The Postpartum Dad

Yes, really.

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 know.

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.

Treat him.

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.

Get close.

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?

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Comments

  1. So true! We just had our first almost 5 months ago and one thing that I realized quickly in those first few days is how much more I love my husband after going through all this with him. He was amazing and I tried to tell him so!

  2. we only have two but this is a great reminder for me to remember how much my husband does for me and our kids – especially when we were new parents and learning everything as we went (completely exhausted the whole time). i do feel incredibly blessed that i have such a wonderful husband who is also a wonderful father. :) i think i often take him for granted with all the daily craziness – i need to thank him more often.

  3. Excellent suggestions, Amy! I would say that, for us, the most difficult birth experience was our micropreemie’s. While, yes, I am the one who endured the messy c-section, he was the one who shouldered so, so, SO much of the burden. People provided me with lots of support, but everyone said to him, “Oh, this must be so hard for your wife!” I know he would have loved for someone– ANYONE– to acknowledge that it was hard for him, too. Dads need emotional support, too, and usually don’t know how to ask for it.

    • “Oh, this must be so hard for your wife!” Yes! Lance gets, “How’s Amy doing?” a lot…

      • I haven’t even had our baby yet (due in Feb. with our first) and my husband is already sick of that question (as am I!)…”How are you? or How is Emily?”

        He’s a pastor, so most of the concern comes from {well-meaning} church members…but we’re considering making me a sign to wear at church that states how I’m feeling!

        I totally agree that it’s so important to take care of dad’s needs, too!

  4. Deborah Jennings says:

    You are so very lucky. When I had my babies, I had no help at all. It was all up to me. The husband I have now, would help out a lot! He is an awesome Dad and Granddad.

  5. My 3rd and 4th are a little less then a year and a half apart. When 4 came 3 was in the throws of major separation issues from me. From about 6 months til 2 1/2 she lived on my hip. So when 4 came my husband was so awesome snuggling the baby so I can give 3 her much needed attention. We didn’t want her to resent 4 for taking her momma! Thankfully with my husbands help we weather all of that beautifully and came out the other end. 3 and 4 are so close with each other and I thank God for giving us the knowledge if how to weather that stage.

  6. Great post! It’s so easy to think only of ourselves and our needs (which are totally legitimate). So often I expect my husband to help around the house, help with kids, and baby me all after he’s worked a full day! The marriage relationship has to be a mutual 100% giving of ourselves, even when we feel like we deserve to rest!

  7. Thank you for this reminder to remember that it’s an adjustment for Dad too!
    Each time we’ve had a baby (3 of ‘em … so far …), I’m so grateful that Chad makes me lie down, makes me take a nap, and is amazing with all the help he provides to the other children. When we had our 3rd AT HOME (on purpose), he did an INCREDIBLE job of playing full-time dad to the boys and full-time nurse and errand-boy to me and the baby.

  8. Great reminders! I like handing baby to dad often, especially when he comes home from work and would like to see his baby. With 6 other sibs, our youngest gets held by them a lot, so I make Dad the priority (first dibs!) when he’s home.

    Expressing gratitude and plenty of snuggles are important as you mentioned. :)

  9. This was one thing I didn’t think about when we had our first baby in May. I had certain expectations of my husband postpartum, none of which involved him being, you know, HUMAN. So, we had some growing pains in our marriage those early weeks (so much fun when combined with exhaustion and hormones!). We had to re-learn how to communicate, which we’re still working on. I’m learning to tell him clearly what I would like/need instead of hinting or expecting him to read my mind and then getting mad when he doesn’t do what I wanted. One of the best things he did was call a trusted friend with four kids to say, “How do I adjust to being a dad and still be a good husband?” Giving him the gifts of time just the two of us, time just the two of them, time to himself at home and away, and most of all thanking him frequently and publicly, are all ways I try to extend care to him.

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