Having a Baby – A Guide for Dads
Last month, I wrote a post about what new parents can expect when having their first child. This post joins many others in the big world of blogging about becoming a new parent. However most of these posts are written by women for women, primarily. I wanted to put a new spin on this week’s blog post and include my husband as my co-writer to include a very important voice in my parenting journey – the father of my children. Yes I am a stay at home who runs the well-oiled machine known as the Lovely household. But it wouldn’t stay functional very long if my husband didn’t play the major role he does in our home. In fact, he is the head of our household leading us in our faith walk as well as being the main breadwinner. I am the administrative leader who handles all our finances (giving, shopping, bills, investments, etc.) and the day to day affairs such as school drop offs, meal planning and laundry. Is this a traditional division of labour? Perhaps. But before you make assumptions it’s actually not how I grew up. However, that is for another blog post. Our arrangement may not be the one your family has, but I hope for this post to be of some value to you anyways, since we all share the experience of parenting. So this post is dedicated to all the new fathers out there, courtesy of my husband David:
When my wife first got pregnant, I was excited, but I’m sure the experience was different for her. She was obviously elated, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for her as she suffered what seemed like months of morning sickness. I felt bad because there wasn’t much I could do for her, so I just tried to support her by doing more around the house. When we first got married, I took a new job that allowed me to work from home. Since Jewels commuted to her job, she often left before I started work, and came home after I was done my work day. So naturally, I did the majority of the cooking and cleaning. On the weekends is when Jewels tried out some new recipes since she had more time. Once Jewels got pregnant, it made sense to continue this division of labour, however I soon learned my wife had some strong food aversions, so it was a fine balance between figuring out what to cook and not making her even more ill. It took some trial and error figuring out which foods made her sick during the pregnancy, but it was worth finding out because for the first time since we met, she was able to eat meat again! Jewels had been a vegetarian since her early twenties due to health reasons. When we first started dating and I learned she didn’t eat meat, I was slightly disappointed coming from an Australian background where BBQ is as common as maple syrup in Canada. Obviously it wasn’t her culinary tastes that made me fall in love with her though. When she was pregnant with our first son, all she wanted was chicken. There was no rhyme or reason, but I wasn’t going to argue with that. So for the next 9 months, I enjoyed putting together my favourite meat-laden meals for her. Takeaways: find out what your partner needs during pregnancy. Some days she might not even know what that is, but just support her by giving her options and experimenting with different things.
To Push Present or Not to Push Present?
Have you heard of push presents? It’s a gift given to the mother of the child usually from the father of the child to mark the occasion of giving birth. Okay, so I want to be sensitive to all mothers here because I think what they have done is so amazing, and I know there is no equivalent for men in what women have to go through in childbirth. But, I’d like to think that I give my wife a lot of love, gratitude AND gifts on an ongoing basis without necessitating a push present. If I have learned anything after having two kids, it is that the gifts my wife has appreciated the most are not material things. For instance, a couple months after she gave birth, we made arrangements for her to spend a night away from the baby and I in a luxury hotel (locally) with some of her stylist friends. It was a night she could just focus on her interests and passions outside of her family, and frankly have a well-deserved sleep. And even today, three and a half years into the parenting journey, the things my wife appreciates the most are when I give her the time and space to work on her own passion projects and hobbies without the interruption of kids. And if my wife wanted to buy herself some new jewelry or a new wardrobe, she doesn’t have to wait until she pushes out another baby. As she mentioned above, she is the accountant in our family so if she needs some new clothes or has a special “want”, we make sure that we budget for those occasions as opposed to waiting for a special occasion – like having a baby. Note from Jewels: It’s true! I love my “experiential” gifts moreso than material ones. The night in a hotel room with uninterrupted sleep was AMAZING. Although, I did wake up once to pump because engorgement is not comfortable to sleep with! Takeaways: Shower your partner with love, gratitude and gifts on an ongoing basis, not just during major life events. The surprise gifts (i.e. an afternoon to herself, or a night out) are the ones that are often most appreciated.
When d-day comes, that is delivery day, be there 110% for your spouse. What does that look like? When she says hold me, hold her. When she says don’t touch me, don’t touch her. When she says toast, bring her more than one slice. Leading up to the day, I had no idea how I could possibly help during delivery, but it turns out just being there responding to her cues, both verbal and nonverbal, was what she needed. If you have a chance to hire a doula, I highly recommend. Our doula was there for both my wife and I. My wife was the priority, but she made sure I was involved in helping support my wife. She coached us through different positions and breathing techniques, which were sometimes quite physical. For instance, at one point our doula brought out a large scarf (rabozo, I later learned) which she draped over my shoulders. My wife would hang on to the scarf and rock herself gently in it through her contractions. We maintained this position for a couple hours because when your wife finds a position that she can manage the immense amount of pain she is in, you DO NOT move. I actually felt like I was helping her in some small way through labour. Note from Jewels: I remember this position vividly, and it should be noted how labour intensive (no pun intended) this position actually was. I was literally swinging from this rabozo which hung around David’s neck for HOURS. Yes labour was hard for me, but my husband worked hard too. It felt like when I just couldn’t physically go on, David was holding me up with his strength…literally. And in the emotionally taxing moments when I just wanted to pull the plug on this whole operation (as if, right?) my husband would look me straight into the eyes, tell me that I CAN do this and just start counting to help get me back on track to the task at hand. I cannot tell you how in sync he was with me throughout my entire labour. Our doula was such an amazing coach for us. We didn’t use a doula the second time around since we felt like we remembered a lot of strategies from our first. Also, baby number two came fast and furious! Takeaway: follow your wife’s lead. And just be right there for her. Be her physical, emotional and spiritual support system.
Acknowledge Your Strengths
It’s been a month or two since baby’s arrival. You’re tired, in need of a shower and smell like spit-up. But you’re a changed man. You’re a father. You’ve never felt so much love for such a small being. You’re also in love with your wife in a new way. You both created this beautiful little being, but you saw her carry, nourish and deliver your son/daughter into this world. Never has she been stronger. But at the same time, you realize she needs the time and support to recover. So you go to the drug store to get her pads and adult underwear. You pick up the sushi and champagne she’s been craving for the past 9 months every single day, if that is what she wants. Just because she isn’t pregnant anymore doesn’t mean those cravings stop. Her body is still pumping hormones for both her and baby. Some days she might be walking on cloud nine, and others she will just need a good cry. Whatever she needs, just support her. If your wife is breastfeeding, when the baby wakes up for a feed, go get the baby for her. Or if baby needs a change, do it. At this point, you will realize all that baby seems to want is to feed and sleep. So just try and do all the in between stuff. As the baby gets older, a natural division of labour will start to emerge. You might be the one who gets up with the baby after he/she has had their first feed. My wife would give our son his first feed, then I would get up and take him out to the living room to hang out with him so my wife could sleep in longer. Even today, I get up with both boys and have breakfast with them so my wife can sleep in. My wife is not a morning person, so I’ve acknowledged that’s a strength for me and something I can do for her. Takeaways: In the beginning when baby is so new, you might feel like you can’t do much for him/her. But just do what you can. Soon you will develop a rhythm for what works for you and your partner. Know each of your strengths, and parent accordingly.
I’m only three years into this parenting game, but already I feel like it’s going by in a flash. This whole parenting gig has it’s challenges, but it’s also one of my greatest accomplishments. If I can leave you with some final words, it’s to embrace it all. The 2am wake ups, the tantrums, the lingering hugs. All of these moments with your children are opportunities. Opportunities to build your character; to become a better human being. Three years in, while I’ve grown in age and fatigue, I’ve also gained more patience, more compassion and more love. Don’t miss the opportunities your children give you to grow.