Postpartum, in a nutshell, is super complicated. You can't really boil it down to any one experience or feeling, especially as your hormones try to weave their way towards something vaguely stable in your post-pregnancy life. However, there are things I wish my partner had said to me postpartum, without me having to ask, that might've made everything feel a little less daunting. The may have even given me a more profound hope that things would be alright, because in that chaotic time it was difficult to see a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Aside from the overwhelming, weighted heaviness you might feel as you return home from the hospital (or birth center, or just your living room), you now have the task of caring for this little human you birthed. There are many things that change when the new member is added; things you might not have counted on. Your emotions are teetering between highs and lows, your body is in recovery-mode, and you still have all of life's responsibilities to handle (bills, anyone?). It's not easy to find the balance when you're exhausted from hourly feedings and sore as hell.
After the birth of both my children, and while my partner does deserve some credit, he wasn't as present as I wished he had been. I totally get that the non-child-bearing partner might also be dealing with these new challenges in his or her own way, but it's not the same as what I've gone through. Not only was I struggling to figure out how to mother this baby but also how to navigate my relationship with my partner, family, and friends, now that my time was occupied by another. With that, there are some things I wish my partner had said to me postpartum that couldn't meant the difference between an OK day and an "I can conquer the world" day. (For the record, I much prefer the latter.)
"Let Me Take The Baby For Awhile"
Before birth, it's hard to know how much of yourself you'll be giving before the baby is in the world (hint: in the beginning, it's pretty much all of you). Having a partner who understands you need a break sure would make life a lot easier, while simultaneously giving them a chance to bond. If my partner had said these words without being asked, it would've strengthened the basis of our entire post-baby relationship.
"You Are Amazing"
Let it be known, my partner does compliment me a lot. In fact, he compliments me to the point that, sometimes, the words begin to lose their sparkle. However, during the postpartum era, there wouldn't have been such a thing as too many compliments. At a time when I felt insecure about my body, insecure about my parenting, and insecure in general, having him tell me I was doing a good job would've boosted my confidence that much more.
"Get Some Rest"
These are the three most magical words in all of post-baby land and yet, unless I requested a specific time for extra sleep, I never heard them. Looking back, I realize that my working partner was tired, too, but being with a newborn as much as I had been — alone —wore me down to the point of a near breakdown. Had he offered me more sleep postpartum, without so much as a hint from me, it might've hanged my whole outlook on life. Now, I'll be eternally exhausted.
"What Can I Do For You?"
You spend nine months pregnant, however long during labor and delivery (for me it was days for each child), and then you go home to care for your baby every hour of every day. No breaks, no passes, no clocking out. The time your partner asks what he, or she, can do for you is when all is right in the world and you can finally breathe (or shower).
There are days my partner asks me this now, as our children are 5 and 10 and learning independence, and I think, "Why didn't you ask that all those years ago?!"
"I Got Us A Sitter"
A lot of couples swear scheduling regular date nights keeps their relationship strong, or reignites whatever was lost during pregnancy. I can think of one solid time my partner got a sitter and planned a romantic night without being asked. All the other times? Those happened because either I added yet another task to my (already long) list of things, or my nagging finally paid off. Sigh.
"I've Taken Care Of Everything"
You know that freeing feeling of having a partner who tells you they've taken care of laundry, dinner, cleaning, the baby — everything? If you're in my club, this is purely fantasy. While my partner would do things as I asked him to, he never was/is one to take charge, even if I'm bound to the bed for mandatory rest. There's a reason I tore open stitches after both deliveries, and it's because I didn't hear the aforementioned nearly enough.
Let us not bypass the fact that after delivery, a lot of us are both re-energized and also broken, in a way. We can't be the women we were before the birth and yet, we're not quite sure who we're to become, either. It's a strange transition. For me, it would've been amazing if my partner had thanked me for getting through it. All of it. I had a lot of struggles, a lot of pain and discomfort, and often times, felt very alone. Hearing "Thank you" could've had the power to transform the negative things I thought about myself, into something more positive. I would have known that someone saw my journey to motherhood for what it was: hard.
The time for patience is definitely postpartum, for both yourself and in your partner. Be gentle as you're both learning how to bend and shift into your new roles. It might not be easy but remember that you're in it together. Even if you have to remind him, or her, to tell you these things over and over and over.