For all the new dads out there, here are a few thoughts from a mom of five on what you can do to help the new mom in your life.
Along with being a Chiropractor, I also provide prenatal classes to the community and have training as a doula (I supported several women during labor and delivery before realizing the burden it was putting on my young family). One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “What can the dad do to help?” The answer is simple… and yet complicated. SHOW HER LOVE!! Seems simple, right?
If you look up the word “love” in the dictionary, it’s defined as an intense feeling of deep affection; a great interest and pleasure in something, or as a verb – to feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to. For me, love will always be more than a feeling but truly an action. And when it comes to starting a family, it becomes vital that love is put into action. I am sure many of you have heard about The Five Love Languages. (If you haven’t, I highly recommend getting the book and diving deeper into each of them.) The five love languages are: quality time, touch, acts of service, gifts, and words of affirmation. Dads, you will need to put EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of these love languages into action before, during and after baby comes!
I realize that all of us women are different and what one woman enjoys or likes another will not, but here are some suggestions from what my husband did for me. For the dads out there reading this, keep trying lots of different things!
During Pregnancy Man oh man is every pregnancy different even for the same mom!
Make sure that you are listening to your wife even if it is simply so she has someone to vent to about her discomforts.
Rub her back or her feet.
Encourage her to go on walks WITH you.
Be involved with decision making and coming up with birth plan preferences. I would have wanted my husband to catch the babies, but that was NOT his thing and that’s okay.
Talk to mom’s growing belly, read books, etc.
If mom has a craving for something, get it. Sorry, but it truly is an act of love when you inconvenience yourself to get it for her.
Tell her how beautiful she is with this growing baby of yours. (Please be sincere here and if you don’t think so – DON’T say anything at all, but PLEASE don’t ever make her feel like she is NOT beautiful, courageous, or handling the pregnancy well!!!)
During Labor and Delivery I feel like I could write about this forever, but I promise I won’t. Your wife will like one thing during one labor and delivery and hate it with the second one, so you will have to feel your way through this event. It might be offering encouragement and letting her know how awesome she is doing. One thing my husband would say to me is “One more down. You don’t ever have to go through that one again and you’re one more closer to holding our baby.” Some other suggestions for you:
She may not want you to talk at all, but rather rub her back.
Help her visualize something you’ve already discussed.
Talk to the staff so she doesn’t have to break her focus.
Hold water or apple juice with a straw for her to drink in between her contractions,
Breathe with her during her contractions, etc.
The list can go on and on but know that if she yells at you don’t take it too personally. I remember telling my husband I didn’t want any pain meds and he asked me what he should do in the moment if I changed my mind and said I wanted something. I gave him full permission to talk me out of it, and let him know that in that moment I might hate him but thank him afterwards.
Whatever you decide, it should be YOUR experience together. What was right for my husband and me is NOT going to be what someone else wants. The point is to visit about these things BEFORE the big event so that you know what she wants the experience to be like and you can support her to the best of your ability. I also recommend practicing different labor positions so that you know what she finds most comfortable and you know what to do with your hands and where to support her.
After Labor and Delivery I’ll never forget the birth of our first baby. I remember touching my stomach right after he was born and saying to the doctor how weird it felt to go from having your stomach feel like a basketball to all of a sudden having nothing there. He said something to the effect of it being the best diet and we both chuckled. Then something happened that NOBODY ever told me about. The nurse helped me up and walked with me to the bathroom. Oh my Lordy, I looked down at my stomach and was HORRIFIED!! I looked at my husband and said, “What the heck is this?!” He replied with “I’m pretty sure you just had a baby.” I could have cried when I said, “I know so why does it look like I’m still pregnant but deflated!”
This can be an extremely difficult time for a lot of moms. Getting the hang of breastfeeding, sleepless nights, the body she knew before baby is her own again but not the body she remembers, hormones can be crazy, and she is sore from giving birth. All of these things can make it feel like your life got turned upside down. So dad’s, here are just a few ways you can show her love during this stage:
Make sure mom is drinking enough water by refilling water bottles and leaving them in all the places she tends to be with baby.
One thing my husband did was draw a bath while I was nursing the baby so when the baby was done I could get in a nice warm bath and he could take over loving on the baby while I got some much needed time alone.
Do the laundry, cook some meals, keep up on the dishes.
If you have more than one child, occupy the others.
Pay someone to clean the house a couple times a month.
Ask for help from family members with meals or coming over to take the kids for a couple hours, etc.
Sometimes it may be sensing what she needs before she even knows she needs it. You may need to encourage her to go out for coffee or have a friend over for coffee so she doesn’t feel like she has to get out of sweatpants. Maybe surprise her with coffee at times or a massage.
Here’s what it comes down to… Don’t think that you don’t play a HUGE role in the experience of bringing a child into the world. It will not only make a world of difference to your partner but also to the health and well-being of the child. The more love and support mom feels throughout the process the better for the baby’s mental and emotional well-being as well. Dad’s, you matter more than you know! So, the best advice I can give for what you can do during this life-changing adventure – SHOW HER LOVE!