I am a mother of four beautiful children. Don’t get me wrong, before the birth of our daughter people would wish my husband well, or extend the occasional congratulations. All in all though, most people that have experienced the joy of childbirth know, it’s about the baby and the mother.
Babies, cute little round balls of kissable deliciousness. No one can resist a tiny little copy of two people. No one can wait for their arrival. No sooner than your partner announcing her pregnancy, the countdown begins. 40 weeks of preparing, being nervous, plans, and redecorating, all in the name of your unborn child. You will do many things during this period you never imagined. You have this realization pretty early on in the pregnancy, as you watch that once beautiful woman, leaning over the toilet, throwing up this morning’s breakfast, and hair all caked to her face, you’re in this together. She needs you. You become her runner. Out at 3 am to buy her that gallon of chocolate milk she can’t live without. You become her piece of reassurance. She counts on you to tell her she’s beautiful when her ankles look like bowling balls. You two become closer than ever.
You go with her to that first doctor’s visit. It all becomes real when you see that fluttering heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. That little peanut will grow into your son or daughter. At this point you’re so excited you can’t contain yourself or you’re scared to death. After a few months pass and you get a bit more nervous, the days get shorter. If your partner is being induced the longest night of your life is the night before you have to take her to the hospital.
Eventually that day will arrive. Your little bundle arrives. Adrenaline kicks in, because you’ve watched your partner endure an insane amount of pain. More pain than you’ve probably ever watched another human being go through. You weren’t expecting this. You’ve watched t.v. shows and read tons of articles. Childbirth wasn’t the beautiful experience for either of you. T.v. lied! It was gory, gooey, and stinky. You look down at what’s supposed to be your beautiful baby. It has a cone shaped head, it’s pink, bald, and it cries, a lot.
Despite all the emotions, and your not so pretty baby, you’re dad and you’re going to be a rock star. Those first few days are a blur. You and your partner are sleep deprived. You’re still in the hospital though. If she’s not breastfeeding, sending baby to the nursery isn’t the end of the world. You’re paying these people to help you. Take full advantage. You and your partner can both benefit from the rest. All the real fun begins when you strap that baby into its tiny car seat and head home. At this point mom might be a bit emotional. Encourage her, she needs it. Reassure her by letting her know she isn’t nuts and that everything will be normal soon enough.
Now, about you. When you arrive home you’ll finally have a few minutes to think. It might be on the toilet, maybe when you’re grabbing a turkey sandwich, or maybe when you’re fueling your vehicle. It’s going to hit you. All those emotions you’ve put aside, being strong for everyone else. These emotions don’t just hit those who’ve watched vaginal birth, they can hit anyone who’s added a child to their family. Yes, this means adoptive parents as well. You’re going to realize you didn’t leave this experience unscathed. Some dads float through the experience with little emotion. So if you aren’t super emotional don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you. If you are emotional, like my husband, who was a hard ass before witnessing the birth of our daughter, that’s OK too. I guess as mom I didn’t really consider his emotional well being. I didn’t realize one night a week later he would break down. Watching that 6 foot 4 inch giant man cry was by far one of the toughest things I’ve ever watched. I took that opportunity to have “the talk”with him. It’s OK for dads to get emotional. They, just like mom’s, get built up for a huge event. That event ends for them also. Unlike mom though, they don’t get to look forward to things like being able to fit into their old clothes. Dads don’t always have to be the strong one. Sometimes they just need a moment to reflect. While they didn’t feel the pain, they had to watch their best friend go through it. Guys tend to take over painful tasks so their partners don’t have to do them. This is one thing he couldn’t do for you. Dads are also worrisome creatures. They worry about money, why is baby crying, why is her poop green, and many other issues. Dad, take time for you. I know this might sound impossible, but even if it’s just a shower or a bathroom break. You must recharge in order to allow your partner to also recharge.
If your emotions are getting the best of you for longer than a few weeks or if you have thoughts of harming your partner or the baby, speak to a professional. Just remember it’s OK for dads to feel emotional too after the baby is born. Don’t feel ashamed about talking it over with your partner. Sometimes they are the best person to help you feel normal again. Before you know it you’ll look back at this experience and try and remember life before baby. For now though, take care of yourself.