To Dads with New Babies

To dads with new babies

To Dads with New Babies,

When you first found out your wife was expecting, I’m sure you experienced your share of worries. Babies are weird creatures, after all, and there’s a lot to figure out – like just how much it’s going to cost you to add this new human to your family for the next 18+ years, how to master the art of transferring the sleeping baby from your feverishly rocking arms and into the swing without waking them, and how to avoid stoplights like the plague when baby is in the car. However, what I’m guessing you didn’t expect is that even harder than figuring out your newborn would be figuring out your “new” wife.

Let’s face it, this ain’t the same chick you married (am I right!?).

But even though it might feel like everything is changing, I promise you she’s still there, underneath the spit-up-soaked tank top and the designer eye bags. And as you wait for the new and improved mommy version of her to emerge from the puddle of body-fluids she feels like she’s drowning in, I thought maybe you could use a little insight to help you navigate her current feelings (as irrational as they may be).

First of all, she is like, SOOO tired. I know, I know, you are too. The difference is, you’re not allowed to vocalize it. At least not in front of her. Sure, you can think about it. You can tell your mom or your co-worker or your dog about it. But whatever you do, do NOT, for any reason, speak those thoughts aloud when she is within earshot. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but trust me on this one. Even though you’re a great dad whose been dutifully taking your turn waking up with the baby for those late night feedings and then trudging out into society, attempting to appear semi-sane in front of your co-workers on so little sleep, she will still punch you in the face if she hears you talk about it. Is this fair? Nope. Reasonable? Not at all. Because you ARE tired, and you have a right to be. But she’ll do the punching anyway. Maybe it’s because her body is sagging in weird places and it’s making her extra cranky. Or maybe it’s because you pretended to be asleep when the baby was crying in the middle of the night last night, and she knew you were awake, dummy. Either way, you’re better off keeping your tired thoughts to yourself for now (or at least until the baby sleeps a solid 5 hours in a row).

Second, she kind of resents you right now. Again, not warranted, but true all the same. Why? Because she feels like her world has been turned completely upside down. She doesn’t recognize her own body. Her thoughts have turned primal, revolving around things like when she’ll next be able to clean herself or get her next meal. Quite frankly, she’s scared she will somehow mess this mothering thing up or not measure up for this baby. Everything is so new. Change is hard. And while she’s dealing with a world she doesn’t recognize, you get to go on with your “normal” life. I know it doesn’t feel normal to you, but that’s how she sees it. You can get away for more than 1 hour at a time. You have not turned into a human feeding machine. And she resents you for that. No, it isn’t fair. And no, there’s not much you can do about it, other than take out the garbage without being asked, and hope for more understanding in a month or so. Because this too shall pass.

Third, if she is exhibiting sudden and unexpected emotional outbursts, don’t worry, it’s normal. Random and unexplained bouts of crying? Normal. Fits of laughter over the baby’s half-asleep pooping face? Normal. Unexpected foul language and bursts of anger at you for doing absolutely nothing? Normal. And whatever you do, when she is experiencing one of these episodes, do not, I repeat, do NOT tell her to “calm down.” Instead, just take the darn baby, hand her your credit card, and insist that she go buy herself a jumbo coffee or frappe or gallon of ice cream. And tell her to take her time while you’re at it. You’ll be amazed at how much good this little “outing” can do. And when she gets back, tell her how hard it was to take care of the baby while she was gone and that “you have no idea how she does it.” Trust me, you’ll win major points for this.

And lastly, even though she might not say it or show it right now, she’s really glad you’re here. It’s true. She is so thankful to have you by her side, navigating this new season and this new human with her. She can’t imagine doing this without you. Believe it or not, she knows just how lucky she is to have a man like you in her life. And one day, when the baby finally figures out the difference between night and day, she just might tell you this herself. She will thank you for loving her despite her goopy tummy and spit-up covered sweatpants, for rocking the baby at 3am when her arms just couldn’t take one more bounce, and for standing by her side through the unreasonable outbursts. Because you’re a great man. And you know what else? You’re a great dad too.

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The Resplendent

The Painfully Beautiful Realities of Postpartum

My second child came fast and furiously. Just a couple hours after the first inkling of a contraction, my husband had already rushed me to the hospital. I was pacing in the hallway, per my nurse’s orders. She said she wanted me to walk for an hour or two before she checked me again. To my dismay, I was only dilated to a 2 when I first arrived, and she wanted to see progress before confirming whether or not she’d let me stay or send me home. Apparently, she didn’t believe me when I told her that on a scale of 1 to 10, my pain was a solid 9. She told me my contractions were still 6 minutes apart, but I swear her machine was broken. I was feeling intense and almost unbearable pain every minute or two.

I couldn’t walk. I made my husband help me back to my room almost immediately. It wasn’t until my nurse heard me screaming out in pain from down the hallway that she came rushing in. I wasn’t just a wimp. She saw the blood on the floor and immediately called in backup as she checked my progress again. I was dilated to 9 and already feeling the urge to push.

It all happened so fast. By the time the doctor showed up, it was only a matter of minutes before my baby was in my arms.Painfully Beautiful realities of postpartum

He was healthy and thriving, and real.

They laid him on my chest, and I felt the heaviness. I felt the heaviness of this new life, a responsibility now eternally mine. I felt the heaviness of my empty belly, now sagging below the babe on my chest. I felt the heaviness of the love I felt for my child, who I already knew so well and yet was meeting for the very first time.

I cried. I was emotional and exhausted. It felt like I had just run a marathon, the adrenaline from crossing the finish line still surging through a body I didn’t recognize.  

By the time they wheeled me into our new room, my legs too weak and heavy to stand on, the adrenaline had given way to exhaustion. The sun was rising. It was a new day and I had given birth to new life. My old life was gone, my new life staring me in the face through the eyes of this tiny baby.

They took him from my arms, wrapped him up, and started to measure and prod and poke him. My intense feelings of possession at his absence were overwhelming. I could hardly bare to have him taken away, let alone hear his cries. I knew right then, I would protect him until the day I died.Painfully Beautiful Realities of Postpartum

My nurse helped me use the bathroom and I felt so disconnected from my body. It was raw and strange. My stretched bulging belly, now glaringly vacant, was still plagued with phantom kicks during those few moments of rest. My eyes were bloodshot and I was leaking from all sides. It was like watching myself from somewhere else, this stranger in front of me.

As I nursed my child for the first time, I felt the sharp ache of the lingering contractions, reminding me of the pain I had survived only hours earlier. I hadn’t yet forgotten. Instead, I was amazed at what I had endured. I was amazed that this baby was now in my arms after all these months of waiting. I was amazed that I had survived childbirth. I was relieved it was over but acutely aware of the challenges ahead of me. I was elated and terrified.painfully beautiful realities of postpartum

There is no other experience in life that I can compare to this time. The first few days and even weeks postpartum are unlike any other. They are scary and beautiful. They are empowering and paralyzing. They are overwhelming and so very simple. 

It feels like your world is falling apart when it’s really just falling into place.

Each day gets a little easier. Each day, I take a deep breath and I take the next step, forging onward into this painfully beautiful new life.
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