One Dad’s Story
The following story was shared by a father who lives in Peel Region:
In the prenatal period I think dads tend to take a ‘laid back’ approach to it all, with an aura of confidence that ‘everything will be ok.’ But then as the due date approaches a few anxieties start to appear. For me, the main ones were:
- increased spending,
- facing the loss of independence,
- admitting my lack of knowledge on how to practically support my wife during her labor.
1. Spending. As men we tend to want to spoil our wives and families. Combine this with her nesting instinct, and our wallet is done for! Midway thru the pregnancy we took one last vacation to Florida, and after that it was expense after expense: stroller, crib, glider, clothes, wipes, diapers, etc. etc. etc. I was broke! And the stress of that put me on edge. That led to not sleeping well, poor food choices (eating emotionally), inattentiveness, forgetfulness and so on.
2. With marriage and living together you do give up some independence, but with children it’s at another level. My wife started to mentally prepare (scare) me by asking strategic questions like: “You’re gonna stay up with me all night to support the baby, RIGHT?” It amplified the stress and created a bit of mild depression and thoughts like ‘what am I getting into’ or ‘we should have waited’. At the worst, I felt moments of resentment towards my wife for ‘pressuring me into having kids’.
3. For the birth itself, I had no idea how it would go down. All men tend to know about labor is what we see on TV, or ‘Father of the Bride: Part 2’. We took the classes, but I didn’t absorb much from that. They had a Dads session which I really enjoyed, but that was barely an hours worth and it focused on parenting not labor support. Overall, with the classes I felt like the message was for the mom, meanwhile all the dads just sat there holding our wives hands with a fake smile, while really thinking about the ball game, hot dogs, work, or how I could pick my nose without being caught.
That is why when I first heard about the idea of a doula, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and said YES! I need one of those!! I mean ‘we’ need one of those!!! I mean, I really want my wife to have one of those! I can’t believe I never heard about a doula until the last leg of pregnancy. It was a huge pressure relief from me and I’ll never do a birth without one.
God be praised our baby boy arrived! I’ll never forget the moment I first met my son. We locked eyes, and he stared right at me as I read a prayer.
In the post-natal period the main challenges were the big crashes. There are two that occur: one for the husband and one for the wife.
1. The Dads 48-hour crash: I have this theory that when the labor is happening, the husband’s adrenaline turns on and this keeps him alert and present for the duration, be it 5 hours or 40. The body just goes and the mind follows. After the birth it continues for a bit. It’s by about 48 hours after the birth that it all catches up to him and he crashes. (It is the same for the new mom actually). The adrenaline turns off and he is sore all over.
We stayed in the hospital 1 night and had the option to stay another. We were pretty bored so decided to go home. And that’s when the crash hit us both. We needed help right away. I probably slept for 12 hours straight. My wife however couldn’t afford that luxury due to the breastfeeding demands.
2. The Mom’s 2 week crash: It is a miracle of God that the mom is able to keep going. This deeply increased my love and respect for my wife. Literally, I was left in awe at how she was able to put someone else’s needs so far ahead of her own. It is also amazing to see how the body produces milk in response to the child’s demand. I’d say it was about 2 weeks of this when it caught up to her. My wife never exhibited any of the major signs, like crying while feeding, or social withdrawal, but I did sense in her the idea that this baby will be attached to her for a long time, and that needed some time to sink in. She will never be independent again. I think each woman takes it differently, for some it’s bitter-sweet and for others it can lead to mild depression.
In my role as caregiver, it was essential to support her well at this time. I really got my game on and tried to go the extra mile: flowers, massage, poetry, constant assurance of how happy I am, and how proud I am of her. For us we really had to seek answers in our faith and increased our reliance on God. We also did a date night, just the two of us.
In this period I did occasionally have fears that it could be full out post-partum depression. I’d heard about it but didn’t really know anything except that Brooke Shields had it, and that Tom Cruise said its nothing, shortly after he jumped on Oprah’s couch. So I attributed my feeling to ignorance about what true post-partum depression looks like, and then did some research on it. Thanks be to God, we didn’t experience any of the major signs, but there is no doubt that this mild form of depression affects all new moms and dads, and it stems from the idea that our lives will never be the same.
After a few weeks when I returned to work, more stresses built up. I’d come home from work and there would be no food, and the house would be a mess. So it was work on top of work, and no time for a social life. I’d missed my friends and although we had plenty of guests over, I wanted to get out, but would always feel a sense of guilt over leaving my wife by herself.
As it goes from there, we figured things out, got into a routine and now this is how our lives are 🙂
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