I know, mom. I know we’re the ones who endured the get-this-thing-outta-me-right-NOWWW labor. I know we’re the ones breathing through afterpains with each early nursing session. Yes, we’re the ones sobbing uncontrollably over our saggy, droopy, loose everything weeks after delivery. The ones sweating out hormones, pulling out clumps of hair, and losing out on precious wee hour sleep.
I also know I couldn’t do any of this without my husband by my side.
The Dad? He’s postpartum, too. He’s exhausted. He’s likely back to normal work hours after a short time off, and coming home to extra chores and children who are starved for some rough and tumble attention. (Oh, is that just at my house?) He’s got a wife who is doing her best to put one foot in front of the other without falling apart, and his immediate goal is to keep the pieces together.
Bringing baby home and happily surviving the aftermath is a team effort. My husband bends over backwards to make sure I’m as rested and comfortable as possible (lest he endure the wrath of Crazy Hormonal Wife) and I have found, over the course of 9 years and 5 children, that recognizing his own “postpartum” status is a real boost to our teamwork.
Let him do it his way.
It’s likely that dad will be asked to do things that are normally mom’s territory. Preparing meals (even if it is just pb&j), bedtime routines, sweeping the floor. It’s also likely that he won’t do it exactly like you would. Know what? If he’s willing, let him. And let him do it his way. Who cares if he sings Wheels on the Bus instead of the ABC song while brushing the toddler’s teeth? The job is getting done, and done is good!
Acknowledge his efforts.
My husband is constantly thanking me for everything I do, everything I go through in those first few days and weeks. I think he realizes The Tired and The Hormones are ganging up on my psyche, and The “You’re Amazing” balm is a true salve for the weary. Don’t forget his efforts, too. “Thank you for taking the baby while I soak in the tub. Thank you for finishing the dishes that I started 34 hours ago. Thank you for living this hard, chaotic, wonderful life with me.”
Give him a break.
Everyone knows mom needs her rest. My husband moves mountains to see that I get it, too. If the opportunity presents itself, feel free to turn the tables. Stick the kids in front of a movie (I won’t tell!) while you nurse the baby in the recliner, and tell dad to take a breather. If The Crazy is full force at home (dinnertime, perhaps?) hand dad the sleeping baby for a snuggle, and get the other kids settled at the table.
Baby care is draining, but I think sometimes… just every once in a while… dad might be a little jealous that much of it takes place sitting down in a comfy chair. Give him a chance at that action once or twice.
One evening a few days postpartum, when the stars aligned and all five children were quiet in their beds at the same.exact.time. I walked into the living room and offered, “Lie down and I’ll rub your back for a few minutes.” After insuring I hadn’t sprouted an extra eyeball, he did. “This is really nice.” It was a small gesture, and it lasted all of 7 minutes, but it was something just for him. Don’t worry, I get my share of massages, and some.
Physical intimacy will likely be and remain low on the priority list for a few weeks, at best. Also, what with all the feeding and burping and cuddling and diaper changing, you’re probably all touched out by the end of the day (not to mention spit on, pooped on, and otherwise rather unappealing). Still, a simple hug from your sweaty, stinky self may be the reminder your man needs that he still matters. Close proximity when freshly showered? Bonus!
He can carry a lot on those broad shoulders, and my guy does. He does it without complaining, without deserved praise, and with very little sleep. It’s stressful, this baby thing. But it’s exhilarating, too, especially when we do a good job of taking care of each other.
How do you support the postpartum dad at your house while he takes care of you?