It’s hard for dads, too

It’s hard for dads, too

Just because the dad didn’t carry a baby for nine or 10 months and give birth to them doesn’t mean the postpartum period isn’t challenging for him as well.

And I should say, this isn’t just dads. This goes for any spouse who didn’t give birth. For ease of writing, though, I will refer to dad/him.

Not sure about going to work with Daddy.

Not giving birth is part of the reason the postpartum period is difficult for him. As the mom, you’ve had time to mentally but especially physically prepare for having a baby. Your body has gone through many changes as you’ve grown and nourished your soon-to-be-born baby. While it may not feel as real as it did once your babe was placed in your arms, there was a certain realness to it that dads just don’t get to feel until that baby is born. And then WHAM! Baby is here and everything changes.

Men can feel the pressure of “a new mouth to feed” in various ways: mom may seem vulnerable and in need of protection and care; dad comes home from work and sees housework piling up; if he and you are like my husband and me, he has received numerous texts on the bad days, saying things like, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this…” or “I’m tired” or “I’m over-whelmed” or “I don’t know what to do” or “The dogs are whining, the baby is crying…” My husband said he could tell what kind of day I was having by the number of text messages he received from me. The more he received, the more I was spiralling.

One of my favourite pictures of my boys. Our baby isn’t even a month old here.

Men feel a lot of pressure: if they are fortunate to have had time off, it likely wasn’t for very long, and then they are back to their full-time job, while also having to take on more responsibilities in the home, while on less sleep than usual. Combine that with getting to know their new baby and trying to support their partner emotionally, and it can be draining.

Because the mom spends the most time with the baby, it can be an added challenge for dad to learn how to soothe his infant. I remember in one of my less shining moments half-shrieking at my husband to just hand me the baby whenever he cried because he likely needed to nurse. While this was mostly true, it wasn’t very helpful or conducive to getting him to take an active role in nurturing his son. Fortunately, he likely chalked it up to my being tired and emotional, and he didn’t seem to take it personally. There were times it was only him who could settle him: we went through a phase where the only way our baby would go to sleep was if he was placed in his carseat and rocked faster and higher than I could physically handle, so it fell to daddy. One of the sweetest moments was when I needed a nap, and my husband needed to let a potential tenant into our condo down the street. Without any help or instruction from me, he managed to wrap our son in our mei tai and wore him to the meeting.

We were fortunate that my husband has always had some level of flexibility with his work. If I felt I desperately needed him, he could be there. Not every father is so fortunate, and that would create added stress and worry: how powerless would you feel if your partner was sobbing on the phone, but you felt you couldn’t go there to be with them?

We didn’t hire a postpartum doula after we had our son, but I see now the benefit this would have, even for dads (honestly, just like how a labour/birth doula can be a huge support for dads, not just moms). A postpartum doula is a safe person to question, to listen to, to seek advice on things like baby care if inexperienced. There is no prior history between a postpartum doula and a new father, and there is no agenda besides making the postpartum period as pleasant as possible for everyone. The doula might be able to see both points of view of the mother and father and help them understand each other. My husband once confided to me that he was stressed, too: he pointed out that I had fellow new mom friends and many other friends to confide in who could relate. He had almost no one. Sadly, that’s not an uncommon feeling among dads. There just aren’t the same type of supports out there for new dads, but they need support just like mom does – especially because he is expected to have the strength to support mom!

What was good is my husband felt safe telling me this. Having open communication so you can both talk about your fears and stress will keep the relationship healthy and moving forward. Let dad know you still love him even though things have changed! And let him know you appreciate how much he is taking on and how hard he is working. No, he may not understand exactly what you are going through each day with the baby, but you also don’t understand exactly what he is going through each day at work and then coming home to his family. Both roles are important. Both roles require love and support from the other partner.

Remember that it isn’t just the mom who may be struggling during the postpartum period. Dad may be, too, so it doesn’t hurt to ask how he’s doing, send over a meal so it’s one less he has to worry about, or offer to come by and do the dishes so he can instead spend time with his partner and baby.

Beet borscht

Growing up, I proclaimed a dislike for borscht, but the truth is, I didn’t try it or beets at all until I was much older. Only then did I realize how much I was missing out on this great recipe from my mom! This was a tough one to get down “on paper” because it’s one of those she just kind of makes (likely learned it along the way from her mother, aunt, or grandma, as we are of Ukrainian heritage). Without meaning to, this recipe also closely follows the ayurvedic principles and is good for newborn moms.

Mmmmm. Who doesn’t love a bowl of borscht to warm their insides? I’ve definitely taken some to a few new moms and it’s always a hit.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 – 5 C vegetables, including beets, peeled and diced; carrots; celery; green beans
  • Himalayan rock salt to taste
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 10 C water (or enough to just cover the vegetables)
  • Dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt

Directions:

In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and then add onion and garlic. Stir occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.

Stir in vegetables, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until beets are starting to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beets are tender, ~ 40 minutes. Stir in sour cream or Greek yogurt just before serving.

Banana cookies

Another recipe I have to credit to my mom! I’ve tweaked the recipe she uses, but she regularly makes a version of this for my toddler, and he gobbles them up. I am pleased to say he also devoured mine, as did I! These are moist, delicious, and not too heavy, so if you’re like me, you might eat about five in one sitting, but I don’t think there’s anything to feel guilty about! I refer to them as “breakfast cookies” in our household, though they make a great in-between snack, too.

A family favourite. We gobble these up quickly.



Ingredients:

  • ½ C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 C sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of Himalayan rock salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • Optional: 1 C pecans, walnuts, or chocolate chips; 2 Tbsp almond meal

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix until it is light and fluffy.

In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit ~2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas, which will in turn give the cookies their lift and rise.

Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Separately, mix the flour, almond meal if you using, salt, and spices, and then sift into the butter/banana mixture. Mix until just combined.

Fold in the nuts or chocolate if using. Drop dollops onto cookie sheet. Bake for ~15 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Makes about 15 large cookies.

For these, I threw 1/2 C almonds into a mini food processor and chopped them finely before adding them into the flour mixture.

Notes: These expand more than I realized the first time I made them! So try to keep to small dollops of a consistent size.

I like the almond meal as some added flavour/protein without the bigger chunks of nut. I make my own by blanching almonds, removing the skins, and then once they have cooled, throwing them in a food processor until they are the desired consistency. This is likely more work than a new mom wants to undertake: get someone else to do it, buy it, or skip this step! They will still taste great.

What have I done?

What have I done?

Is it just me, or when things are going smoothly, do you take on a lot more and say yes a lot more?

And then, when it stops going so smoothly, you ask, “What the $@%& have I done?!”

That was me this morning. Really, the spiral started yesterday. A week prior, I had planned a playdate for yesterday morning. Then I had to cancel it because a staff meeting was called. We haven’t had one in months, and we have two new people on the team, so I didn’t think it was right to say I was busy. Then I had to email them all to say I might be MIA anyway because someone was coming to look at our furnace because, oh by the way, we’ve had no furnace (heat!) all weekend. Turns out he was gone before the meeting started, so I logged in, but no one was there. After waiting a few minutes, I said forget it, and went back to looking for a photo I’d taken years ago of a moose (context: I’m a web/social media editor in my paid job, and needed to photo for a story about outfitting).

Cue this morning. My Facebook post sums it up best, really. Mind the swearing:

For those not familiar, CJ’s is an indoor playground that serves crinkly fries and the coffee is always hot and kids can run around gleefully and play. In other words, heaven.

The microwaved coffee with the uneaten oatmeal I never did finish.

It’s times like these where I begin to doubt myself: when am I really going to have the time and energy to support other moms? What have I done? What am I doing?!

And then I listen to my husband’s voice in my head. When I start to spiral and get stressed, he asks me, “If a mom came to you with your concerns, what would you say to her?”

So, imaginary mom who is actually me and some days likely also you, here’s what I’d say to you:

  • Narrow your focus (I’m quoting my husband again here). Don’t worry about things that are far off in the future. Focus on right now. What needs to be done right in this moment Which leads me to my next point…
  • What really needs to be done right now? Can any of it wait? In addition to sometimes taking on too much stuff, we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Let go of those. Let go of the laundry and the dishes in the sink and the floors that need sweeping (seriously, who sweeps floors? Not me…and we have a dog and two cats…). All of that stuff can wait. (I know it can be hard because mess can also stress me out, but in the words of Frozen, Let it goooooooooo.) Speaking of which…
  • Order takeout. If you’re overwhelmed, forget trying to be Betty Crocker. Order takeout that your spouse can pick up on the way home or you can have delivered. If ever there was a day you deserve takeout, it’s when you’re stressed. Also…
  • Ask for help. Now,  I have to admit, outside of my mom, I can be bad for this, too. I have a neighbour who keeps hoping for grandchildren. I have no doubt if I texted her and asked her to come over and play with my boy while I hammered out some work, she’d be over if she was free. I’m vowing to step outside of my comfort zone and text her next time I feel alone and overwhelmed. I hope you will do the same. A great idea is to invite a mommy friend over. She and the babies/toddlers can hang out while you do what you gotta do. Or maybe you just want the company. It helps to know you’re not alone.
  • Know that you’re a great mom. Tell yourself this. If you don’t believe it, text a friend about your day, knowing she will tell you you’re an awesome mom. We are the queens of multi-tasking. We are warriors. Sometimes warriors cry and fall down, but we never break. We keep on keepin’ on because we are moms. You got this.

I never did change my shirt. It still has oatmeal on it that I never finished eating. I may have cried when my husband brought me supper. I am still not done the freelance article, there are more stories I could post to the web and social media in my paid job, and I don’t remember what day I washed my hair.

But I got this, just like you got this, and maybe “What have I done?” is actually “I’m doing it!”

That’s what I would tell you, imaginary mom coming to me feeling overwhelmed. And I’d make you a fresh, non-microwaved cup of coffee or tea and give you a hug to go with it. You got this. And so do I.

How we ended the day: checking out the fire trucks at the fire hall open house!

African yam & peanut soup

New mom or not, you will love this soup. It’s one of the first dishes I ever made my husband when we were first dating. It closely adheres to ayurvedic postpartum nutrition, but most importantly, it tastes good and will warm your body and heart.

Once cooked, you can use a hand blender to puree, but it’s not necessary. I let it simmer long enough that it becomes quite smooth on its own.

Ingredients:

  • 8 C water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tsp Himalayan rock salt
  • 6 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 sweet bell pepper (red or orange), diced
  • 3 medium yams, peeled and roughed chopped
  • 5 tbsp natural smooth peanut butter
  • Juice of lime to taste

Directions:

In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and a pinch of salt. Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add garlic, ginger, and spices and saute until soft and golden. Stir in pepper, yams, and salt, and continue cooking until they begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Then add your water/stock to cover, bringing to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cover partially and simmer until yams are tender.

Add peanut butter and simmer 30 minutes. Puree the soup until smooth (I do it directly in the pot with a hand blender).

Continue simmering for another 10 minutes. Just before serving, add the fresh lime juice.

 

 

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