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Dear Husband, This Is What I Need From You After Having a Baby

Photograph by Twenty20

I still remember crying after my first baby was born. Not regular crying, mind you. It was the "choking on your tears, shoulders shaking, can’t understand the words I’m trying to say" kind of crying. And it wasn’t just postpartum emotions, my tears had a very distinct source:

My husband did not understand what I was going through and thus, he wasn’t doing anything right. Like, NOTHING.

In fact, all those lovey post-birth feelings of "oh my goodness, our little family is so amazing" had evaporated. My baby was still amazing. I was still a birthing rockstar. But my husband? Well, he needed to exit quickly or read my mind fast. Which, in retrospect, I realize is not fair at all.

I never really got my act together and explained what I needed in our first postpartum season. Had I been able to articulate my needs, my husband would have jumped to action. After all, communication, not mind-reading, is the cornerstone of a successful marriage.

Thankfully, I got a few more tries when our second, third and fourth babies were born. In my subsequent postpartum experiences, I told him exactly what it would take for me to feel extra loved and cared for during my fourth trimester and—you guessed it—things went much, much better. This last time, he was practically an angel. All because I gave him tangible ways to care for me rather than expecting him to magically know.

Maybe your husband is a natural-born caretaker who has sentimental bones throughout his body. Or, maybe he’s not and he needs a blatant nudge during the mysterious postpartum days when his wife turns into a new, sometimes emotional, but still very awesome, person. That’s my guy. And I so appreciate that he’s willing to let me hold his hand and lead him through the unknown.

Once I’m out of bed and acting normal, I know it’s easy to think that everything is back to how it was. It’s not.

Shortly before our newest baby was born, I gave my husband the 411 on what I needed after I gave birth, and now, you get to use my list as a jumpstart to share with your own partner. Postpartum expectations shouldn't be a guessing game.

I need you to say I’m awesome.

Relive our birth story with me. Tell me when you thought I was strong. Tell me how beautiful it all was—even if it was more frightening and scarring. Tell me 10 times a day that I rock and I’m a good mom and I can do this. You can say it, text it, email it, leave a little note somewhere. Just do it. Because I don’t feel like myself physically or emotionally and having a baby rely on your for EVERYTHING 24/7 drains you fast.

I need you to clean up after me.

Clear off my nightstand, throw away the random nursing pads you find laying around, make sure towels and sheets get washed, and take out the stinky garbage often. Postpartum is messy and I’m still healing. I don’t want to use my energy cleaning, I want to use it to care for our baby and stay sane.

I need you to feed me.

I am so hungry. All the time. Please feed me three times a day and provide endless snacks that are nutritious and will help kick off a strong breastfeeding relationship. Hangry is a real thing. Let’s keep that from happening, OK?

I need you to let me sleep.

Sleep deprivation catches up with a mama fast. And then, I’m worthless. I know nights are hard for you, so I’ve got them. But please take the kids and baby and let me get a solid nap in each day. And if you fight with me over who is more tired, well, let’s just say everyone in the world knows that I win so just keep those yawns to yourself.

I need you to understand that my emotions are everywhere.

I am not being forgetful on purpose. I’m not crying for no reason. I’m not overreacting. Do not say I’m overreacting—or I’ll show you overreacting.

I need you to buy me a present.

Of course our healthy baby is the greatest gift, but it wouldn’t hurt to toss me a little something extra. Gifts say I love you and you love me, right?

I need you to watch for signs of postpartum depression and anxiety.

You know me better than anyone. Gauge how I’m doing. Ask me and really listen. Help alleviate my stressors and let me talk through my worries. If you sense I’m not holding up, get me to the doctor ASAP.

I need you to remember that it takes a long time to heal.

Once I’m out of bed and acting normal, I know it’s easy to think that everything is back to how it was. It’s not. I’m still bleeding. I’m still sore. My body feels empty and full at the same time. It took 40 weeks to grow a baby and it’s going to take me quite a few weeks to regain my strength and feel back to normal. Don’t forget.