Let's Ask a Dad About Postpartum Life
If you Google the words "Ask a Dad", the search results will be littered with articles on "how to ask a dad for permission to marry his daughter" or "questions to get to know your dad better." I was sadly surprised to see that there was nothing that directly addressed asking dad's about their postpartum experience.
We all know life can be rough for the first few weeks (months?) after bringing home a newborn, and as a mom who was teetering on the edge of sleeplessness and sanity, it was SO EASY for me to feel overwhelmed and lonely when I would be up alone at 2am and my husband was sound asleep. There was definitely a lot of silent resentment in those moments. He was working while I was home with the baby on maternity leave but what makes him think her has the right to GO TO BED BEFORE ME. There was a distance there and I felt it. It wasn't until we really addressed the fact that these changes were having a profound affect on him too - and that he needed some trust and support along the way as well - that we found the ability to lean on each other as a team instead operating as two entirely separate individuals who were equally at a loss on where to go next.
So, in the hopes of providing some insight to my fellow (understandably) frustrated moms, I have rounded up my husband and voluntold him to answer a few questions in reflection of his experience as a brand new father and husband to an entirely new version of "emotionally unstable Stephanie".
Were you scared during the delivery? What worried you the most about that experience?
Yes. I was worried that there might be some sort of funky complication and I would lose you. I was worried about the possibility of raising a baby as a single father while grieving alone.
What were you thinking about on the way home from the hospital?
Sleep. We had been in the hospital for a few days and neither of us had slept at all. There wasn't any space for things to feel like a movie scene - everything felt gray and I was just so tired.
What was it like going back to work while we stayed home?
Triumphant and guilty. I was very proud of us, but I also knew that I was leaving during a time when you might need the support. What happened if you showed signs of postpartum depression and I wasn't here to notice? I would be letting you down.
What was the most difficult adjustment for you about becoming a father?
Losing attention from you. A lot of what we did before becoming parents was so focused on us as a couple. We would watch movies or play a video game together, it was easier for us to find the time to connect.Once he was born, we were constantly moving and alternating responsibilities. One of us would be washing bottles and handling dinner while the other changes a dirty diaper and folds the laundry. We weren't really able to take breaks together anymore - at least not for a long while.
There was also a sudden sense of urgency around projects and activities that we would have been able to take our time on before. Painting the kitchen needed to be done in a day to be sure the baby wouldn't get into the paint materials and outings needed to be planned in short time frames between pumping sessions.
What is something you wish I had trusted you with more?
Just little things, it is kind of hard to describe. Like sometimes when you would ask "Did you put the right amount in the bottle?" or "Did you double-check the temperature?" or "Are you sure you packed everything into the diaper bag?"
It can feel like being stereotyped as the "bumbling dad" who might not know what is going on, but I do. I think some Dad's are just quieter about completing the "checklist" of things. I may not be checking things off "out loud" - I just put things together quietly and you might wonder if I did it....but I did. I understand questions like that are not intended to be accusatory or malicious, it can just feel like I am not trusted to complete the task on my own.
What is something about the postpartum period you wish you knew more about?
How important emotional connection would be on both ends. The simplest gestures meant a lot more because we had less time to exchange them. Also just how there is no "blueprint" for child development. I mean...there is. But the stuff you go to the doctor for can be off the wall. And it is all normal! There is a weird litany of things that might seem serious but actually might not be.
What is something you wish people would understand about Dads during the postpartum stage?
We are experiencing the same changes, the same disruptions and the same uncertainties. While the physical burden of birth falls on the mom, home life changes just as much for the dads but we typically have to go back to work sooner and pretend that it's business as usual. We go back like nothing has changed and don't have the ability to be at home supporting mom and baby.
What was the most challenging thing about dealing with ME postpartum?
You worried a lot. You worried about every cough and every sneeze or sniffle...just everything. You still do, but it was worse then. Not that it wasn't justified to be worried about them, but you wouldn't listen to reason about why this wasn't the end of the world.
What advice do you have for new moms in regards to their husband/partner?
Continue checking in and asking "how are you?" or "how was your day?" We know that, as a new mom, you are handling a lot of responsibilities. Taking the time to check in on top of what you are already juggling makes us feel like we are still a priority.