We talk a lot about becoming mothers. We go into the hospital as one person and leave as mothers. It's a soul-level change that these tiny little babies bring with them. Most of us have read and researched and spent a lot of time preparing to enter into this phase. What I sometimes overlooked was that the very same baby who made me a mother had made my husband a father.
When I look at the picture of a new father holding his new baby, I can't help but see it as deeply beautiful: It's a picture catching someone falling in love.
How can we as new mothers can we support our husbands and partners in their new fatherhood?
Here's what I learned:
1. Accept that he's adjusting, too.
My husband was newer at fatherhood than I was at motherhood. Not technically, but I had been bonding in a very real and very physical way with my baby for months while my husband had been on the sidelines. I learned to give him him time to get adjusted to these big feelings and big changes that only seemed theoretical before.
2. I tried to give my husband space to learn to be a dad.
Many dads hold babies differently, talk to babies differently and are just different parents than mothers. That is a great thing! I had to learn to let go and let him change that diaper a weird way or prop the baby in his arm on the couch while watching tv.
3. I let him sleep.
Once feeding was going well, I let my husband sleep. I was nursing and there was nothing he could do to help. I was home on maternity leave and he had to go to work so I let him sleep. He was grateful for the sleep and I felt no guilt handing him the baby on Saturday morning and going back to bed until the next feed!
4. I tried to maintain a sense of husband and wife—not just mom + dad.
In our relationship that meant taking a small bit of time every day to be husband and wife. Maybe it is talking politics at dinner, maybe it is taking a walk in the morning or watching football on Sundays. Your whole life may feel turned upside down with a baby, but I found that doing small things to do that remind you of your pre-baby selves will make the transition to parenthood easier for both of you.
5. I let him go a little nutty.
Everyone handles big changes and new responsibilities differently. After all, I'm the one who told him he couldn't judge me for crying in the bathtub—or staying up all night cleaning cabinets while I was pregnant. Then when my husband suddenly became obsessed with researching baby monitors or college savings accounts, I let him be.
You and your husband are in this parenting thing together for the long haul, but the transition can be rough for both of you. You know that as a mother you will have good days and bad days but in the end you are doing the best you can.
Give your husband that same grace; encourage each other through the bad days and celebrate the good ones. For better or for worse.