This is what I wish I knew before I had my daughter, Addison. This is what I wish I could vocalize to Michael throughout her entire newborn stage. We might have had a baby together, but darling, your child, your priority right now, is not that sweet precious bundle of joy. It is me. It is your wife. It is the woman who is up at all hours breastfeeding and changing and burping and soothing our absolutely perfect, beautiful, screaming, crying, new addition.
That whole newborn stage was such a blur to me. It was the hardest stage for us as both parents and as a couple. I asked myself often why I thought I was cut out to be a mother. We had a go of things in the beginning with discovering food allergies on top of figuring out this new precious life and how to distinguish her needs. Neither of us knew what we were doing or how to vocalize what we needed to the other person. I found myself pushing my needs down and making Addison my/our priority. Because isn’t that what we do as parents? (Please say yes, because that will make me feel a little less bonkers.)
But if I could go back and coach Michael and me through that sleepless stage all over again, I would be more outspoken about needing someone to take care of me, while I took care of Addison’s every need. Because I may not have realized it then, but that’s what I needed.
I was able to breastfeed Addison from the very beginning of her little life. She took to it immediately. We started within the first hour of her life, which I thought was going to be a sign of how easy the newborn stage was going to be for us… LOL.
But, with breastfeeding, that means I was the one responsible for feeding our child. And did you know? In the first little bit of their lives that means every 2-3 hours. I was happy that I was able to breastfeed, because it was my plan to do so. But I also didn’t really realize that that meant I would be “on” all the time. Around the clock. Every 2-3 hours to be exact.
She needed feedings every couple of hours, but in between that she needed snuggles (which I will NEVER complain about), tummy time, diaper changes, movement (always with the movement). There were things that she needed almost 24/7. And I knew that going into parenthood. But the reality of that, while also being SO responsible for a tiny human life seemingly overnight, slapped me in the face like I wasn’t anticipating.
Michael tried to be a very hands-on dad, but he felt a little out of his depth in the beginning. He tried to give us space to bond because he knew how important that was to me. I think there were a lot of times he just felt like he was in the way, but that if I needed him to step in, I’d just ask. But I never did.
And then there was that whole not being able to help with the biggest sleep sucker: the feedings. Ya know, just a small thing.
It took me a while to fall into a routine with Addi and I wasn’t able to pump and store any breastmilk so that he could help for well over a month. Once we introduced a bottle, though, Michael was able to step into some of the feedings, which was a huge help. But at the same time that I was finally able to stock up some breastmilk, he went back to work. Aaaaand enter my wife-guilt about having him take on some of the nighttime duties. So, I didn’t.
Basically, he didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t know that I needed his help in such a different way. When there is a newborn baby, your first thought is, “How can I help with the baby?” It was how he thought; it was how I thought; it is how almost every single person thinks. But now I know that I needed Michael to treat me as if I were his newborn.
What I needed in that new stage of figuring out how to care for our daughter, was for my husband to make sure that I was fed, that I was showered, that I was getting some time to have my hands free of the baby (sometimes forcibly, because my god I love a squishy newborn), that my diaper was changed (and that’s not being funny; I wore a diaper for damn near two months, friends). I needed my partner to treat me just like I was treating this new life of ours. I needed him to hover. I needed him to keep a schedule and guess what my next need might be. I needed him to take care of me, almost completely. And that’s not to say that I didn’t need him to step in and take care of Addison every once in a while. I mean hell, I am not the only one capable of changing a poopy diaper.
But I needed him to prioritize me. I needed him to treat me as if I was incapable of taking care of myself (because honestly, at that stage, I was). I needed him to treat me like I was the new baby in the house. And man, I sure wish I realized that and could have vocalized that to him then.