What I wish My Husband Knew when We had a Baby
Because babies don’t come with instructions, and I have lots of hormones
Becoming parents is a wonderful and bonding experience. Still, when couples are faced with the reality of it they don’t know how to act and behave. I have found it to be especially tough on men, as they don’t know how to handle the fear and overwhelm.
Their once beautiful and loving wife is now completely focused on another human being, and she goes from cheerful to depressed in the blink of an eye; between these two states of mind, she also finds the time to devour whatever is left in the kitchen.
And then there is the baby, and although the prenatal classes covered everything from nappy changes, bottle feeding to cat napping, it is now time to deal with the real shit (no pun intended).
It is very easy to get frustrated and unsure of what to do, and while there are plenty of books written by mothers to mothers, no one talks much about dads.
When a couple gets pregnant, the woman is normally complimented, hugged and smiled at, while the man normally receive a slap on the back and the usual sentence” Mate, you are screwed”
I do find that the first postnatal months can be very challenging for dads as, In general, men tend to be more task-focused, so that when a woman speaks to a man about her feelings or emotions, he’s at a disadvantage because he’s thinking “What does she want me to do?” or “How can I solve this problem?” But she only wants to be heard and understood (Connoly counseling centre). Moreover, men tend to like stability and are action based, and they are not masters at reading between the lines. The problem is, that when a new baby comes into the picture, there are so many nuances and grey areas to take into consideration, to the point that even a mother doesn’t know what to ask for.
But, if a woman could talk openly, these may be the most important things she would like you to know:
“A lot of tears are about to come, and I’m not talking about the baby”
The baby blues is very real, it normally starts 3–4 days after giving birth, and it can last for more than two weeks. This a time when a woman starts crying unexplainedly and out of the blue; it is tough for her, and for the partner who doesn’t know what to do. The baby blues are caused by a massive hormonal shift, topped up with fears, doubts, physical pain, birth trauma and the first waking nights. It is normal, it happens to all mothers, and there is no need to shush the pain away. This is a moment where hugs, warm cup of herbal teas, open ears and helping arms are extremely welcome. There is no need to jump onto the “fixing mode”, as there is nothing to fix.
“I’m clueless, as much as you are”
Because they carried the baby for 9 months in the womb, it doesn’t mean mothers have a Master’s Degree on growing babies. Partners are in this together, which is why a man shouldn’t ask “what do we do now?”. Most of the time the mother has no clue, and the only option left is to check the internet, ask someone, and follow the gut instinct. Leave the instinct to the mother, and become a skilled researcher on the go.
In the morning, in the middle of the night, any time of the day. Sometimes your partner doesn’t want to ask, but it’s quite clear when help is needed. Help your half to rest, eat in peace, sleep an extra hour. Do house chores, clean the bathroom, rock the baby, push the pram and let her go for a walk. Leave her alone. She is going through a massive change (you are as well, but you need to be the rock for now), and she doesn’t know what the hell to do with herself.
“I don’t recognise my body, and I have never felt so ugly”
Gaining X kilos, seeing the body changing slowly, having to deal with unbearable pain, being left with sagging skin, stretchstretchmarksmarks and an empty womb can be very confronting. Some women don’t recognise themselves in the mirror. I personally didn’t recognise myself for a good 3 months as my boobs were too big and a black line was decorating my belly.
Women tend to feel less pretty, don’t want to go out and dress up as they may start leaking or loose blood. The hairs are falling, the skin isn’t glowing any longer. It is challenging to embrace all these changes at once; compliment your partner, hug her, remind her how wonderful she is, treat her well, buy her flowers, make her feel special and don’t give all the attention to the baby. She needs to be in the centre of attention for an extra minute.
“I don’t want to see people”
After giving birth, it comes a time when a mother and her baby bond together; they need to get used to each other, establish a solid breastfeeding routine, learn to communicate. It is also when a mother heals, and relax after a massive adrenaline drops. During that time, it’s great to have the closest family around (if there is a great relationship), but there is no need to expose the baby and the new mum to anyone else for now. Let her be ready to face the world, on her own time.
“What do you mean you are going out?”
It is normal for a partner to resent the half of the couple that is “allowed” to leave the nest. The first few days are like a bubble, and reality kicks in pretty quickly. It’s not that a mother doesn’t want you to go out with your mates or to work in general, she is just afraid of having to deal with all this new situation by herself. When she is acting angry, she is just exhausted and in desperate need of comfort and support. Be gentle with her, carve as much time as you can to be together. It will get so much better, so be present for now.
“I’m so, so scared”
Yep, we wanted a baby, yet we had no idea how it was going to be like. We watched funny movies about it, read books, talked to a couple of friends and listened to the classic sentence “Having kids? tough, but best thing ever”. And then the reality slaps you hard in the face, and you wonder if you are the only one that would like to bring the baby back to the hospital, in order to sleep an extra minute. And what about the weather? Is my baby cold or hot? Which nappy is the right one? What’s this thing on the skin? Oh my God, OMG, OMG! Being a mother is marvelous, but all of a sudden there is full responsibility of another human being, and it’s so tough. Listen to her, don’t brush her fears away, as she is in the thick of it, and she needs to talk.
“Please keep an eye on my mood”
Baby blues normally happen in the first 1–2 weeks postpartum, but if the new mom still feels overwhelmed, irritable, cries a lot and can’t sleep at night (and not because of the baby) encourage her to see a practitioner to discuss her concerns.
And….”Do whatever it takes to remain sane, as I need you to be my rock”.
Things dad can do to help the new mum
- Listen, instead of shutting down her feelings
- There is nothing you can do when she cries, hug her and monitor her mood
- Nurture the new mum; water, a snack when she is breastfeeding, a neck or foot massage
- Encourage your wife to take an extra nap, a longer shower, a walk in nature
- Understand you won’t be able to go out every weekend as you did before, but that lifestyle will come back (if that’s what you want)
- Clean the house or hire a discrete cleaner
- Be ready to help with the baby; nappy changes, burping, sleeping routine, etc.
- Don’t expect sex and don’t push for it, until your partner is ready
- Laugh whenever you can, even if the house is a mess and you are both covered in vomit. At 3 am.