No one tells any parent what to do after the baby is born and you’re headed home with a helpless little thing you’re supposed to keep not only alive, but happy. Women have an evolutionary advantage, perhaps, so dad Kelly Green is handing out some advice for new dads.
If you’re reading this in a postpartum hospital room for the first time, sir, you might want to keep these tips handy.
If she gets up at night, you should get up, too.
“This isn’t about your body. This isn’t even about her body. This is about the body that the two of you made, and brought home the other day. It’s so tiny and yet it requires so so much. And no one wants to go it alone if they don’t have to. Even if she tells you that it’s alright — that you don’t need to lose sleep just because she is — stay up anyway. Sit there, in the low light of the room, and bask in the glow of the new unit that is your family.”
Let her be wrong.
“They just cry. Like, a lot. If she claims it must be his diaper or it must be an earache, don’t dispute it. You guys will figure it out soon enough. Or you won’t. Regardless, the baby is going to cry. Dispelling what she thinks the reason might be doesn’t keep the baby’s tears away. It only sends a message that you don’t trust her thought process. She might be wrong. Let her be wrong. You’ll be wrong a lot too. That’s why it’s so funny.”
It goes by so slow…and so fast.
“Try to remember that everything now is both far more permanent than it ever was and also completely impermanent. One year from now, this baby is going to look like another baby. It’s going to move roughly 1000 percent more than it does now. It’s going to sleep differently. It’s going to wave its hands in your face and make silly faces at you and shock you and delight you time and time again. Don’t lose your mind when things don’t progress like you thought they would.”
Once you’re back at work, check in with her.
“While you’re busting your ass at work, she might be pissed at you for having a spit-up free zone where you have access to hot coffee and other cognizant adults and are wearing clean clothes. Do not assume she’s having fun watching a TV show at home. Maternity leave is not called vacation. BECAUSE IT’S THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Send her a funny text. Ask her how she is. Maybe every hour.”
Don’t make assumptions.
“Don’t assume your partner wants you to do the laundry or take out the garbage or run to the store. She might want you to. But she might also be dying to do a task that is unrelated to the baby herself. Just check in. Ask her what would be most helpful, in those days thereafter. She might not even know until you allow her the freedom to decide. The definition of freedom in your household just changed by a landslide.”
Take it all in.
“Look at that tiny little butt that fits entirely in your hand and be amazed. How is this even possible, that this little thing was living inside a body and now it’s here on your couch? How amazing is this? Life is fleeting. You are tired. There is so much to do to stay afloat now. But don’t let the amazement escape you. The amazement is how it all feels worth it. Because it is.”
I’m crying now, so all of this must be great advice. Having been there twice, I can assure you that it is.
Good luck, new mamas and papas. You’re going to do great.