Thank you all for generously accepting Justin into the fold! The response to The New Daddy Survival Guide Part 1: The Delivery was so kind and enthusiastic, my heart just about burst. J is back today to offer his tips on getting through the postpartum period (or as some call it, the forth trimester). There are no words for how instrumental his role was in maintaining my sanity in what was a difficult transition for me. He was and continues to be our rock!
They typically say sequels are never as good as the original, but hopefully The New Daddy Survival Guide Part Two lives up to my original post. If you missed it, Part One is all about surviving the delivery of your baby. Now it’s time to talk about what to do now that your baby is out of Mom’s belly!
Recovery & Discovery
All birthing stories are different– some go through hours of labor and others have to turn to C-section for delivery. However your birth story goes, in the end, it’s showtime. It is now on you to take care of your child, but do not forget that Mom needs your help too. Here are the things I focused on to recover from the emotional roller coaster and discover my new life:
- Rest: You will notice I did not say sleep. I do not want you to be naïve about this. If you are able to get some actual quality sleep, then I applaud you. Our daughter was delivered at 9:46 pm and we did not make it to our room until close to 1 am. I had quite the adrenaline high, but it eventually caught up to me. We ended up making the decision to send Alice to the nursery that night. I cannot encourage this enough. The “bed” I had was a chair that folded down flat. Bring a pillow. Bring anything you can to make you comfortable. If you cannot sleep, rest your mind. The days to come are going to be some of the most challenging you’ve seen.
- Get Hands-On: I will be the first to say that I wanted nothing to do with changing a diaper while in the hospital. It sounds silly, but let the nurses handle that. You will have plenty of time to do that in the future. Instead, take advantage of this time with the nurses to make sure you know how to swaddle your baby. They say to know the five S’s or something – the one I truly remember is SWADDLE. Work with the nurses on swaddling the baby. I was the Swaddle King by the time we left the hospital and it was all thanks to the time spent with the nurses.
- Make Mom Time: I know it may be easy to get caught up in the excitement about the new baby, but do not ignore or lose track of what Mom just went through. Her body is recovering from quite an ordeal. It’s difficult for us men to understand, but her hormones are also going haywire. The sooner you come to terms that hormones are indeed real the better off both of you will be. You don’t need to understand it all – let’s be honest, you probably won’t – but you do need to support her through it.
- Limit Your Guests: If you are lucky enough to have family nearby, they are going to want to visit. It’s awesome having them there, but do not let them overstay their welcome. While they are there make sure to take a moment for yourself. Go outside. Get some fresh air and decompress in solitude.
The length of your stay at the hospital will depend on what kind of delivery you ended up with. We were there for two days and then sent on our way. There is an “Oh Shit” moment where you realize it’s all up to you now, but do not stress – you will figure it out.
- Stock Up: Take anything you can from the hospital that can be useful. I packed up towels, baby blankets, gauze – you name it. These are all going to be helpful with Mom’s recovery once home. There will still be bleeding and I am pretty sure you did not prepare for that.
- Rely on Family: This is obviously dependent on you having family nearby, but if you are able to get help with meals or take a nap by having Grandma and Grandpa over, please do so. Our first night was a sleepless one. We no longer could rely on the nursery and struggles with breastfeeding and sleeping kept us up all night. The nap I took the next day was probably one of the best ever and it was all thanks to Grandma and Grandpa holding down the fort.
- Take Naps: I have always hated taking naps. Ten months into it, I can tell you that I love naps now. Take advantage of the time that your baby is sleeping to catch up yourself.
I was lucky enough to have two weeks off of work after our daughter’s birth. Looking back, these were some of the most challenging days I have ever experienced. If this is your first baby, you will question your decisions. We are, by nature, instinctual beings. Trust your instincts and do what is best for your child. Here are some of the keys that helped me settle in with a new baby at home.
- Understand the Cry: It is no secret that your baby will cry. Find peace knowing that this is just how your child communicates. It took me some time, but once I realized this, life became much easier. Some parents have different methodology on this, but your baby will cry. It’s okay. Don’t let yourself get emotionally frustrated if your baby is crying. It could be something as simple as needing a diaper change.
- Get Hands-On: You may remember me saying to do this while in the hospital. This will always be the case. Change diapers. Soothe the baby. Burp the baby. Mom is still in recovery mode and breastfeeding can be very stressful, especially is not going well. Do anything you can to ease the burden for Mom. I truly believe my daughter is a huge Daddy’s Girl today because I was so involved.
- Wake Up: I cannot tell you how many fellow dads have told me stories about how they never helped feed their kid at night or how Mom was always the one to get up. I refused to be that Dad. Yes, I am still in a state of exhaustion, but I would not give up that extra time with my daughter for some extra sleep. This became especially true when we had to abandon breastfeeding. We typically alternated feedings in the night, but there were times I did more. There were other times where Jessy did more. Do not count. You are a team and there is no point in keeping a tally. Be supportive of one another and put in the time.
I cannot express enough that it does get easier. Make sure to communicate with Mom about how things are progressing. If something is bothering you, let her know. Your teamwork is a necessary component of your survival. This methodology has worked well for us. There is no official script or playbook. Hopefully you find something that works well for you.
Jessy here again. Before this post ends, I needed to pop back in say please, please, please make sure to tell Mom how much you appreciate her and say and do things so that she know that you still think she’s beautiful and are still attracted to her. Even the little things like stealing a moment to pull me aside and give me a kiss meant the world to me and I truly believe that our bond deepened even more during this time, not only because of our family’s new situation but because we continued to connect as a couple. As a result, instead of pulling apart when things got hard (and they will get tough at times!) we pulled closer together and leaned on each other through it all.
What was your postpartum experience like?
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