Dads. Husbands (DH). Significant Others (SO). Other Half (OH). Partners in crime. Whatever you call them, the fathers of our children often get a bad rap. As a new mom, I joined pretty much any and every Facebook group of fellow moms. I quickly learned that some of these dads were going to make me really appreciate my husband. Some of the stories shared make me truly sad. How could you create a life and want nothing to do with him or her? Others make me wonder about the rest of the story. I’d read horror stories of dads leaving out or throwing out breast milk, giving babies formula when mom told them not to, mixing formula wrong, leaving bottles out, making messes, dressing the baby in the wrong outfit, letting the baby sleep too long or not long enough, etc. These dads are trying to support us moms, but they might now know how to best do that.
As parents, we are in a partnership where the most important party is completely dependent upon the two of us. Every single decision we make should be a “we” decision and if one party doesn’t have all the information they need to participate, then both parties are responsible for helping.
When we first found out we were expecting, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I also knew that I quite literally knew jack about breastfeeding. So, I started to research a little. My husband and I attended one breastfeeding class, where we learned how to breastfeed a doll, which for the record is not representative of a living, breathing newborn. Our birth class was scheduled for Wednesday and our birthing class for the following Saturday – our son was born on that Tuesday, 4 weeks early. We had tried to prepare, but no matter how many classes you take, you’re never really prepared.
I say all this to convey the point that neither of us knew everything – or even a little – about breastfeeding or caring for a newborn. We quite literally were receiving baptism by fire.
One of my biggest weaknesses is my need to do everything myself and I knew this trait would be a problem in parenting. So, I made it a point to take extra care to include my husband. I vowed to remain open and honest with him at all times – regardless of how vulnerable I felt. And during those first few weeks, I was about as raw and vulnerable as I’ve ever been. I cannot tell you how many times my husband sat next to me and let me cry it out as I became frustrated with feeding (I should point out that this was exactly what I needed him to do). In the beginning, he even woke up with me and sat on the floor and entertained me while I nursed our son and he changed almost every diaper during his four-week paternity leave. He still cleans all our cloth diapers and has taught our son to love bath time.
Upon seeing my initial frustrations with breastfeeding, he researched and shared what he found. He came to every doctor’s appointment, sat through visits with the lactation consultant and all the cranial massages our baby needed. He patiently cleaned my pump parts and listened as I shared the little tidbits I learned along the way. He waited for me to be ready to introduce a bottle and he consulted with me on how many ounces of pumped milk to feed the baby.
In other words, he was truly my partner in parenting because I invited him in and I shared with him – and also because he wanted to be involved. Is he perfect? Not at all. Am I? Not even close.