I’m now 29 and have 3 kids with my wife, Franziska, who carried and birthed them all like a pro. Here’s what I would tell my childless 24-year-old self about how to be a supportive partner during the ‘becoming parents’ phase:
1. Wifey carried baby IN her belly for 9 months. So, you carry baby ON your belly for 9 months every chance you get. Not only does it help her recover but it bonds you to your kid more than imaginable.
2. Wifey is breastfeeding and–while beautiful and fulfilling for her–it’s exhausting. So, you change EVERY diaper you can. From diaper #1 onward. You will get over the grossness fast. And you will prevent imbalances and resentment in the relationship; in fact, when all your wife’s friends are complaining about how absent and unsupportive their husbands are, your wife will be bragging about you.
3. Make her the decaf coffee every morning. Even if she leaves it cold and forgets to drink it most mornings because she falls back asleep while you’re working or (later) taking the kids to school. She was up all night feeding the baby so help start her day in a way that helps her reset.
4. Tell her she is beautiful and help her see that in the moments when she is feeling most self-critical and hopeless about her body. Remind her of times when she achieved goals in the past. Remind her she is a superhero. She literally just moved all her organs around and gained 20 + pounds to give you a child that will be a gift to you for the rest of your life. Help her see past her body image issues and stay focused on a positive goal, one day at a time.
5. Take the heat. Hormones are crazy, both pre and post birth. She won’t seem like herself every day and sometimes she will say things she wouldn’t say if she didn’t feel like she was hungover, caffeinated, and on steroids every day. Remember your job is to be her rock through all of this, so toughen up and keep perspective when her tongue is sharper than you know her best self intends. Normal will return soon and you want her to be grateful that you kept it together when she wasn’t, not resentful and disappointed that you hijacked her emotions by making her problems yours.