Other than being financially secure enough to provide for a child, I never felt completely “ready” to be a mom. The onslaught of physical exhaustion and emotional tornadoes — coupled with redefining my identity as a new parent — was overwhelming. It left little room to focus on my marriage. Luckily, my husband and I were in a good place, but there were some things I wish he would've automatically understood when I was postpartum. It would have alleviated the need for me to constantly describe my emotions, or continuously ask for the help I needed. It is not his fault he wasn’t clairvoyant, to be sure, it’s just that with everything swirling around my head having to do with our newborn, I could have used a mindreader to save me the trouble of having to explain a lot.
When I was finally able to emerge from the fog of new motherhood, around the time I went back to work, I realized how important communication was in a partnership, especially when there's a kid in the mix. I always knew it was a crucial aspect of marriage, but now that we had a child, there was barely any time to talk. We needed to develop a shorthand if we were going to save ourselves a significant amount of frustration trying to be on the same page as co-parents.
We are still a work-in-progress in the communication department, but I think my husband and I can read each other better. I know how to frame a question to elicit a productive response, as opposed to a frustrated comment. And he knows I respond well to compliments, which tees up any gentle criticism in a much smoother way.
But back when I was totally sleep-deprived and too anxious to know if we were doing things right with our newborn, there were things I wish my partner would have been clued into without me having to say them.
We Were Not Born Knowing How To Be Moms
He saw me reading the baby books, but that didn’t mean I was an expert when the kid finally arrived. Reckoning with your own ignorance is terrifying, and I had never been someone’s mom before. I certainly didn’t feel good turning to my husband and saying, “I have no idea if I’m doing the right thing.”
I’m sure he would have totally related to that statement. We could have bonded more in those early days of new parenthood. But I kept my anxiety, and the shame I felt for feeling a bit helpless, to myself. I don’t recommend it.
We Are Always Hungry When We’re Trapped Under A Nursing Infant
Though he eventually caught on, my husband didn’t immediately know that nursing made me ravenous and I was at my most starving when I couldn’t get anything to eat, thanks to the baby in my arms. I would have liked there to have been a sort of Pavlovian response, in which seeing me settle in to feed the baby would trigger him bringing me a turkey sandwich.
We Are Worried We Will Suck At The Job
I definitely had bouts of anxiety as a new mom. I’m sure my husband was anxious too, but him assuring me that “everything would be fine” wasn’t always what I needed. I could have used him saying: “It’s OK to feel nervous.” Some justification of my zig-zagging emotions might have helped at times. But I can’t blame him for not knowing that. He was, after all, a brand new parent too.
We Could Use Some Encouragement
Along with wanting my partner to just know I was not confident in my ability as a new mom, I longed to hear that I wasn’t screwing things up. Just pointing out the mundane — “Nice onesie work, babe” — would have gone a long way.
We Are Jealous Of You…
Since I was breastfeeding, all feeding sessions were my responsibility. I was jealous that my husband could use the bathroom whenever he wanted, and could eat and drink whatever he wanted since it didn’t pass through to our baby. While he was sensitive to that, and didn’t pound beers in front of me, it would have helped if he realized exactly how much better he had it as the non-mom in our parenting partnership.
… Especially If You Go Back To Work Before Us
We had our first child before companies were giving much thought towards the importance of paternity leave for new fathers, so my husband took two weeks and that was it. We couldn’t afford for him to take additional weeks, which he was entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act, without pay, especially because half of my 12-week maternity leave was unpaid. While I don’t think he was happy about it at all, I think he was relieved to have that structure to his day, and be around adults. I’ve found office life to be so much easier in a lot of ways than full-time parenting.
We Don’t Want To Think About Dinner
I never loved cooking, but I didn’t mind it that much before having kids. As soon as I became a mom, though, I never wanted to think about meal-planning again. I didn’t want to even be asked what I thought we should have for dinner. I just wanted it to magically appear, plated and piping hot for me. I realize this is a somewhat unreasonable request, but I feel a bit entitled, having been the one to gestate the baby and push it out of my body.
We Are More Scared Than You Think
I was scared the baby would stop breathing. I was scared she wouldn’t stop crying. I was scared about missing work. I was scared to go back to work.
A change as monumental as becoming a parent affects every aspect of your life. I wasn’t prepared for that; I believed I could compartmentalize motherhood, but that simply isn’t the case. I am a mother all the time now. It is not something that I have ever regretted, but it can be a mindf*ck. I didn’t anticipate so much overwhelming change to bombard my very existence so suddenly, and after 10 years after giving birth I'm still getting used to it.
Would it have been nice to have my fear acknowledged without me having to erupt into tears to invite the reassurance? Yes. But my partner isn’t a mindreader. And he was just as scared, and exhausted, and in the throes of adjustment as I was.
We Might Not Be That Into You For A While
I felt touched out and just didn’t want other humans, other than my baby, near me. I felt like I only wanted to give my newborn all my attention, and there wasn’t enough of me for anyone else. It’s quite an adjustment, to go from just answering to your own needs, to having to support a totally helpless little child. While I was aware that I wasn’t solely responsible for the kid, because I was exclusively breastfeeding, I had a lot of human contact. It would have been nice to know my husband totally understood that without me having to say anything.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.