1. You should sack up.
Be as brave as she has to be. You are only allowed to be as grossed out and afraid as the person who is giving birth. This is new and terrifying for you both and you are in this together for all the amazing, gory, beautiful, harrowing bits of it. In every way that is possible, be in it with her. Help her.
2. You should be physically present.
She’ll tell you where you should be during labor and delivery and there you shall stay, providing her comfort and encouragement and not complaining. Hungry? So is she. Have to pee? Would you prefer a bedpan or a catheter? Bored? Tired? Stay where you are, or GO DIE. She doesn’t have a way out, so you shouldn’t take one either. After delivery, she’ll feel like a deflated balloon that sat on the sun. If she had a C-section, she’ll feels as though she was run over by a truck, cut in half, then run over again for good measure, while the driver said, “You may feel a little bit of pressure.” She’s going to need help as she recovers, at the hospital and at home, and you should be there to do it. Help her.
3. You should be emotionally present.
Be kind and attentive and demonstrate that you share her goals. It’s common for moms of newborns to feel insecure and responsible for the whole world, so help her see that she isn’t alone or bad at this. If you feel like she’s criticizing your efforts, that you just can’t get it right, please don’t give up. Try to understand all that she is experiencing, show her abundant grace and check your ego. Help her.
4. You should anticipate what she and the baby need, and just do it.
She will be totally spent after delivery, but she will still waddle her bloody, bruised self over to tend to anything that she sees needing to be done, unless you beat her to it. Asking to help is not the same as helping. If you say, from the couch, half asleep, or from behind your phone, “Babe, need me to—?” she will very likely say, “No, I got it.” BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN SHE SHOULD HAVE TO GOT IT. If she disproportionately says ‘got it’ too often, it won’t be fair and she will rightfully resent you. Help her.
5. You should take care of the other children.
Older kids don’t just get shelved when the new one shows up, so you should do the HUGE majority of the parenting with them when you’re around. The older kids should be your shadow while your wife takes care of herself and the newborn. Going to get the mail? So is Sofia. Quick run to the grocery store? Malcolm will love that. Do you know where your shadow is? You should. Help her.
If you complain about discomfort or fatigue, you’re forcing her to take care of you, when her attention should be on herself and the baby.
6. You should not whine about your accommodations.
Cots, chairs or loungers in hospitals aren’t comfy. The two-plus patients in the room are definitely the priority, so find a way to make your accommodations work. If you complain about discomfort or fatigue, you’re forcing her to take care of you, when her attention should be on herself and the baby. Help her.
7. You should be a better partner/parent than dads on sitcoms.
We’re not taught how to prepare for this baby bomb in our lives and marriages, and adding a newborn may shed light on gender role assumptions you both have. We still have the impression that women should handle motherhood easily and naturally, and that men lack nurturing instinct and should keep their distance or they’ll bungle it up. That’s inaccurate and unfair to everyone. Help each other. Help her.
8. You should know breast milk is more sacred than your blood.
If you handle breastmilk—THAT SHE MADE FROM HER LADY TEAT—and you spill even one drop of it or leave it out too long so it’s unusable, utter remorse is your only reaction. Lord save you if you argue with her or act like it’s no big deal. Breastfeeding/pumping is difficult, and if you neglect to treat it with the proper respect, she will probably shiv you. Think of the money you’re saving on formula. She could buy a real nice shiv. Help her.
9. You should be involved in her healthcare.
Before you’re discharged home, your wife’s provider will go through care and discharge instructions. You should wake up and pay attention. Step in if the baby needs tending so your wife can focus. It’s also OK for you to ask questions, provided they’re not lame jokes to help you feel less uncomfortable talking about vaginas. You’re going to be taking care of your wife and the baby while she heals, so get clarification. Especially on really important stuff like signs of postpartum depression. Also, do NOT make jokes about having to take six weeks off of sex. You couldn’t have forgotten that quickly what your wife’s body just did for your family. Your penis needs to be everyone’s last priority. Help her.
10. You should never stop appreciating your wife and her amazing body.
Your wife’s body will change with having a baby—in big and small ways. Remember what she did for your family and talk of, look at and hold her body with the appreciation it deserves. She’s gonna feel 30 kinds of weird about these changes. Listen to her, love on her, laugh and cry with her. You’re doing this thing together, but you both required a tremendous sacrifice from her. Honor that. Help her.
If you follow these simple rules, your wife should make it out feeling honored, respected and cared for. Who knows, eventually, she may even choose to reproduce with you again. Well done.