I remember laying there in the middle of the night, just putting our 1 month old baby down for the umpteenth time and I stared at the ceiling and started to weep. I was so tired, I was beyond tired, I had moved passed any kind of exhaustion I had ever felt in my life. And through my exhaustion anger started to rear it’s ugly head…
I remembered the conversations so clearly before having the baby and the ones we had several times just after. The plan was supposed to be that he would wake up with the baby, he would change the baby’s dirty diaper, he would bring the baby back to me, I would feed the baby and get the baby back to sleep. It was a team effort, or at least that’s what we had discussed.
But then….then the middle of the night wake ups would happen and I would feel the baby stir first before he even cried. I get it, we had changed the plans, we were co-sleeping and when we had discussed the plans we thought the baby would be in the bassinet in our room, not in bed lying next me. In my husband’s head, this was a game changer. I already had the baby there with me, the baby didn’t need to be brought to me. But that’s not actually how it worked. My post c-section body was sore and struggled to sit up in bed, let alone get in and out of bed. Doing this several times a night to change a diaper was just adding to my resentment towards him in those early days after birth. And, to be clear, it’s not that Matt had ever looked at me and said, “I’m not changing diapers.” In fact, he was more than happy to change the diapers….after I woke him up from his sound sleep where his reaction was more like the house was being broken into…Arms brought down stiff by his side with his head moving back and forth saying, “huh? what happened? what’s wrong?”. a few second later the initial shock would wear off, and then came the search for the glasses. And then the inability to change the diapers in semi-darkness. Then the the10 minutes it took him to change ONE. FREAKING. DIAPER. And then, the cherry on top, the diaper was usually not put on well and resulted in a blow out a few hours later, on me, of course…because, ya know, “he couldn’t see” while putting the diaper on because he was still in his fog of sleep and I wouldn’t let him turn the overhead light on.
Seriously? Seriously?!?! I just kept crying that night and I started to say over and over, “I am so tired.” Eventually, my husband, lying next to me, awoke (which seemed like a miracle in and of itself at the time) to my cries and mutterings. When he asked if I was alright and I responded with some kind of vague-passive-aggressive remark that I can’t even remember and I was answered by a deep snore. Oh no, oh no, no, no, no. I lost it. I started yelling in the midst of my loud sobs that he was useless and did nothing (which was a biiiiiiiit of an exaggeration) and that things needed to change. Needless to say, it was quite the night.
I look back on the situation and I feel two things – remorse for waiting to have that “conversation” in the middle of the night when I was emotional and exhausted and he was caught totally off guard. But I also still feel this annoyance that the situation happened in the first place. Annoyed at him, annoyed at me, annoyed at our lack of communication about it all.
But we communicated, he picked up his game and we all lived…err…tiredly ever on?
….Until baby number 2 came and the same thing happened. This time I was a little more prepared and we communicated a little better…during the day. We tackled the problem way before it ever got overwhelming. And if we have more, I’m sure we will face the same battles all over again because, in that infant stage, there is so much going on, hormones, exhaustion, wants and needs that surface rationally and irrationally and complete and utter destruction of any form of communication that ever existed between a married couple. At least, for us.
There were a few strategies and tips that helped us overcome the road blocks that certainly didn’t only exist in the wee hours of the night:
- Share baby duty. We naturally, physiologically and emotionally, react quicker when it comes to the babies wants and needs. It quite literally triggers different parts of our brains than it does for our husband and other males. Women are wired differently than men. So, it’s important to lay out basic guidelines for each other when it comes to taking care of your baby. For most men, it’s uncharted water and they want to help, they just don’t always know what there place is. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding. The temptation will be to do everything yourself and the truth is your husband would probably feel useful and be elated to offer help, he just wants to know that you need it. So, tell him. Be straight. And learn from my mistakes…if he doesn’t do it perfectly, let. it. go.
- Make a list. We made lists of the household responsibilities. Even the simplest things were included, like who should be taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry. It left no room for assumptions and when something wasn’t done we didn’t have to be passive aggressive about how messy things were or the lack of clean clothes that we had.
- Be Honest. We expressed annoyance before it turned into full blown anger (most of the time anyways) and I tried, in every way I knew I could, to be less passive aggressive. Even the things that have nothing to do with the baby ended up being brought to the forefront. I’m not saying to be hurtful, but honesty is always the best policy and it will save you from the midnight cry sessions. Talk to each other and move on afterwards. Resentment will get you n-o-w-h-e-r-e but it will drive you crazy.
We struggled through but we found what worked and we moved forward with out carrying the resentment toward the other around with us, we just let it happen in the moment, instead!
It’s a known fact, mamas, whether they want to admit it or not, men become a little more needy after a baby is gone. I won’t get into the theories and I am not telling you in anyway that you need to feed into it and cater to his needs in a time where you should be resting and healing yourself. I am suggesting that you try your best to be transparent with each other, to communicate and be clear what expectations are. I bet your husband, like mine, will step up his game when he is called out and shuts down the pity party.
P.S. I love my husband dearly and I am beyond proud to call him the father of my children. He is aware of my post and has read it in it’s totality. Keep your eyes open…he might just offer his perspective as a guest blogger in the next few weeks.