The One Your Partner Needs To Read

We have our VERY FIRST GUEST POST, YA’LL. Today’s knowledge is being dropped by Morgan, resident mom to us new moms because she had a kid first AND THEN another one *scary ghost hands to face emoji* She’s the wise old soul that shows up at your house with pizza and alcohol to listen to how it’s really going. (She did that! For me!) I told her she could write about whatever she wanted because her well of advice is vast and deep, and she chose to address your dear, sweet partner. Maybe passive aggressively send your partner the link to this if it resonates with you!

Hello to the partner who did not physically birth the baby yourself; this one’s for you.

I want to start by acknowledging that your life has completely changed. Your experiences that come with this baby are difficult. Your feelings on this change are valid. But I also want you to know that the birthing person is experiencing those feelings and navigating those changes on hormonal steroids. 

You both now serve at the pleasure of the baby. Mom is Chief of Staff and you’re a staff member. Because you’re probably a millennial, you want me to get to the “list.” I will cut off the 16 paragraph intro to the “best-chili-you’ve-ever-had!!” recipe here and get to it. 

  1.  Don’t make your partner ask for what she needs. Get used to looking for what she or the baby needs and just doing it.

That’s it. That’s the list. 

To drive it home, here are a few suggestions:

  • Is there a dirty bottle or pump parts somewhere? Clean them as this is now your JOB. 
  • Does baby need a diaper change? You’re on it. 
  • Is mom’s water bottle full? We become a dog in Pavlov’s experiment when it comes to nursing and needing our hospital-issued water bottle. 
  • Speaking of nursing the baby – is it taking an hour each time? Can you clean a bathroom or massage mom’s shoulders while they work that latch? If baby is bottle fed, can you do this feeding? (You can!)
  • Did someone drop off a gift for baby yesterday? Write the thank you note and put it in the mail. 
  • Do you have a plan for dinner tonight? Start thawing the enchiladas your coworkers sent over BEFORE it’s 6 p.m. and everyone is starving. 

But she won’t let me help!

Help anyway. There is a strong narrative out there that partners don’t always know how to help moms during this transition. Or baby only wants mom. Help anyway. 

To be clear, mom may have legitimate postpartum anxiety. She may overbear, not allowing another to handle baby’s needs. Whether anecdotally in my own and friends’ experiences or scientifically speaking, postpartum syndromes are real and serious. The hormonal plummet that occurs in those first weeks is the subject of much research and has given rise to some amazing Instagram communities. Research shows 80% of mothers have some form of the baby blues (which in my opinion is an incredibly diminutive term). PPD and PPA are prevalent and warrant attention and conversation. In fact, it’s likely mom may need your help identifying and working through these conditions. But that’s an entirely different blog post.  And if the above rings true, it’s all the more reason to start honing your ability to read the room. Take the initiative because you truly have the ability to make things a little easier on the people you love during this time. 

Bonus Tip: Do not suggest that baby is hungry every time he fusses. Especially if his saint of a mother just got done feeding him 10 minutes ago. 

Interview with a Dad

My friend’s wife is a Natalie (due next month!) and he’s been tweeting some half-joking-but-probably-also-serious cries for help. My dear husband, who is as private as I am shameless, has agreed to a little interview to share what he’s learned over the past five months. This interview is pretty heteronormative; perhaps interviews with non- married/ straight/ WASP-y/ Midwestern people will come in the future!

What’s your biggest piece of advice for new dads during the birth?

Just be supportive. Be adaptable. A lot can change from when you enter the hospital to when you leave that you can’t control, so roll with the punches.

What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?

Waking up and spending time with him. As of this week, really playing with him. (Mom note: He has gotten so much more interactive! It can be hard to engage when they don’t really smile at you for the first two months, but it’s coming.)

What’s the worst part about having a kid?

Not sleeping. And the fact that most places don’t even have paternity leave. You’re just expected to go to work the next day.

What was your paternity leave situation? Was it enough? What were your thoughts when you went back to work?

One week that my boss made up for me. He said to tell HR I was working from home, if they asked. No, it wasn’t enough– I was too tired to be driving into work! It was weird being away when you’ve been with the baby every day before that.

What’s been the most surprising part about being a father?

Nothing really surprising, just stuff you know is coming but you can’t prepare for & then you’re actually living it. Like, you’re told about all these things, but until you live them you don’t really know what they’re like.

What do you wish you knew before becoming a dad?

I don’t know. I feel like I haven’t found any secrets. <– that means he’s done with this charade. It was good while it lasted, dear. Thank you for your reticent participation.

Resentment

Ooh la la– sharing the first ever image on this here non-mommy blog. I saw this on @expectingandempowered’s Instagram this morning and thought, “How did @psychedmommy get into my head and put my thoughts into a photo?!”

Maybe not all of these will ring true for you in parenthood, but it’s likely many of them will. Resentment towards your partner after the baby comes is inevitable, no matter how much you think you two are the exception. As the birthing person, the baby will need you more. Period. You are biologically hardwired to do more for the baby. Things will come naturally to you– stuff you’ve never once thought of before and didn’t even know were buried in your animal brain– that won’t come as easily to your partner. This will cause resentment.

The baby needing you for food while your partner sleeps soundly will cause a well of anger deeper in your sleep-deprived soul than you ever thought possible. The fact that your partner gets to leave the house unencumbered while you have a maxi pad the size of a canoe between your legs and your boobs are leaking and you don’t know why the baby’s crying but you do know that leaving the house is just not possible will make you seethe with jealousy. I describe it as my husband getting to cut & paste an adorable baby into his normal life while everything in my life changed on the cellular level. This is likely an unfair description, and some day it would be worth getting my husband’s perspective (he felt helpless & unsure of himself & also sleep deprived) but it takes a far more evolved person than me to not get petty as hell about, “How could you possibly have not noticed he needs a new diaper????”

My biggest advice is to communicate. Say it aloud. I absolutely told my husband more than once, “I was up at 4:00 really resenting you.” “I’m feeling very angry at you right now.” He’s allowed to talk back– it is supposed to be a dialogue– but the important thing is getting it out. Feeling resentment, then feeling bad about feeling resentment so keeping it inside and beating up on yourself, is a surefire way to cause more problems down the road for both your relationship and your mental health. This isn’t carte blanche to verbally berate whomever is helping you out with baby, but your feelings are valid and putting them out in the open takes away a lot of the weight immediately.

Your partner will eventually say something innocent like, “I’m so tired.” It is at this point you will weigh the pros and cons of committing first degree murder. You will wonder how someone could be so shockingly insensitive as to say to you, the NEW MOTHER, the MOST TIRED PERSON EVER, that they’re short on sleep. Try to be a decent human being in this moment. You being tired doesn’t negate your partner’s tiredness. It’s not a contest. It’s not fair to expect your partner to not also be open about what they’re going through (lack of sleep, stress of the baby, wanting to connect as a couple) because it might set you off into a “well I’m the most tired” rage. That’s not a cute look.

Beware of becoming a martyr. When you are doing the most– because you are, and it’s hard not to notice– don’t take on even more things because “well I’m doing it all anyway and he’s a piece of shit and if I continue to not ask for help I will eventually have a laundry list of things to throw back at him.” Believe me, that vindication feels good! It feels great to demand to be seen for all you have sacrificed. But what feels even better is asking for help and acknowledging when you feel put upon instead of one day boiling over from burnout. Remember, everyone involved is feeling fragile and no one is at their best. One day you’ll look back on The Cottage Cheese Incident as a fun marital story to laugh about even though you went to bed not talking to each other that night. (How in the F*CK was I supposed to know the seal on the cottage cheese was broken when I bought it and what the HELL do you want me to do about it now?!)

Baby Blues Advice

Since I’ve had one child and am extremely qualified to give all the parenting advice in the world, here’s the much anticipated follow up to my experience with the baby blues period of being home with a newborn. If you missed that, click here to read it first, duh!

So. You are extremely overheated and underslept and possibly undernourished– what do you do.

  1. Know that what you’re going through is normal* and it will get better. This is absolutely the shittiest advice to get because WHEN will it get better and HOW will it get better would be much more helpful, but just know that it will. *People far more well-versed in postpartum depression, anxiety & psychosis will thankfully give information and warning signs on that before you leave the hospital. I’m using “normal” as a relative term; if you’re ever scaring yourself with your thoughts, PLEASE say them aloud to your partner or a medical professional. Do not keep it inside and assume “it’s hormones, it’ll pass.”
  2. Give yourself all of the grace in the world. This is the time to strip everything in your life down to the basics. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you are starting from the bottom. You get to accept all of the help you need and turn away all of the extraneous people and to-do’s that you want. If you post a picture of baby on Facebook and receive a record number of congratulatory comments, you don’t have to respond to a single one. It’s more than ok to not respond to texts, or to tell people “No, we’re not receiving visitors any time soon.” If it’s going to give you a blip of joy to fall down a TikTok rabbit hole, don’t feel guilty doing it. The first few weeks home are the wild west of doing or not doing whatever most benefits you and your baby.
  3. Communicate. Mind reading wasn’t something your partner could do before baby came; it sure as hell isn’t something either of you can do now. Saying “come take the baby” to your partner when you’re done nursing, or texting your mom “bring orange juice at 12:30 and put the load of clean clothes in the dryer when you get here” is so much more helpful to you and your helpers than them trying to guess what you might be needing right now.
  4. When baby is sleeping during the day, ask yourself, “What will I be most upset I didn’t get done if baby wakes up early?” and then go do that thing. If the answer is take a nap yourself, attempt it. If the mess in the kitchen is absolutely driving you bonkers, load that dishwasher (or communicate to someone else to do it!) If you need to pump, this is your time. My answer was usually to take a shower. It was the one thing I definitely couldn’t do while holding baby. You will absolutely astound yourself with the amount of things you’ll figure out how to do one-handed, but showering is never one of them. And since you’re always weirdly hot and sweaty, a daily shower will generally be warranted!
  5. Don’t rush “normal.” I was hell bent on proving to the world (and myself? why??) that I hadn’t fundamentally changed as a person after becoming a mother. I wanted to do All The Things and get back to my old routine, hobbies and habits to prove having a kid wasn’t a major disruptor. Reader, I am an idiot. Having a kid is a major disruptor to your physical body as well as your brain (and your relationships, but that is a whole separate post for a later time.) Six days after baby was born, my mom came to watch him while my husband and I went grocery shopping. We were in the canned foods section when I had to tell him, “I’ll push the cart, but I need you to make all the decisions,” because my brain could NOT focus on the task at hand. I should not have been making pantry choices at that moment. I wanted to get back on my feet and be in the world, but my brain sat my ass back down.
  6. Don’t overthink it. When you’re crying, just let it happen. Wondering why you’re crying is probably moot, and it will pass. Don’t worry your gorgeous brain one second beyond the moment that’s happening in front of you. At some point you will have the thought, “I could never do this again,” regarding any subsequent children, and honey, this is NOT the time to be thinking about that. Getting pre-sad about when they start daycare or wondering what color they’ll want to paint their room when it’s no longer a nursery is a waste of this current moment when you can be staring at their squishy face that everyone assures you doesn’t look like an alien but you’ll look back on in a couple months and realize that actually it totally did. All newborns look like (cute) aliens.