I'm lucky in that I have an involved parenting partner. Of course, I hesitate to use the world "lucky," because having a partner who shares the responsibilities of parenthood shouldn't be anything other than the norm. Like, that's the bare minimum, my friends. However, I still consider myself lucky because I know not everyone has a partner to support them through pregnancy, labor, delivery and parenthood. While I refuse to endlessly praise my partner for simply being an adult, when he did the things every grown-ass man does to support his partner in the fourth trimester, I took pause. I stopped. I assessed. I made an effort to say, "Thank you," not because he was doing something that he shouldn't, but because I was just grateful.
My partner and I spent so much time, effort, and brain power preparing for labor and delivery. I knew that pushing a child out of my body was going to be one of the most empowering — yet one of the most difficult — things I would ever do, and so did my partner. What we failed to realize, however, was that the work didn't stop when our son entered the world. In fact, it was just beginning. While I was no longer pregnant or in the throes of labor, I still needed help, support and assistance. My body was recovering from a vaginal birth, my hormones were relentless, I was attempting to adjust to motherhood as quickly as possibly, and I had a newborn I was breastfeeding and who didn't want to be put down. My fourth trimester experience, and many experiences since, have proved to me that a romantic relationship is never a 50/50 split of responsibilities or love or care or effort. One partner will always need just a little more from the other, and when your partner is in their fourth trimester, they need more than your 50 percent.
So, if you're a grown-ass man and your partner has just given birth, here's a few ways you can (and should) be supporting and helping her. Just because your baby is now in the world, doesn't mean your partner doesn't need the same love, care, devotion and attention as she did when she was pregnant. Time to step up, gentlemen.
He Cleans Up Around The House
Whether a woman had a vaginal birth or a c-section, she is going to be sore. So. Freakin'. Sore. Her movement will be minimal, at best, and every movement (big or small) is going to cause her either discomfort or pain or a nasty combination of both. The least you can do, gentlemen, is take care of the household chores. Even simple things — like emptying a dishwasher, moving a broom around, even picking up after yourself and others — is taxing and painful and (more often than not) impossible if you're the one to just push and/or have a human being cut from you.
Just like you didn't make your pregnant partner pick up that heavy furniture and move it around while she was nesting (because it's dangerous) you shouldn't just assume your partner can move things around, clean, and go about her pre-baby life directly after doing something as physically demanding as labor and delivery.
He Cooks More Than Usual
I don't know how things work in your home, dear reader, but in my home my partner and I take turns cooking. Always.
However, when I was postpartum and recovering from childbirth, my partner took it upon himself to do most (if not all) of the cooking. Standing for a long period of time was difficult and because I was breastfeeding on demand, more often than not I had a tiny human attached to my person. I can't tell you how helpful it was to know that, for an extended period of time and until I started feeling like myself again, I didn't have to worry about making meals for myself or anyone else.
He Never Pressures His Partner To Have Postpartum Sex
Make no mistake, you shouldn't be pressuring your partner to have sex ever. Like, ever. At all. Never. If you're not having consensual sex, you're not having sex at all.
However, you definitely shouldn't be pressuring your postpartum partner to have sex because it's, "been so long," and you're, "tired of waiting," and they've been, "out of commission," for a certain amount of time due to pregnancy, labor and delivery. Your postpartum partner is going through a lot of physical, mental and emotional changes so yeah, sex is the least of her worries (and, honestly, it should be yours, too). There are other ways to connect with your partner, and if you think you can't give your partner the warm, tingly feelings in her funny places by doing some dishes, you'd be dead wrong.
He Deals With Would-Be Visitors...
It's no secret that a new arrival brings a slew of visitors, all eager to see a brand new baby and the new, happy-yet-exhausted parents. I get it, and it's endearing. However, a postpartum mother doesn't need to play "hostess" to a bunch of friends and family members. She needs to relax. A lot. She needs to rest and recover and adjust to her new life as a mother, and that's infinitely harder to do when people are coming in and out of your home.
So, gentlemen, put a stop to it. Let people know that they're not welcomed until you're all settled. Handle the phone calls and schedule visits a few weeks out and deal with anyone who may or may not be upset.
...And Intrusive Grandparents
My mother wasn't able to be present for the birth of her grandson, but flew out to visit a few days later. While I loved her company and her expertise and honestly felt calmed by her presence, there were times when (I thought) she over-stepped her bounds and was more suffocating than helpful. I knew she had the best intentions and was just trying to be supportive, but when you need your space you just need your space.
Thankfully, my partner stepped in and it was immensely beneficial to have someone to defuse situations, change subjects and/or simply say that I needed to be left alone. No one wants to hurt anyone's feelings, but knowing that my partner was holding my feelings up to be the most important — because I had just given birth and was recovering — meant more to me than I think I could possibly articulate.
He Does His Research And Knows What To Expect
The work isn't over when the pregnancy is over. In fact, it's just beginning. While expectant parents spend months on months on months preparing themselves for labor and delivery, not much is really mentioned when it comes to the fourth trimester and what to do postpartum.
That's why a grown-ass man takes the time and makes the effort to know what he (and his partner) should expect in the fourth trimester. You can't be supportive if you don't know what you're going to be supporting.
He Handles The Grocery Shopping And Other Errands
I was not only terrified to leave the house with a newborn baby (that looked so small and fragile yet simultaneously came with all of the things), I was also exhausted. Like, so exhausted. Just the thought of putting on something that wasn't paired with my pajama pants was too much.
Thankfully, my partner did the majority if not all of the the grocery shopping, errand running and anything else that required actually leaving the house. Eventually, I gained the confidence to leave the house with my baby (and man did I ever want to leave the house) but until I did — and until I felt physically capable of leaving my house, driving, and walking for a substantial period of time — my partner did the dirty work for us.
He Attends Postpartum Doctor Visits...
The postpartum doctor visits isn't just for the "mom," now that the baby is actually out of her body. It's incredibly helpful to have someone else there to help (or to even watch the baby at home, so she can go alone and not bring the baby along).
I wanted to take my baby to my postpartum visit, because my team of doctors and nurses (in my opinion) deserved to meet the little human being they watched me grow and helped me deliver. So, having my partner there to help hold the baby, change the baby and just tend to the baby while I was being examined, was wonderful.
Your partner still matters when the pregnancy ends.
...And First Time Pediatrician Visits
I'll be honest, I was not excited about that first pediatrician visit. Not. At. All. I did not want anyone — let alone a relative stranger, no matter how smart and capable this stranger was — to touch my brand new baby. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was sleep-deprived. I wasn't happy.
So, having a partner there to help remind me of the numerous questions I wanted to ask (because mom brain is real), ask questions himself, and keep me calm when someone had to touch my son to examine him, was vital. This should be a joint family outing, my friends.
He Keeps Important Documentation Together And In A Safe Spot
When you have a baby, you'll automatically be the proud owner of a lot of paperwork. Everything from the birth certificate to social security paperwork to important immunization documents; you'll need to keep those things together, keep them organized, keep them safe, and keep them easily accessible when they become a necessity.
I was too damn busy to be dealing with all of that, and my partner knew it. I needed to rest and I needed to focus on breastfeeding and I need to recover. So, he dealt with it all and I didn't have to worry about having this form or this form or that form.
He Knows The Signs Of Postpartum Depression And Postpartum Anxiety
A reported 1 out of every 7 women who give birth will experience either postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. An estimated average of 15 percent of women who give birth will experience postpartum depression symptoms. That's an estimated 600,000 women a year. In other words, while it isn't necessarily talked about very frequently, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are fairly common.
A grown-ass man is going to know the possibilities and, as a result, he is going to know the signs of both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I know that, for me, it was difficult for me to accurately pinpoint just what was "wrong" with me after my son was born. I knew I didn't feel "right," but thanks to a prevailing mental health stigma and my own exhaustion, I didn't take the time to truly focus on myself and diagnose the problem (or see someone who could). It was my partner who saw the signs of postpartum depression and encouraged me to seek treatment.
He Listens To His Partner
The juxtaposing feelings a postpartum woman will experience are endless, relentless and nothing short of confusing. While I was excited that my son was finally in my arms and in the world, I was also terrified and unsure and tired and somewhat convinced that I wasn't capable of caring for him the way he deserved. All of my past faults (and present downfalls, come to think of it) became crystal clear, and I was scared.
Thankfully, I had my partner to talk to. When I was able to work through those feelings and talk to someone who was actively listening, I knew I was able to come to a conclusion that didn't make me feel like I should drive to the hospital and essentially give my baby back. Usually (at least for me) a postpartum woman just needs someone to talk to; someone who will listen, someone who will work through things with her, sands judgement, shame or condemnation, and someone who will reminder her of her power and capabilities.
He Doesn't Judge Her For How She Feels
If I'm being honest, it wasn't "love at first sight" the moment I held my son in my arms. After a labor that lasted longer than a day, and three hours of active pushing, I was too exhausted to feel love. I was too scared and too unsure and too overwhelmed to say, "Yes, this is love."
I was also afraid, at first, to admit that I wasn't head-over-heels for my baby the way so many women say they are the moment they meet them. Thankfully, my partner never judged me for that initial postpartum feeling, or any other feelings I have experienced since. He didn't judge me or shame me when I had trouble loving my postpartum body. He didn't judge or shame me when I said I was afraid my life was over or that I would never feel like myself again. He didn't judge or shame me when I swore I could have slept for a week, completely devoid of human contact, and been better for it. Knowing that I had a partner who was with me, by my side and constantly willing to understand what he couldn't necessarily experience himself, made all the difference in my fourth trimester.