There's no reason to sugarcoat it: recovering from childbirth sucks. I mean, growing and birthing a human being is kind of a big deal. But now that I've been at this mom thing for a while, I've realized there's something far worse than recovering from childbirth. Far, far worse. Moms, just try being a postpartum dad. I mean, they suffer and in silence. No one notices, and no one cares. You see, there are so many painful things no one knows postpartum dads experience, and it's time we — as women who have used our bodies to grow and birth babies, only to have those bodies relentlessly scrutinized — let the world know that postpartum dads who didn't have a child pushed through their bodies and/or cut from their stomachs are in pain, too. More pain than we could ever imagine, ladies.
My first husband learned this lesson first-hand. Postpartum life was so hard for him, and oh, oh so painful. Sure, I felt like a train had hit my midsection and had stitches on my labia and perineum, but that was nothing compared to the pain he felt that one time our new baby kicked him in the testicles. Not even close. Or the time when he picked up the baby without a shirt on and she tried to latch onto his nipple. Worst pain ever. He struggled to cope with sleep deprivation thanks to all those times I accidentally woke him up while I was feeding the baby three times a night. He must have been so exhausted, and hungry, because I selfishly chose to breastfeed the baby for hours instead of taking the time to cook dinner. Can you believe I did that? I mean, I have no idea how he survived.
If you think recovering from childbirth is hard for new moms, you clearly haven't been a new dad who can go back to work without anyone questioning how much he loves his children. The struggle is real for these men, and we, as mother who are supposed to be "perfect" in every possible way, can't possibly understand their plight.
Between razor-sharp baby finger nails and the tendency for newborns to root and latch onto any nipples they can get their tiny mouths on, postpartum dads can get some seriously sore nipples, too. It's so bad. I breastfed and pumped eight to 10 times a day for months, so I almost know how my ex-husband felt when our baby tried to latch on to one of his nipples that one time. Almost, you guys.
There's a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique. It changes you. And if there's one group of people who truly understand sleep deprivation, it's postpartum dads. From occasionally waking up when their partners are feeding and changing their baby, to having their sobbing wife wake them 10 minutes before the alarm goes off because she's been up all night and wants him to take the baby so she can get a few minutes of sleep, they're constantly losing out on those precious eight hours of rest. It's literally the worst.
When postpartum dads are holding their new babies, they can easily find themselves having to pee and not being able to find the motivation to get up. I imagine it's literally the worst feeling to have to pee all of the time. Totally worse than having a baby rest on your bladder for 40 weeks, more or less, and not being able to move them. Definitely worse than peeing postpartum, even though it's incredibly painful. And accidentally peeing your pants when you sneeze? Please, that's nothing compared to a dad who has to pee the moment the baby falls asleep on him. Perspective, people.
The hunger experienced by postpartum dads can be intense, and often their postpartum partners are just too tired, sore, or busy to make them a sandwich. These silent heroes have to make their own food, you guys!
New fatherhood is a total pain in the neck, back, and well, body. Postpartum moms have it easy, especially since all they do is lay around and feed the baby all day during her long vacation, I mean, maternity leave. Sure, new moms are recovering from labor and delivery, but it's important that they have some empathy for their partners who courageously step in and hold the baby so they can go to the bathroom or take a shower.
New moms just don't understand the pain new dads experience when their baby rips out a leg or arm hair. I mean, it's not like women have ever had their body hair ripped out. They can't possibly understand that kind of pain.
You might not know this, but many dads gain sympathetic weight during their partner's pregnancies. It sucks so hard. To make matters worse, losing weight is so hard for men. I mean, they might have to give up soda, workout once in a while, or stop eating out in order to lose those few extra pounds. It is such a struggle, considering how our society expects men to look a certain way and the pressure they must feel to bounce back after their partners have babies. It might even take a week or two to lose it all. I can't imagine.
So, yeah, not being able to get down for six whole weeks after your partner gives birth can be a serious struggle. It's not as if guys can take matters into their own hands. It's so unfair, not to mention painful.
Perhaps the worst pain postpartum dads feel every single day is the pain of being being criticized when they do something. It can be truly insignificant things, too, like putting on their baby's diaper backwards, dressing them in dirty clothes, or deciding to take a road trip with their buddy when their baby is 3-weeks-old, like my ex-husband did. It can be so traumatic to face criticism, when they are used to getting constant praise for parenting, even when they do it half-assed. And I mean, these dads are scrutinized for being working dads, too! They just can't win.
They deserve a high five, not the dirty look their partner gave them when they complained about how tired, hungry, or sore they were. It's horrible how their partners just don't seem to understand how hard and painful the postpartum recovery period can be, and show a little empathy. Men have it so hard, you guys. It's terrible, really. The struggle is real.
While everyone's feelings are valid, and everyone experiences life's difficulties in their own way, it's important to acknowledge how differently our society treats new moms versus new dads. So fathers, while we know parenting isn't easy, we urge you to at least try to look at things from your postpartum partner's perspective. Help her out. Support her. Encourage her. Because she will need it. Because she deserves it.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.