During labor, delivery, and postpartum, it can feel like a useless time for a dad. Rightfully so, it is all centered around the mother and the child, their health and well-being. That we’re “allowed” into the delivery room is still noteworthy to many—I was the only one of my dad’s four kids he was allowed to be present for the delivery.
You just became a dad. You’re pretty amped up about it. Some of your friends might congratulate you, but overall, it’s all about mom and baby. What should a dad being doing during this time?
Whatever possible for your child and the momma. Your sleep, within reason, doesn’t matter. You don’t have stitches in places where the sun doesn’t shine that require you to use a special water bottle and a Sitz bath. You aren’t worrying about if your breasts are producing enough milk for your kid, or if you’re trying to breastfeed the right or wrong way, or dealing with a kid who bites versus sucks or whatever the case. You aren’t dealing with breasts that are often in pain, on their own schedule of needing to feed the baby or pump.
Or, from the kid’s perspective, you aren’t figuring out what the hell this hunger feeling is, or if you’re up in the NICU like us, dealing with constant blood draws, figuring out how to regulate your own temperature, having leads to monitors attached all over the place.
There are plenty of times for the dad to be in the spotlight. Every one of my kids go through regular daddy phases where no matter what mom says or does, Dad is better/right to them. Even if I repeat the same exact words. There will be time later for a beer with the guys, taking them out camping, giving the speech at their wedding and the father/daughter dance. In this time, do whatever mom needs.
She’s pumping breast milk seemingly by the gallon. Clean the pump without hesitation or question. Pay attention and do it before she thinks of it. Pay attention to her medicine schedule and make sure she gets it at the appointed time before pain really sets back in (sometimes hospitals/nurses are better than others on being proactive or reactive to the med schedule). Tell her to get sleep when she needs it. Keep track of meals and ensure she eats when she needs it and/or before food service/the cafeteria closes.
Be the gatekeeper. Everyone wants to see mom and baby—and you all want to see everyone too—but they’re recovering from being born, giving birth, emotions (both joyful of a 100% healthy/normal birth and stress from seeing your kiddos in the NICU with no idea what’s coming next). If it helps, handle her phone. Relay messages when it works for them. When she needs a pick-up, suggest she call her best friend.
Schedule the visitor flow—even if you’re a jerk that is slow to respond to text messages. Your friends know you love them and you will happily see them soon, but don’t feel like you must see everyone as soon as they offer. They understand or, if not, will someday.
For us, we’ve figured out one visitor a day is plenty, but still be aware of how she’s doing and don’t think twice to raincheck if she needs sleep/shower/alone time/baby time/whatever.
It’s hard. You want to see your friends too and you want them to share in your joy now, but there’s time for that. You’re going to need love and support for a while, so no need to get it all in 48 hours.
Stand up for your wife and kids. Sometimes this means processing the medical talk first and buffering, sometimes this means making sure the doctor talks to her and that no one buffers it. Sometimes this means pushing back against a doctor or nurse that isn’t making sense to you. It is different for everyone and different moment to moment sometimes.
The important part—the take away—is that the father’s job in this time is to be chief advocate for your family. Your ego is last. Whatever needs to happen for them, you make sure it is happening.