When we left the hospital with our little guy we, like all new parents, looked around for an instruction manual (or baby receipt). Alas, there was none to be found. Apparently, the State of Tennessee is totally cool with you wingin’ it.
While an instruction manual for the baby was an obvious need, the instruction manual for your wife probably wasn’t on your radar. Don’t worry (unlike the State of Tennessee) I’m here to help.
Our first lesson is on the 10 Things New Dads Need to Know About New Moms. Some of this is so “duh” it hurts, but we all lose parts of our brain during the newborn phase especially so it wouldn’t hurt for you New Dads to print this handy dandy list off and read it every 5 or so minutes:
- New Mom feels ugly. There are so many conflicted feelings about how she feels about her body right now. On one hand, she truly believes she is one of the most amazing creatures to walk the earth. I mean, her body GREW A HUMAN BEING. But on the other hand, she feels gross. Her body feels stretched out and saggy and things are leaking. Add in the inability to spend more than 2 minutes in front of a mirror and the fact that most of her clothes don’t fit right now and you have one ugly feeling mama.
This is a great time to be very vocal about how you feel about her appearance. When she looks particularly beautiful nursing your new baby, tell her. When she’s standing in front of the mirror with tears in her eyes because nothing fits look her in the eyes and list off all of the things that make her beautiful. She needs to hear these things from you right now.
- New Mom is obsessed with this baby. She is smitten. Even if she’s going through PPD and isn’t completely bonded to the baby she still thinks this little thing is pretty cool and will be taking pictures and posting them to Facebook faster than you can say “Goo Goo Ga Ga”. She’s like a school girl in love, and she can’t get enough.
New Dad, you are probably going to feel like a third wheel for a little bit. I know it’s hard, but it isn’t personal. This is simply part of growing a family.
- New Mom is scared. One word: SIDS. It’s terrifying that you could do everything right and still have things go horribly wrong. Becoming a mom is the first time many women are confronted with the fact that, well, life happens. Things can go wrong despite all of your best efforts.
And this isn’t just with the extreme example of SIDS.
It’s with expecting to sleep train your baby and finding out she has colic and only wants to be held and nursed.
It’s with expecting to breastfeed and co-sleep and cloth diaper and still not feeling that bond that you were told you’d experience.
It’s with expecting to want to be with your baby ALL THE TIME and realizing you’d pay large amounts of money for someone to just take him away so you could read a magazine.
She’s scared because things don’t always go as you expect. When you accuse her of being irrational or hormonal, while it may be true, it certainly doesn’t help. Listen to her feelings, respect her feelings, and remind her (with your words) that you’re right there beside her. She needs to hear it.
- New Mom feels defensive. There is so much advice and it’s coming from everyone. Her mom thinks she should go back to work. Your mom thinks she should breastfeed longer. Her best friend that had a baby 5 weeks earlier seems a little too eager to let her know she’s doing all of it wrong. Let’s not even talk about the books she read and those dumb Baby Bump newsletters. All of this advice can create a defensive mommy. She is already scared (see #3), and feels like this advice is a testament to all of the things she’s doing wrong.
Be her cheerleader and remind her to listen to her gut. This baby was given to her, and no one else, after all.
- New Mom can’t get mad at the baby. Logically, New Mom knows that the reason she can’t sleep and why her house smells like milk is because of this baby. This precious, adorable, sweet baby that she just can’t get mad at no matter how zombie-like she feels. So she takes that frustration and points it at you, New Dad, like you’re the one waking her up at 2 in the morning for cuddles and milk. This might not be my best advice, but I’d say this is a good time to be a punching bag for her instead of trying to make a case for being mad at the baby (pointing at a newborn and yelling “He started it!” isn’t going to win friends or influence people).
- New Mom has nothing to wear. This ties into #1, but is more about frustration than sadness. Her pre-baby clothes don’t quite fit. Her maternity clothes fit, but that’s just sad. And she doesn’t want to buy anything because “I’m not going to be this size forever… am I?” Go shopping with her and tell her she’s pretty.
- New Mom needs protection. I think women always want their men to be protective and assertive (see the success of Fifty Shades of Gray), but I think this need goes into overdrive when she becomes a New Mom. She doesn’t want to be the bad guy telling people they can’t come over. She doesn’t want to fight with the insurance company because they incorrectly raised the deductible. She wants to be protected. She wants you to create a barrier between her and the outside world. She may be the naturally assertive one in the relationship that normally handles the in-laws or tells the cable guy where to shove it, but I am pretty sure you’d win big points by stepping in and saying, “Let me handle this.”
- New Mom needs permission to rest. Most women go into motherhood truly believing they can do it all. That all those other moms with dirty houses and cranky babies just didn’t know what they were doing. Our Supermom Complex leads to burnout and fast. The worst part is that most moms refuse to cry uncle and take some time to ourselves.Give your New Mom permission to rest. Point out that the baby is sleeping, that you cleaned the kitchen, and that she needs to take a nap. When she tries to argue remind her that you’re protecting her… from herself.
- New Mom needs to be asked what she needs. I’m writing this from my point of view and experience as a New Mom. I know that a lot of this was experienced by a lot of other New Moms, but the very best way to find out what you need to know about your New Mom? Ask her.
- New Mom really loves you. She loves watching you become a dad. She loves hearing how this new little human is changing you. She loves that the little human has your ears and toes. It might not seem logical, but every time you bond with that little baby you’re bonding with her. She is getting a front row seat to her family being born and there is no better foreplay in the world. In 6-8 weeks. Promise.
So that’s the 10 things to know about New Mom. Tomorrow come back for 10 things to know about New Dad!
If you’ve enjoyed these lists check out my new book, This S*** is Hard: Survive happily ever after without killing each other. It’s a marriage book written in the voice of your best girlfriend if your best girlfriend spent way too much money learning about marriage and family therapy.