There are people who love holiday family gathering, and people who loathe them. Some family holidays are filled with food and laughter, while some are filled with tension, political talk, and at least one drunk uncle. Pre-pandemic, my family holidays had been a little bit of all of it: there was delicious food, lots of hugging, and definitely at least one political jab from a drunk uncle. I typically looked forward to holidays as they have been the source fond memories and the holidays were the one or two days a year that my very large family was all in the same place at the same time.
Last year, however, was a very different story. At the time of the major holidays for my family, I was roughly 5 months postpartum. I was just starting to feel human again, but barely. I had some lingering postpartum anxiety, and besides working a few hours a week, my daughter and I hadn’t really had much time socially. And that was odd for me because pre-baby, I was a very social person, considered myself to be very outgoing, but having a baby changed it all for me.
At that point in my postpartum journey, there was a little anxiety around leaving the house for a boring trip to Target or Trader Joe's: “Did I pack everything?”, “What if she poops all over her outfits--do I have extras?”, “What if she poops all over me?”, “What if she cries non-stop wherever we are?”, “What if someone is sick and gets her sick?”, and on and on.. And then add in the pressure of a holiday, wondering who will be there, if I’m going to have anything to talk about, wondering if people were going to hate me when I told them they couldn’t hold my baby, or to please stop touching my baby’s hands. In general, my baby was pretty attached to the boob (still is, 14 months later), so it wasn’t likely that she’d be letting anybody else hold her.
What it really was for me at that time, was a struggle around creating boundaries, and worrying about making other people feel bad.
Of course I didn’t want to make any aunt or close friend feel bad, but at the same time, I didn’t really want anybody else to hold her. Of course I didn’t want to sound snappy at well meaning relatives, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but say “Please stop touching her hands, she puts them in her mouth and I don’t want your germs in there.”
I was lucky enough that most of my family and friends were pretty understanding about all of this. If they had a problem with any of it, I never heard about it. I know that some families can be pushy and adamant, and I want to say to those mamas: “Do ONLY what you’re comfortable doing.”
“Do ONLY what you’re comfortable doing.”
If you’re only comfortable having your sister hold your baby, don’t feel bad when your second cousin asks with a pouty face. If you only want to wear your baby at a family event, that's totally okay! If you're cool handing your baby off to any open-armed relative, that's equally wonderful. Holidays or not, relatives or not, you as the parent get to decide, based on your own comfort level, not anyone else's.