'It's not your right to visit, it's a privilege:" Mum's heartfelt plea about hospital visitors goes viral

Photo:Katie Bowman
Photo:Katie Bowman 

Allowing visitors to come to the hospital after welcoming a new baby is a deeply personal decision.

And yet, despite being exhausted, shell-shocked and trying to bond with their little one, new parents who ask friends and relatives to wait are often - unfairly - viewed as rude or selfish.

That's why one Australian mother's raw, honest and heartfelt plea to give new mums and dads a couple of days to themselves, is resonating with parents around the globe.

In a viral Facebook post, mother-of-three Katie Bowman shared a photo of herself taken just 24 hours after giving birth.

"A picture really is worth 1000 words," Ms Bowman writes. "I have no idea who took the picture, but you can probably already tell how I feel just by looking at it."

She continues: "One or two days. Is that too much to ask for? One or two days for a new mum to come to terms with the fact she had a tiny human emerge from her body. One or two days for her to finally have a shower and wash the sweat and blood from her body. One or two days for her to push through the pain of her sore nipples as she learns to breastfeed."

And one or two days to sleep.

"Before being introduced to your new life as a mother, you have just gone through one of the most painful, exhausting, and mind blowing experiences in your life-labour," Ms Bowman writes, explaining that so many people forget just how much of a toll it can exact on a mum's emotional and physical wellbeing.

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"The last thing you then want, is for everyone to be bombarding your room to play pass the parcel, before you have even had a chance to recover."

But for new mothers, it's not just recovery that's impacted by too many visitors, too soon. "Learning to breastfeed is no private affair," Ms Bowman writes.

"You don't just slip your nipple out and your baby connects to it like a magnet. You get your whole boob out, and slide your baby up and down waiting for them to latch on. The nurse comes in and helps you massage some colostrum out. Then you try the other side, so now you've got both boobs out."

But along with trying to get comfortable and finding the time for that first poo, "without your vagina falling out", being bombarded by visitors takes away from a new mum's chance to bond with her baby.

"Everyone is so excited to have a photo with the new baby, the new mum doesn't get a photo with her own damn baby!" Ms Bowman writes. "I had to ask for a photo with mine, other than that one photo, the only others I have are of her fresh out of my uterus, with us laying there naked and covered in blood."

The mum, who has a four-year-old girl and 21-month-old twin daughters, notes that everyone wants "bragging rights" to say they saw the new baby within 24 hours. "They simply must satisfy their need to hold this new baby," she writes. " If you don't allow them to come visit you in the hospital, you're a selfish, delicate, drama queen."

And then the comments begin, comments on a new mother's weight or how exhausted she looks. "I'm sorry, but in what world is it OK for you to comment on a new mother's appearance? WE ARE SO BLOODY FRAGILE RIGHT NOW! If my vagina wasn't so sore, I might have pulled some Kung Fu Panda on your ass," she writes.

Ms Bowman also acknowledges that some people can't wait to have visitors - and that's their choice.

"That's not what this is about," she notes. "This is about people who have tried to ask visitors to wait a day or two, but been made to feel like they told them they can't be in the baby's life. I feel so loved that everyone couldn't wait to meet our new baby, and so happy that everyone wanted to be part of our baby's life. What I didn't realise was how hard trying to ask people to stay away for a day would be."

Too tired to argue, she continues, you find yourself sitting there waiting for the visitor to get their "baby fix".

And her advice to others is clear: "The next time someone you know has a baby, remember how tired this new mother looks," Ms Bowman says. "I know you are excited, but remember it is not your right to visit a new baby, it is a privilege. If that offends you, go home and put it in your burn book."

Ms Bowman told Essential Baby that she's been amazed by how many people her post has reached - and the stories others have shared.

"It made me sad for those who had some terrible experiences like mothers who didn't even get to be the first to hold their own babies, or having people they didn't want during the birth," she said. "They are such special moments."

She also understands, however, why loved ones are so keen to meet a family's newest addition. "I just needed to rest but people were excited to meet the baby. Which I totally get! I think it's easy to get the newborn tunnel vision, and this photo represented many mothers after they've had a baby."

But while the Living My Family Life blogger's words have attracted criticism, Ms Bowman reiterates that her original post was for those who didn't want to be bombarded by visitors - and not those keen to show off their bundle.

"I think a few people have taken it the wrong way," she notes. "It's not about not letting people ever visit, it's about being able to ask for some time to recover, and having people understand sometimes we need to wrap our heads around what our bodies have just been through."