How to Prep a Daddy-to-Be

As involved as my husband was (and is), Jimmy still felt a bit left out during my pregnancy. He found that most people didn’t ask him about preparing for fatherhood. Their questions were about me and the baby.

I think we need to put more focus on dads-in-waiting. To be honest, when it comes to the birth, fathers usually need to be the advocates for their wives, as  women in labor can’t think straight (at least I couldn’t). And in those first few months, if the mom is breastfeeding, she’s preoccupied with feeding a child and the dad needs to take on just about everything else. So how can we prepare dads and engage them more during pregnancy and those newborn months? Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Throw co-ed showers. Many couples still go the traditional route and have women-only baby showers. I strongly discourage this. Our two showers were co-ed and I’m so glad we made that choice. It’s a choice that begins your parenting with the philosophy of “we” are having a baby, not “I,” the mother.

Tons of co-ed invites are available now. Yay!

Tons of co-ed invites are available now. Yay!

2. Give them books about fatherhood. Unfortunately, most birthing and parenting books are written to mothers as the audience. It’s off-putting to men. However, there are a few good books out there and we need to start giving them to men. One of them is Clyde Edgerton’s Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers and also Emily Oster’s Expecting Better, which takes a logical, scientific view of pregnancy and birth and is the opposite of the fear-inducing What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

3. Take a child preparation class….by themselves. I think men should take a class without their wives. Maybe they should be in charge of the Infant CPR class? A class that they attend and then teach their wives what they learned.

4. Dads can babywear!

And drink beer at the same time.

And drink beer at the same time.

5. Dads need to take a breastfeeding class with their wives, if it’s a priority to the woman. You can’t understand how much time that baby will spend at the boob until you live it, but just believe me, it’s A LOT. Dads need to learn how to support and help their wives through breastfeeding; it lasts a lot longer than labor.

6. Co-workers of dads need to start celebrating them. I don’t hear about dads getting baby showers at work that often. This is a problem. It’s time to start recognizing men as co-parents at the workplace. Look up “dad diaper party” on Pinterest, and you’ll get some ideas, people.

I would also say it’s time to start giving men better paternity leave, but we need to actually give women paid maternity leave first!

What else would you add to this list? Moms and Dads, please chime in!

Behind the Smile: #MomsMatter

This is my friend Sara. We’ve never met. She lives in Canada. However, she’s part of my tribe, the tribe of women I know who have experienced postpartum mood disorders. We all have been through something no one else can quite understand. Sara and I “met” online through The Longest Shortest Time‘s Facebook group, and she agreed to participate in my interview project. You can read that essay here. Sara and I have stayed in touch, and she sent me this photo as part of my #momsmatter project this May.

Sara H.

In the photo below, Sara had left the house alone with her seven-month-old baby girl. This was a feat for Sara. Normally, when she would even just plan to leave the house, her mind would be “bombarded” with all that could go wrong, and Sara would imagine scary scenario after scenario like a movie on repeat in her mind. Her thoughts were controlling her most of the time, so this is one of the first outings when she actually made it out. So the smile is genuine; she was proud, even if fear and anxiety were below the surface. She made it to a book fair and back with a baby and anxiety on board. That’s what I call bravery. Although I don’t know if anyone passing by on the street would have recognized they were witnessing such courage.

Send me your looks-can-be-decieving photos, so I can share them for Maternal Mental Health Month this May on Figuring Out Home. Or post them yourself with the hashtag #momsmatter.

Because they do.

Becoming a Softy?

I realize as I finish this semester (thank god!), that I’ve become a little less rigid or strict with my students. I’m making more exceptions, bending my expectations to fit certain situations. And I guess it’s not simply that I’ve become soft, but that motherhood has somehow made me want to believe that people are good. I worded that sentence carefully. I don’t believe all people are good. I’ve decided to that believing they are good, or doing their best, makes me feel better about life. I still ask myself is this person genuine or manipulating me? And I quickly decide that I’ll believe they are genuine. It’s easier, more pleasant.

see-good-in-others

Many people come to this place, without motherhood as the catalyst. I hope we all come to this place, of believing, or trying to believe, people are mostly good. I think motherhood helped me because I get to watch a little person who continually gets back up after falling down, and fall down hard. A little person who gives kisses freely. A little person who shouts Hi! with such excitement to strangers. She is good and sweet and complicated, but good.

IMG_0732

So I’ve become a little softer, and maybe better.

But I still won’t grade your paper if it doesn’t have a thesis statement! ;)

Moms Matter

May is Maternal Mental Health Month, so I’m hoping to do a series of looks-can-be-deceiving photos. These photos will show what moms often project to the world and social media, and then explain what was happening underneath the surface of that photo. Please email me if you’d like to participate or post your own photos with the hashtag #momsmatter.

This is Ashley. Doesn’t she look happy with her sweet baby girl and husband?

ashley

You would never know that this is actually the day she hit her breaking point. Ashley was following her husband in her car and she lost him on the way to get his oil changed. She panicked, really panicked. And she realized she had a problem. Not long after, she began seeing a therapist and was diagnose with PPD. Like many women, she couldn’t get in with a psychiatrist for a long time, but she did find Moms Supporting Moms, an amazing support group in Raleigh. If you know a new mom, no matter how she looks or seems, make sure you offer resources to her like Moms Supporting Moms.

#momsmatter

A year ago

We were still living the “colic days.” What I really needed was for the future to send me this photo of Mae smiling and gleeful. Everyone said just wait and see. It will all be worth it. 

You were right.



Individual activism: ask!

So most women dread drinking the sweet liquid that tests them for gestational diabetes and expectant moms also anxiously await the results of first trimester screening. Almost all doctors/midwives use these screenings yet:

Only 18% of women have gestational diabetes 

Only 5% of women receive any abnormal results for any of the first trimester screenings.
However, PPDA is the number one complication due to childbirth, higher than preeclampsia or anything else, yet only 5-10% of docs are screening their patients. 
If you weren’t screened, even if you felt fine, go back to your doc and ask them to start screening. I did this with Mae’s pediatrician who should have known I was unstable when I couldn’t sit through appointments without crying or leaving. 
Grassroots effort: let’s all ask for screening, for ourselves and for other women who can’t advocate for themselves just yet.