6 Things You Can Do For Your Postpartum Wife
So your wife just had a baby or is about to have a baby. And not just a baby. Your baby. Your wife just had your baby or is about to have your baby. Remember that, because it is very important. That baby is 50% you and 50% his/her mother. Therefore, technically, you are 50% responsible, at the very least. This is the 21st century, people. Women work, too, and even if she stays at home with the kids, that is certainly no walk in the park. Here are some things you can do to help out the mother of your child and help you to stay on her good side.
First of all, this postpartum period is crucial. She will be exhausted, as will you, if you are helping out at all. She will probably be hormonal and there is nothing you (or she) can do about it. It is what it is.
1. Make sure you do nice things for her. This could be making her coffee in the mornings, bringing her breakfast in bed (especially if she has been up a lot nursing the baby), surprising her with something she has been wanting, encouraging her to go out by herself for an hour, etc. It could even be something like holding the baby so she can actually eat a meal uninterrupted (my husband did this at times and it was so nice to eat food at the intended temperature!). Sometimes my husband made breakfast in the morning and brought it upstairs for us to enjoy in bed, and it was nice. This was a lot easier to do the first time around, though.
Chances are, she will feel “empty.” I know I did after having both of my children. Don’t get me wrong. I was glad to have had my baby, but it was weird having him/her on the outside and not safe on the inside. Also, when you’re pregnant, everyone is worried about you, because you are carrying a child, but once that baby comes out, everyone’s there to see the baby, and even if it’s not true, to her, it will still feel like no one cares how she is doing. I remember being almost tearful at our son’s baptism when the priest said a prayer for me (as Felix’s mother), because it was one of the first times someone had really taken just a few seconds to recognize my role in his life.
2. Don’t expect much to be done around the house. She has just gone through a very traumatic experience, in every way possible. Regardless of whether she had a caesarean section or a vaginal birth, her body probably feels like it has been to hell and back. If she is anything like me, she will feel like she needs to pick up the house and make dinner, etc. You may encourage her not to, but she probably won’t listen. My husband always reminded me not to do too much but it was still hard not to, so I did need that reminder from him. If you can spare any time at all, try to pick up the house a little and let her know before you leave for work that you plan on helping with dinner.
3. For the love of God, do not sign up for a big race, obstacle course, or whatever in the first 6 months of your baby’s life. You really have no idea what this baby will be like, how he/she will sleep/eat, etc. Even if your baby is a “good” baby, you will still be exhausted. Yes, you do need to have something for yourself, but is it really necessary to make it something really big like this? Big events like this take some serious training, which means a lot of time out of the house. It can also make you tired and “unable” to help when needed. In addition, it will make her feel unimportant and as if she is all alone in caring for the baby at times if it feels to her that you are always running off to train for it. Once you’ve met your baby and you adjust to how your baby sleeps, eats, etc., then something like this might be in your future, but not before then. You also need to discuss it thoroughly with her because it does affect her, no matter how you look at it. Some women may not care to be left alone with a baby (or a baby plus however many other children you have), but I know I am not that kind of person, so there are probably others out there like me.
4. Insist that she take some time for herself. It may seem silly to do this because it might be easy for you to just go out with your friends, workout, or take some time to do things you enjoy, but for some reason, it is not that easy for a mom to feel like she can do this. It will probably take a little pushing to get her to go, as in, you might have to actually plan something for her to do and physically help her get out the door so she actually does it. Even if she comes up with reasons why she can’t go. I don’t know why we feel guilty about leaving and/or taking care of ourselves, but we do.
5. Compliment her on how she looks. It is possible that she is uncomfortable in her body. Most women don’t walk out of the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans. I know that I felt in between maternity clothes and bigger-sized clothing, and it was so frustrating. It is hard to get a shower in those early days and there is barely time to brush your teeth or comb your hair, and to make matters worse, none of your clothes fit right. It is extremely frustrating and something you will probably never understand, but trust me. She needs to hear you say that she is beautiful and glowing and all that good stuff, because there is a good chance she doesn’t recognize herself at this point.
6. Make time to spend with her. Especially during the early days of your baby’s life, she might feel like she is isolated and spending a lot of time alone. She will need the adult interaction and she will definitely want your attention. Arrange for someone to take care of the baby for an hour or two so that the two of you can go out to dinner, go for a walk, or just spend some time alone together. Don’t expect her to make all the arrangements for the two of you to go out, because it is just one more thing on her ever-growing list of thing she needs to do. Take some initiative and do it yourself. If you are unsure of where to go, when to go, etc., and you are afraid she will be upset if you just do it without asking, then by all means, ask her. Tell her you would like to go out, just the two of you, and ask her where and when she would like to do this, but let her know that you will make the arrangements for the kids.
I was completely unprepared for how I would feel after the birth of both of our children, but I really think a lot of these things helped or could have helped. My husband did some of these things, but probably did not know what else to do to help me out, and unfortunately, we don’t always know what we want to tell our husbands until after the moment has passed. You really cannot possibly know how hard it is to go through 9 months of pregnancy (even an “easy” one), birth a child, then care for one once he/she is born, all while you are supposed to be “recovering.” Pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period aren’t just things that “happen” to a mom. They take a lot of energy to get through.
I am in no way underestimating the role of father. Obviously, it is an important one, but you just don’t go through the same physical and hormonal changes that women do throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.
What is something your husband did you for you that really helped?