The birth of a child is a wonderful time. It is also stressful and exhausting and can be hard on even the best relationships. I’m pretty sure that if the postpartum questionnaire had asked, “Have you ever thought about harming your husband?” instead of “Have you ever thought about harming your baby?” I would have failed every single time.
Gentlemen, if you want to keep your wife happy and free of fantasies about your demise, there are just a few simple things you can say…or not say, that will ensure things go as smoothly as possible during those early weeks and months. Even if you think you know how to talk to your postpartum partner, you might want to double-check this list, just to make sure:
1) You may want to say: Can’t you quiet that baby down?
“I could, Dear, but then I’d have to stop practicing my amateur acupuncture techniques on him. How will I learn?”
Really, what do you think the answer is going to be? What good could possibly come from uttering those six words? Did you think that your wife was up at 3 a.m. listening to a screaming baby because she enjoyed it?
Anyone who has been dealing with a screaming child is already at his/her wit’s end and this question sounds very judgmental. Instead, you should probably try an alternative like, “Let me take him. You obviously need a break,” or “What can I do to help?”
2) You may want to say: I need a night out with the boys.
I bet you do. Being trapped in the house with a newborn is tough stuff. However, if you say this out loud to your wife, you may very likely see her eyes turn black and cold like a shark’s, because she is about to bite your head off. Can you remember the last time she went out with her friends? Can you even remember the last time your wife didn’t have a child clamped on to her nipple? Neither can she.
If you’re dying for some time off, odds are she is too. You should probably offer take the baby on Saturday so that she can sleep in and meet up with some friends for lunch. She may be so grateful that she’ll suggest you take some time for yourself next weekend.
3) You may want to say: I’m exhausted.
You should probably not make any big complaints about how tired you are. Even if you are getting up with the baby as much as she is – and you’re probably not – you did not start off the marathon session of sleeplessness by expelling a human being from your body. I know we use that excuse a lot – but it’s hard. It doesn’t matter if she had to push him out or if a doctor sliced her open to retrieve him – birth is exhausting and it takes a lot longer to recover than a two or three day stay in the hospital.
However, if you absolutely must talk about how sleep-deprived you are – the safest way to do it is like this, “If I’m this tired, I can’t even imagine how you feel.” It makes you sound more understanding than gripey, which will be appreciated.
4) You may want to say: When are we going to have sex?
First thing’s first, guys – no woman, postpartum or no, wants you to ask her for sex. I’m sure you’re aware of this as your wife has never responded to the question, “Do you want to have sex?” with any more enthusiasm than a shrug and a halfhearted, “Sure, why not?”
Secondly, sex after birth can be a big deal for many ladies. They’re concerned about what’s going on downstairs. They may be healing or worried about how different things might be. The extra weight and stretch marks probably aren’t boosting her self-esteem. And frankly, I tip my cap to any woman who can look at a bed within the first few months and think “sex” and not “SLEEP!”
You should definitely go out of your way to make your partner feel good about herself and to make sure she knows that you want to be romantic whenever she feels comfortable, but asking for sex is not the way to do that.
5) You may want to say: Don’t give me the baby when I first get home. I need a break.
How can you need a break from something you haven’t had to do all day? It’s understandable that you like to relax when you first come home from work. Everyone does. But that just may not be in the cards every single day. She’s been on the clock from the minute she woke up, so what makes you more deserving of a break?
Express your concerns to your partner during a time of relative peace. Maybe you can work out a system where you check in with her about an hour before you’ll arrive home so that you can get a sense of what lies ahead. There may still be times when she needs you to take the baby off her hands, but at least you’ll have a little time to mentally prepare yourself before you walk in the door.
How did you reply to your postpartum partner when he asked the wrong questions?
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