!). I wanted to see my family right away, though, so it was nice that they came.

    Any advice for new mothers? You need to be of the soundest mind you can be, so take help if you need it, because you aren’t just dealing with yourself anymore – you have someone who is completely dependent on you for everything and the best mommy is a mommy who feels good.

  10. This post is awesome! I wish I could think of more key points to add but I swear it feels like such a long time ago…dude, i need to have another baby! :-P

  11. What a great post. I’m so happy that you did this, seriously, I had a bit of trouble with guests as well, and I wish I could have given this to each person entering the room ;)

  12. Good advice, Morgan!

    My husband and I did a pretty thorough job of discussing and deciding our needs and preferences before the delivery. And thankfully, we had family and friends who did a fantastic job of honoring our requests and needs.

  13. Awesome! Also, please leave the room when the mother has her babies source of food out learning from the nurse how to use the pump…no matter if you’re her friend from 4th grade or not. It will be appreciated. <3

  14. I just stumbled across this and have to add! (smile)
    I am a labor and delivery nurse and I tell all my patients that it is their decision to include someone in the delivery or not as the case may be. I also happily step in as “the bad guy” on behalf of my patients if they need me to. I always whisper this to the mom when I meet them at the beginning of my shift, so the pressure is off them. If they need me I’m there with more than just the antheseiolgist’s phone number!

  15. This is a wonderful post! I dealt with all of your don’ts during the birth of my son. My stepmother intruded on my delivery and brought her young kids even after I expressed not wanting to have them there. She left her kids in the waiting room and invited herself in the delivery room for hours. She only left because I had been in labor for 21 hours, but had him 3 hours after she left.

    She got really upset with me because I didn’t live up to her expectations for my delivery and I didn’t allow her kids in to come until 3 weeks later when all my house guests left.

    I seriously had to explain that I only had a 2 bedroom apartment and was sleeping on the couch after my c-section…so, the thought of having her, her 2 kids, my 2 aunts staying there to help me, my husband, my baby, and me all crammed up in my living room wasn’t ideal for me. She didn’t seem to understand. I spent the conversation apologizing to her for not meeting HER expectations, but I also told her that’s how we wanted it. She’ll just have to be mad. smh

  16. I loved this article! It is so nice to know that other people feel the same way about this subject that I do. When my son was born we had discussed with our parents and friends a couple months beforehand that we didn’t want people in the delivery room with us during labor and that we would call when the baby was born. It turned out that we needed to be more specific about everything that we wanted.

    My parents were very respectful of our wishes and came to the hospital once after the baby was born and gave my husband and I a week at home to our selves to bond with OUR baby. My husband’s mom was not so respectful and came to the hospital all three days I was in the hospital recovering from my c-section and then three times the first week I was home. She even told me “go to sleep, leave us be and go lie down.” It really upset me that she was in my house imposing on me and acted as if I were imposing on her being in my own living room.

    When I was in the hospital we had people visiting in our room from 11am-7pm the day after my son was born. The nurse got upset with us and said that I was there to heal from my surgery and with all of the visitors I wasn’t getting any rest and our newborn baby was going to be up all night long. The first week we were home we had other people wanting to visit too, in addition to my mother in laws three days that week.

    It was way too much and before I knew it my husband had to go back to work and I was alone with the baby and had no time to rest and recuperate during the week he was home to help me. I strongly recommend setting limits with the people in your life, I didn’t think I had to but it turns out I definitely should have. I’m pregnant now and due in November and it will be completely different this time around, I need it to be.

  17. Hi ladies, I am just a girl who has had lots of family and friends who have had children…. I’ve witnessed these types of ordeals with my girlfriends and I sympathized with them. Here are few thoughts from a caring family member / friend. I completely agree that labor and delivery is such a precious and private time and that having visitors during your labor is probably NOT the right time, or even immediately after. But, a BIG BUT…. And please take no offense here, BUT some you sound downright ungrateful and unappreciative of the love and support your family and friends are offering you. These people are not coming by to bother you, they love you and want to make sure you are doing ok. They care about you AND your baby. And that’s nothing to be angry about. I know it’s hard to think rationally when your hormones are going bananas, but a little appreciation wouldn’t hurt and might even make your family and friends feel appreciated. Down the line, they are the ones you WILL need for help with the kids… I guess I don’t understand why some of you are saying such nasty things about your family and passing blame…. I’ve seen some of my friends act irrationally and obnoxiously towards their families, and in my opinion, having a baby is not an excuse to act that way. No one has had training about how to handle these types of situations, so everyone deserves a little slack, including your family.
    Just a thought…

  18. Kaley,
    If you read the post, this is supporting women’s right to say NO. We’re told told be polite to someone else who obviously doesn’t give the same regard to another’s boundaries.

    Whether or not a person is being ungrateful is not for you to decide. I know what it’s like to have a room full of well-meaning people enter your room like you owe it to them to be in there. If they truly wanted to help, then they would ask the mother exactly what help she needs. We’re not dumb. We know what we need and how to ask for it.

    It’s NOT cool for people to intrude and impose on another because they feel entitled. We have a right to think so. If you don’t feel the same, that’s wonderful…and your right. BUT, do not jump on here and pass judgement on those that do.

  19. Kaley: Thank you for your response and input. It’s good for some of us moms to hear the other side of things and gain a new perspective. I have to say a few things though, being that I had an absolutely horrible birth experience which prompted me to write this post several years ago.

    To address what you said about us being “downright ungrateful and unappreciative of the love and support” from family and friends and what you said about them caring for us and our baby… that may be the case with some, but for the women on here who are obviously passionate about their opinions on who should be present, well, they apparently have been through some crap to be able to know what they do and don’t find acceptable. This is definitely the case for me. My mother in law and the rest of my husband’s family absolutely made my daughter’s birth about themselves. I mean, yelling in the face of MY family members,causing ridiculous scenes in the waiting room because I didn’t have her in the delivery room with me, barging into my room immediately after I had my daughter and acting like it was her right and then not giving a rat’s ass about the actual baby. People tend to only see what these experiences mean for themselves and often forget that it is absolutely not about them.

    I’m sure you’ve been through your own experience and have witnessed your friends’ “hormones going bananas”, but come on. Coming on here and saying things like that to women who have actually been through horrible situations is just not polite. Having a baby is not an excuse to act irrationally and obnoxiously, you are correct. It’s not an excuse to expect gold stars and a cookie from the woman who just pushed a person out of her vagina either. Cut your friends and the rest of us some slack.

  20. I’m definitely telling people to stay away for at two
    weeks after I give birth. Well-meaning family members
    flew in from out-of-town expecting to stay in the delivery room. Lucky for them, I let them stay until it was time to
    push, then they were told to go to the waiting room.
    To this day, I get all sorts of flak about how uncomfortable
    the waiting room was. I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying “You’re right! Instead of worrying about delivering a healthy baby, I should have been thinking of ways to make YOU more comfortable!” I also got very little rest, so this time: no visitors for two weeks. This time, it’s about ME, not making people happy.

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