When we brought my son Logan home from the hospital two years ago, I watched in awe as my husband instantly assumed the role of the perfect dad. From holding the baby to comforting him when he cried, he was a natural right from the start.
But once the postpartum hormones hit a fever pitch and breastfeeding challenges continued to abound, this awestruck infatuation suddenly turned into a hormone-fueled rage.
My thoughts instantly turned to anger and jealousy:
How dare he be better than me at this. I carried this little baby for nine months, he’s supposed to be closer to me. I’m supposed to be the natural. After all, I’m the one who read all the baby books and parenting blogs.
You know that scene in “Knocked Up,” where Katherine Heigl loses it on Seth Rogen for not reading the baby books? I did a real-life reenactment of that outside of our hospital-sponsored childbirth class, screams and tears and all!
Watching how easily and naturally parenting came to Drew, only made me feel worse about myself as a mother. But let’s actually assess this situation:
Just a few short days ago, a living, breathing, screaming baby was yanked from the dark depths of my uterus. With a stage-four tear nonetheless, or as Drew so eloquently puts it, this damn baby tore me a new one. The next morning, when Drew needed to use the restroom in our hospital room I yelled, “Don’t go in there, it looks like a scene from CSI!” In retrospect, a blood-spattered scene from Dexter may have been a more accurate description.
My body was healing, my hormones were all over the Richter scale, I wasn’t getting any sleep, and I was beating myself up for my breastfeeding struggles and worrying that I was going to starve my child. Every time I carried him, I’d worry that I might drop him, break him, or cause some type of permanent damage. Every time he cried, I assumed the worst, and on top of that, I somehow thought it was all my fault.
So you’re telling me the fact that my husband wasn’t battling postpartum anxiety and depression, wasn’t hormonal, and wasn’t overly emotional, means he could be more cool, calm and collected around the baby? Oh! I also failed to mention that my husband is a former Army Combat Medic, so of course he didn’t react to every single noise the baby made as a life-or-death situation.
But to those who have just given birth, remember: we’re dealing with a weighted deck! Our partners don’t have all the raging hormones, they don’t get postpartum anxiety and depression, and they’re not pressuring themselves to be the baby’s sole food supply! They don’t experience the worry and fear we do towards our babies. That’s not to say they don’t care about their children, because we all know they do, but it’s easy to misconstrue.
The biggest difference between the way Drew and I handled Logan early on, was that Drew had fun with him and looked at him as a little baby, full of possibility. I saw him as a precious little human who I would inevitably screw up.
Besides, the whole combat medic thing has really come in handy with less-than-desirable childcare tasks. The baby hasn’t pooped in four days and we need to stimulate him with a rectal thermometer? “Medic!” The baby keeps spitting out Infant Tylenol and we need to use a suppository? “Is there a doctor in the house?!”
My husband’s medical experience aside, I have heard this from lots of other mothers. How they expected their natural mom instinct to kick in, but it simply didn’t happen right away. And other mothers share my sentiment, of feeling completely enamored with their husbands when they watched them with the baby, and how that quickly turned to jealousy and rage.
The biggest lesson I have learned since I became a mom, is that if I take everything too seriously, I won’t get out of this alive. Yes, babies are precious, they need around-the-clock care, love, and nourishment. But if I’m anxious and worried every time I hold my baby, he’s going to pick up on that. If I’m not calm, he sure as hell won’t be either.
I’m simply here to tell the moms who experienced or are going through the same thing — it’s OK if you don’t instantly know how to do everything or be everything when it comes to parenting; it doesn’t mean you’re a complete failure. In many cases, that’s your hormones or PPD lying to you!
A few months after Logan was born, when I had calmed down (some), got my sense of humor back, and was able to enjoy my baby boy, Drew actually confessed that a lot of his early confidence was a fake-it-till-you-make-it facade. He felt that one of us had to seem sure of ourselves, so he felt the need to step up and be the confident one. Thanks a lot, babe — like you didn’t know your wife is super hard on herself and blames herself for everything that goes wrong!
Being a co-parent with Drew has taught me more about the differences between men and women. No, I’m not bashing men, especially not mine; he’s an amazing dad and wonderful partner. I’m simply saying that women (at least ones that I’ve talked to) have more of the natural tendency to be the martyr for our children. We put all of their needs ahead of ours, and then, only if there’s time, take care of ourselves. That analogy about putting your oxygen mask on first? Yeah, fucking right! When it comes to my baby, I’m like Bruno Mars: “I’d catch a grenade for ya, jump in front of a train for ya.”
Drew would take a bullet for our boys in a heartbeat, but he will also make sure he has eaten and drank water during the day when he takes care of them. Whereas when I have them, Drew has to remind me to eat when he gets home.
My point is, some mothers are natural, amazing moms, instantly. For the rest of us, it takes time. And guess what, no matter what any Instagram influencer tries to tell you, NONE of us are perfect.
So if you bring your baby home and wonder why there is no return policy or instruction manual, and why your husband is all of a sudden the damn baby whisperer, it’s OK and you’re not alone. You love your baby and you will figure out how that resonates. The more you can calm down and just enjoy this precious little human, the happier you all will be.
Oh, and if you snap at your husband a few times during this whole process, just remember, you’re on the same team. Wait till you’ve calmed down, have a glass of wine, do some yoga, meditate, or drink some herbal tea. Then tell him how much you love and appreciate him. Just remember, if you’re still experiencing postpartum hormones, you’ll probably start crying all over again.
To my husband: Drew, I love you. Thanks for being the most amazing husband and dad and for being our rock when I’m losing it. Oh, and thanks for putting up with all my shenanigans!