In those first days, weeks, and months with a new baby, life gets real. Emotions are raw (so too, very often, are vaginas) and it can be easy to lash out at the ones you love. But there are things you really shouldn't blame a dad for in the newborn stage, my friends. After all, this guy has the potential to be your greatest ally in this whole parenting thing, so it's best to maintain an air of camaraderie.
Look, I'm not saying these dudes get a free pass to be layabout screw-ups, or that you need to expend a massive amount of your time and energy tolerating crappy behavior. I'm merely suggesting that this is a time where everyone is finding a new groove (not least of all your baby, who has to, like, breathe air and eat food and not live in liquid for the first time ever) and a little mutual compassion can go a long way.
Hopefully your partner will give you absolutely nothing to get evenly slightly irked about in the first place (good dudes do exist!), but even the best guys will probably annoy you from time to time. And when those moments come, it's important to take a step back and talk about what are legitimate causes of anger and blame and which moments might benefit from a little bit of grace.
Your Birth Pain
I'm sure most if not all of us have heard about the laboring woman, riddled with pain, yelling at her partner "you did this to me!" while she tries to expel a human being from her body. And while, technically, this is the "just about to be newborn" stage I think this moment qualifies.
No one's actually going to fault you for the things you say in the throes of agony (we can get extremely harried when we're in pain), but unless you were coerced into your pregnancy by your partner (it happens) you don't actually get to blame the dude for something you signed up for.
Your Postpartum/Birth Injuries
Which isn't to say you can't be upset about them or vent to your partner about them (or that he hasn't entered an unofficial but binding agreement in which he has to listen attentively and sympathetically to every one of your complaints) but, just as with the labor and delivery itself, you signed up for this. He didn't tear your vagina or give you hemorrhoids or make you pee when you sneeze. This all sucks, I know, and it's OK to be angry about it, but don't direct your anger on someone who doesn't deserve it.
Be upset near him, not at him.
Like you, your partner is not going to know how to do, well, maybe anything at first. At the very least he's going to be a bit hapless for a while, which is not only normal but to be expected. Sometimes our dudes are more clueless than we are, sometimes they're just as clueless but we're less forgiving of their version than ours (for a lot of reasons, including being exhausted and more irritable). While we should always expect them to strive for better and learn from their mistakes, it's not fair to be upset that they make them in the first place. This is a process for everyone.
Crappy Parental Leave Policies
Maternity leave in the United States is abysmal, and it's an even sadder story for new fathers. Only four states and Washington D.C. mandate paid parental leave. (Washington state will join their ranks in 2020.) While some cities have parental leave laws and the Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12 unpaid weeks for a little more than half of the population (because, yeah, that's a realistic period of time to go without being paid), most new fathers will have to rely on their employer's parental leave policies to have any time off to bond with their new family. This lack of acknowledgment for the important role fathers play in the lives of their young families puts undue and unfair pressure on a new mom (who, as a reminder, is probably still healing from actually delivering her baby). And when one person has more time to bond and learn how to be a parent in those early days, that's setting the stage for a lifetime of parenting. In other words, it's not fair... and it's not your partner's fault.
Look, if he has the paid time off and he's not taking it for reasons or whatever, that's one thing and I say give him hell. But if he can't take the time off because his job doesn't offer paid leave and your family can't afford it, direct your anger at crappy employers and laws, not your baby's father.
Not Being Able To Read Your Mind
YOU NEED TO ASK FOR THE THINGS YOU WANT AND NEED IF YOU WANT TO GET THEM.
Look, sometimes things seem obvious to us and we just want our dudes to know and pre-empt our needs and whims. And sometimes, yeah, they should just know. But while there's certainly a limit on how much information we should be expected to spoon-feed them (and, certainly, they should learn over time to the point where they shouldn't always have to be told), I like to think that, initially, the mental/emotional labor investment is well-worth it.
Help them out a little by being as explicit as possible, both generally and for overarching issues. For example:
Don't say: "Boy, I sure am thirsty."
Do say: "I'm thirsty, could you please get me a drink of water, as I am currently trapped under a nursing infant?"
Don't say (on a Friday): "Fine I guess I'll do the baby's laundry, since it's been sitting there for a week and you haven't touched it."
Do say (on a Wednesday): "Hey, could you please do a load of laundry?"
Doing Something Differently
Your partner is not you and he's got to find his own way to parent. Certainly there should be some kind of consistency in overall philosophies, but he might find another way to rock the baby to sleep, or hold them, or generally just bond with them. Let this happen and don't get miffed if it's different than the way you do it. Moreover, don't insist that he try to do things exactly the way you do, and especially don't pull the overzealous new mom move of, "Here, just let me." Because if you do he will never learn and that's not fair to anyone. Yeah, the baby might fuss a little more at first as your partner perfects his soothing technique, and I know from experience that can be almost physically painful when you know that you can calm them quickly and efficiently. But your he needs to figure this out, too, like you did.
Not Being Physically Affected By Parenthood The Same Ways You Are
It's easy to get salty about the fact that your partner is just sitting there, comfortable as can be, while you're questioning if your C-section incision is popping open and wondering when you're allowed to pop another painkiller. It's easy to resent the fact that his breasts aren't engorged with milk and your baby just isn't latching and you feel like you're going to explode. But, again, it's not his fault. Complain to him but don't get miffed at him.
Baby's Bad Behavior
Seriously, just avoid getting into the whole "he gets this from your side of the family" nonsense. Babies are just jerks sometimes, so don't read too much into it.
Needing To Adjust To The New Sleep Schedule
Even if your partner is getting more sleep than you (and, statistically, he is), realize that any change in sleep patterns is going to affect a person. Obviously you should work to make the distribution of sleep as equal as makes sense (this is a difficult feat for a breastfed baby), and if he's constantly whining to you with no regard for your own lack of sleep you put him right in his place, but everyone is entitled to their own pain. Just because his struggle is less severe than yours doesn't mean it's not also real.
Having His Own Parenting Ideas
If you're raising a baby together, expect to come up ideas on how to raise that baby together. That means that he will have some thoughts of his own... and, sometimes, they may be different (even completely different) than your own. It's up to the two of you, as grown-ass adults, to come up with a plan you can both get on board with.
Wanting One-On-One Time
Who doesn't like individual baby snuggle time?! Try not to get jealous or possessive or annoyed or feel as though you're being pushed out (all of these things, admittedly, can be difficult when you're riding high on postpartum hormones). Daddy/baby bonding time is a good thing, and will be a great thing when they're a rambunctious toddler and you can get three damn minutes to yourself because your partner and child have been building a strong bond from day one.