Hi, Partner: this one’s for you. The journey from fertility through postpartum is one of the most exciting and transformative times in a couple's life. However, it can also be a challenging and emotional journey that requires a lot of support and understanding. You may not be the one biologically giving birth to your baby, but you play a pivotal role throughout this journey as your family dynamic changes. This post, which is rooted in our conversation with Nessle expert Melissa Fernandez on our podcast Nessle Together (Episode 6), covers our key tips for you to consider as you walk the path from deciding to have a baby to parenting a toddler alongside your partner.
Do your part by educating yourself on aspects of fertility, pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. Understand what choices your significant other is facing throughout the journey; review the options available, and have opinions. What birthing method or course should we take? How can we prepare for feeding? Will we circumcise a son? These are all questions that you will face as a family unit, and it’s respectful and beneficial for both parents to be involved as decision makers throughout this process.
Gather information from doctors, trusted friends, and other experts about resources that you and your partner could rely on. This includes podcasts, online and in-person classes, books, and experts. Do your own research to prepare a list of specialists you and your partner could lean on, including a doula, pediatrician, lactation counselor, sleep counselor, and therapist with availability.
Prepare the Home
During this stage, do the work to prepare your household for the baby’s arrival. Set up a meal train among friends, or put a trusted friend in charge of coordinating a meal delivery schedule. Coordinate the work involved to get your house ready for bringing home a baby, staying mindful of best practices for safe sleep, and of all that it takes to babyproof a home. You can also set up a plan for cleaning and housework, including hiring help if that’s an option in your budget.
Be the Keeper of the Space
It’s important that you understand your role as keeper of the space, as the protector of boundaries. Not all parents are in a position to rely on a significant other throughout the journey of parenthood, and they may need to call on a friend or family member to fulfill this responsibility, as it is perhaps the most important one. Birth and the transition into parenthood is a delicate, fragile, vulnerable time, and creating a safe nest for birthing parent and Baby–and indeed for the entire family unit–is your #1 responsibility. This means showing respect for the hard work of labor by recording the birth story, expressing gratitude during feeds, and giving words of affirmation for the work they’re doing. This also means fending off (or kindly repurposing) well-meaning visitors when you know your partner is too drained for conversation. It can also involve being a strong advocate for your partner when you feel their concerns are not being heard, either in healthcare settings or among family members.
Do the Lion’s Share of the Work
Take care of practical things, like bottle-cleaning, pump-part cleaning, diapering, laundry, preparing nutritious meals, paying bills or taking over housework. In this category of to-do’s, it’s important for the birthing parent to remember that they must sometimes relinquish control over how these things are managed; otherwise, it’s likely to end up on them again when a frustrated partner gets the feeling that they’re just not doing it “right.”
Don’t Wait to be Directed
Look for things to do. It’s a burden on your partner to have to create a list for you to help you understand all that needs to be done. Maybe you’re patting yourself on the back for completing every item on the to-do list your partner laid out for you. Great, but… how nice would it have been if your partner hadn’t had to do the mental labor of drafting the list in the first place! See if you can figure this out yourself and stay a step ahead.
Congratulations on the transition your family is making, whether it’s making the decision to add to your family, welcoming home your first-born, or adding another baby to a growing family. Whatever the case may be, take pride in the role you have in bringing protection, stability, respect, gratitude, and much-needed decision-making and practical support to the evolving family unit.
Nessle has a podcast where we talk all things parenting with our experts, bringing useful insights into how you can find your parenting mojo.