I have several friends who are having their first babies. One had her baby just this morning and I am over the moon about it, because I remember the thrill of beginning that journey. For me the journey began after a long, crappy struggle with infertility. When I finally got pregnant, I was elated and spent endless hours happily shopping for what I presumed I would need to raise a child. I’m seriously embarrassed by how much time I spent researching strollers – I probably could have written a thesis paper on the subject. Which bouncer should I get? Which brand of onesies, which bottle, pacifier, socks, sheets, fabric softener, diapers…on and on it went.
Back then, what I never could have anticipated was how wrecked I would feel all the time. How a colicky baby could bring me to my literal and figurative (crawling out of her room so as not to wake my baby up) knees. How I would spend days in pajamas. How I gave up makeup and doing my hair and wearing regular clothes. We are taught that we must make endless sacrifices for our children. Obviously when you have children, you give up a great deal of your own personal wants. That’s how it is and in many ways how it has to be. It never occurred to me that getting into that physical rut would contribute to my mental rut and feeling depressed would feed my physical rut as well. It was all one big yucky cycle.
A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine whose wife is having a baby in a few months quizzed me about all things baby. I gave him the few tips I could remember (so much of that time is fuzzy thanks to sleep deprivation) and then finally said, “You know what, never mind the baby. Take care of your wife.” He looked at me, confused.
One of the things I’ve come to realize in the last couple years, after talking with friends and having more children myself, was that while many dads doted on their new babies and do their best to help with the baby, moms are often still drowning, especially in the first year. Obviously that’s not everyone’s experience, but time and time again friends tell me that they felt like their role as caretaker was clobbering them, in part because no one was taking care of mom. It’s not on purpose. Dad’s don’t set out for it to be this way. And they can’t be faulted for loving and caring for their babies.
But there are a few things dads can do to help support mom that may not be obvious.
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