Scared? Of what?
Of having a newborn in the house.
I didn’t really mean to laugh, but I did. My husband rarely shares his emotions, and he’s not the most empathetic person to grace this planet. So I should have been more encouraging of him stating an emotion out loud. But the idea that he felt scared struck me as borderline ridiculous. Maybe I was being selfish, but my first thoughts were: uhm, I have to go through labor, I have to push this baby out of me, I have to nurse–at all hours of the day and night–which was not a fun experience for me the first time around, I will be the one staying home with not one, but TWO kids, including a toddler who likes to climb everything she can find and eat meals fit for a teenage boy, and I will be doing all of this while utterly sleep deprived. And you, you my darling husband, will be at work for the vast majority of this new enterprise.
He looked defeated and muttered, “Nevermind.”
Oh no, not that easy, buster. So I poked and I prodded, and he finally told me he’s scared of the lack of sleep, the hormonal wife, and the idea of being a father to a son (because he thinks daughters are easier… I get it. The father-son relationship can be a tough one. How emotional are men with their sons, after all? This is something that I feel is being redefined by the present generation of parents, and probably warrants its own future post).
Last time, we didn’t know what we were doing. No new parent has a clue, no matter how many books and articles they read and people they talk to. The sleep deprivation alone is enough to frustrate you to tears. My daughter’s longest stretch of sleep was an hour and a half. Which means that if I nursed her, I would have an hour and a half of “sleep.” Which in actuality meant, by the time I fell asleep, I really was getting 20-30 minute intervals. I’m pretty sure that’s a form of torture used by a military force somewhere in the world. It didn’t help that post-partnum hormones bring new meaning to the word crazy. I was always hot. I made my husband install an air conditioner in our bedroom window even though we had central air. He slept in sweatpants and sweatshirts under massive blankets, while I was still complaining about how hot it was. As a mom who just gave birth, you’re also recovering in various areas of your body. It’s uncomfortable to say the least, and makes the bathroom the scariest room in the house. Furthermore, my skin, which had been so nice during pregnancy, rebelled, causing worse-than-teenage acne all over my face, which still hasn’t subsided 20 months later. Then your hair starts falling out. And you’re just trying to claw your way towards some future tunnel that has some perceived light at the end of it. You don’t know what this light will look like, or if you’ll even find it, you just hope that it really does exist.
What do you do if you’re the father? If your significant other is nursing, there’s not much you can do in terms of feeding the baby. At least in the beginning. Your wife is constantly crying. You’re not sleeping well. You most likely get no paternity leave (my husband was with me three days in the hospital and two days after that and then it was back to his two hour commute and training halfway across the country once a month for a week at a time for six months). You want to hang out with your baby, too. You may even feel guilty at points. Definitely helpless. What’s a dad to do?
Well, this time, I reminded my husband, we’re slightly more prepared. At least we have an idea of what to expect. Here are ways Dad got more involved last time that either helped me out immensely or gave him bonding time with the baby and in some cases, did both:
1. Make Mom breakfast before you leave for work.
-I realized way too late that I would go until 11:00 sometimes without eating. This isn’t good for anyone involved. After not sleeping all night, and nursing all morning, having a breakfast brought to me was probably the single most helpful thing my husband did. I was less cranky, getting better nutrition, and that’s win-win for everyone.
2. Diaper Duty
-It’s not glamorous, but it was so helpful. I would nurse the baby, Daddy would change the baby. It felt like a mini-respite.
3. Bath Time
-This is still great bonding time for Dad and babe. They play, sing songs, splash, splash, and just generally have a good time together smiling, making eye contact, and giggling.
4. Hug Your Significant Other When She’s Going Crazy
-Look, hormones have no logic. Sometimes your significant other will just start crazy talking. It might be venomous. It might be tear-filled. It might be venting frustration. Hug her. Gently. Don’t promise that everything will be okay. Don’t try to fix the problem. For goodness sakes, don’t take anything that she says seriously, but also don’t laugh at her. Don’t try to talk sense into her. Just hug her.
-If your significant other is pumping, you can help with night feeding duty. Let her sleep in on a Saturday (Whooo hoo 3 hours straight!). Take over one of the night feedings so she can get a little extra rest. This didn’t work well for me, because I struggled with low supply and needed to pump or nurse every single time, but for a lot of women, this is a life saver.
To be honest, I don’t know how to quell my husband’s fears. I do know that I need to understand that while I feel as though I’m doing 90% of the work, he suffers, too, sometimes just by seeing me struggle. For me, having a logical battle plan going in makes me feel more confident. For him, knowing what it’s like makes him more worried. Either way, it’s not easy. I’m just hoping we can work together as a team and rock the second baby as well as we rocked the first!