I tell all new fathers to take credit for the first nine months of being a dad, because, after birth, things get a lot harder. The actual birth was a great dad-highlight. I got to help our midwife catch our firstborn. We had taken Bradley Childbirth classes. We had read books. We were informed. We had a birth plan. Mike Tyson once told a reporter, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I’m pretty sure Mr. Tyson was talking about birth plans, right? Childbirth was the easy part for a dad. The next few months were the punch in the mouth.
My wife, Jen, had postpartum depression (PPD) after our first little one was born. Unfortunately, even the pediatricians and lactation consultants were no help. Suddenly, I was a dad and a husband, who had to fight for our family and on very little sleep. So, I started to fight for my wife by getting us to doctors, professionals and lactation consultants who could help her. I started caring for the baby every weekend night. I made bottles to supplement breastfeeding and practiced a lot of kangaroo care. I learned to navigate through every room in my house in the dark while carrying a tiny bundle of our squirming girl. I played video games with my daughter in my lap. I made sure my wife made it to her PPD counseling appointments.
Creativity and Community
I realized that as a dad, I needed to get creative. We had some great board game nights with my grandmother, who would hold our little one for hours, while we played Settlers of Catan. After a few months, when we were finally ready for a date night, we decided to go and see Revenge of the Sith. We tentatively left our first-born daughter in the care of my grandmother, mom, dad, brother, his girlfriend, and his best friend. We actually were nervous that these six adults may not be able to care for our 4-month-old. The Star Wars date night was a big step for us. Eventually, we upgraded our adventures and took our bundle of joy on vacation to Virginia Beach. We even ate out at a “family friendly” restaurant. The waitress gave us great service but I think she just liked the pudgy little face in the car seat. We were happy to show the world that babies are a beautiful thing.
Despite the joys during that first year as parents, it was easy to feel helpless at times since there was nothing I could do, directly, to stop the PPD. I had to sublimate all that energy into learning baby care so that Jen could do the work that only she could do while also learning how to be a mom. The challenges were there but, as a new dad, I realized that my experience really was like a boxing match. You really only lose when you stop fighting.
Don’t Face Postpartum Alone
The beauty of an NFP community is knowing nobody has to face postpartum alone. There are men and women who have had success amidst the stress of postpartum. Fertility Science Institute offers Coaching during Postpartum in both English and Spanish. Check out fertilityscienceinstitute.org/coaching for more details.
Jim Volpe lives in eastern PA with his wife Jen and their five children. Jim and Jen have been a teaching couple for 18 years and Jim is a FSI coach. When not teaching NFP, Jim enjoys board games, video games, splitting wood, and software engineering.