Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband. I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.
During labor, no one took care of my husband. And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me. So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.
It remained the same after the birth. As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed. And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.
Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me. And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”
To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his. While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me. While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me. While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me. He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent. His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.
And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.
I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are. They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through. There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.
But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man. Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these. The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.
The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man. There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter. But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.
Don’t forget about the father.
Ask him how he is doing. Ask him how he is feeling. Ask him what support he needs. Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole. Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.