Pulling up the drawbridge: Should you refuse visits from friends after giving birth?
New parents everywhere are praising a mum-of-three’s brilliant blog post about ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ and taking timeout after having a baby.
Steph Douglas, founder of gift package company, Don’t Buy Her Flowers, penned her honest post after welcoming her third baby in November to help other women understand that they don’t have to spring back into normal life straight after giving birth.
Instead, she recommends ‘pulling up the drawbridge’ and retreating from life to take time to get to know your newborn and recover from the birth process.
“One afternoon a few weeks after I had Buster, my first baby, I called my mum and cried the second I heard her voice,” she begins her post.
“When I told her that I’d had a bad night but had got out to the shops and for a long walk, she said ‘Steph, you don’t need to do anything. Pull up the drawbridge’.”
Steph says that though she’d had lots of advice about pregnancy and birth she’d not heard anything like this.
“My mum (Midwife, mum of six and therefore pretty experienced) was giving me permission to succumb to the tiredness and stay home,” she continues.
But though Steph did slow down, she was worried about letting people down by cancelling plans, and not fully understanding that her body needed time to recover, carried on trying to resume normal life.
And she did the same 21 months later when she had her second baby, Mabel.
“On my request, we went out for lunch the day after coming out of hospital,” she continues. “I remember sweating, willing people to order more quickly, fearing she’d wake for a feed when we didn’t really know what we were doing yet and feeling relief when we got home.”
So with her third baby, the mum-of-three decided to do things differently and chose to take up her mum’s advice by pulling up the drawbridge.
“I spent the first week in bed and the second week on the sofa. We fended off all visitors except immediate family, and even then their visits were short,” she says.
“The thing is, we can do it – we can get straight back on the school run, we can be rustling up home-cooked treats, we can be ‘just putting that wash on’,” she says.
“Except so much has changed. Motherhood is MONUMENTAL. Slowly but surely it becomes a new normal and you get some of your old self back, but those first months are a foggy all-encompassing physical and mental takeover.”
“Motherhood is the rest of your life, so allowing a few weeks to hole up and no expectations beyond recovery and adapting to your new set up is more than ok. The world can and will wait.”
The third time mum’s advice to hole up at home clearly struck a chord with other parents and after sharing on Instagram the post was inundated with comments on the subject.
“How I wish I had done this 12 months ago. I was so desperate for life to “get back to normal” that I massively overdid it,” one mum wrote.
“Yes!!!!!! I so wish I’d done this with my first….and if I’m lucky enough to have another, we are definitely PULLING UP THE DRAWBRIDGE!!” another added.
“Such a good post. As a new mum to one I wanted to prove I could ‘bounce back’, it was so unneccessary and a couple of months in I realised it wasn’t worth the hassle, so I reigned in the classes, the visits and I’ll do it so differently next time!” yet another parent wrote.
Commenting on the advice to ‘pull up the drawbridge’ after giving birth Netmums editor in Chief, Anne-Marie O’Leary says: “Ask any mum who’s been through it and NO ONE will tell you they’d wished they’d seen more people/had more visitors/got out more in those first couple of weeks with a new baby.”
“Instead, nearly all of them will tell you they wish they’d done less, said no to visitors and not got out of bed. Those first couple of weeks when you and your baby are getting to know each other and you’re recovering after the birth, are a precious time that we wish could be ring-fenced for every mum.”
“As Steph’s now viral piece says, in our mum’s day, new mums were given 10 days to recuperate. That we’re not means we need to be brave and take that time out for ourselves and our children. Cups of tea with the neighbours and having to get out of your pyjamas can – and must – wait.”
Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com agrees. “There’s way too much pressure on new mums,” she says. “You’re supposed to ping back into shape almost immediately, squeeze into your skinny jeans, entertain visitors, have a sparkling home and be breastfeeding around the clock. This just isn’t achievable for most mums and nor it is a healthy aim.”
Siobhan thinks new mums should take some time out of busy life to help them recover from the birth process.
“Giving birth is physically traumatic and takes at least six weeks to recover from, if not more,” she explains.
“Many cultures instinctively understand this and have a ‘lying-in’ period of 40 days where women stay at home, rest in bed with their tot and have a ‘babymoon’.”
During this time visitors are banned and mums are waited on hand-and-foot by their family, fed nutritious meals and are honoured for bringing new life into the world, Siobhan says.
“This special time allows both mum and baby to have the best start together, and although it may not be practical for modern mums in the West, we should certainly adopt some of the ideas.”
And Siobhan has some suggestions for new mums who do want to pull up the drawbridge.
“Make sure you don’t put yourself under too much pressure,” she advises. “Have health batch meals ready cooked, rest up as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family will be happy to help clean so you can sleep. Be kind to yourself and remember it’s your special time. Your baby isn’t a toy to be passed around. So ‘pull up the drawbridge’ and only have people round who will genuinely help and make you feel better. If they won’t, then they can wait.”