Pregnancy is hard, as is being a new mother, and sometimes it feels to many young mothers like no one is really checking in with them and making sure they don’t feel they have to handle everything on their own.
Meghan Markle discussed this reality in a recent documentary and now, one dad has shared a letter to his “24-year-old childless self” in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.
Ted Gonder just saw the birth of his third child, and while on paternity leave, he took some time to think about what he learned over the time he’s been a husband, and a dad.
The wisdom he wanted to impart to his younger self, pre-kids, is a powerful lesson to new dads and future dads alike.
His lessons to his younger self:
Now a 29-year-old father of three, Ted reflected on everything he didn’t know before he became a dad.
To kick things off, Ted acknowledged all the work his wife Franziska went through in carrying their children to term.
One big lesson he gleaned from that: “Wifey carried baby IN her belly for 9 months. So you carry baby ON your belly for 9 months every chance you get.
Not only does it help her recover but it bonds you to your kid more than imaginable
Ted also took the time to acknowledge how physically draining breastfeeding is for a new mother, encouraging partners to take over as much diaper duty as possible.
“You will get over the grossness fast,” he counseled. “And you will prevent imbalances and resentment in the relationship.”
As an added bonus, if other new moms complain about how unsupportive their husbands are, “your wife will be bragging about you.”
Treat your partner
But Ted realizes it’s not just about helping to care for your baby. To support his wife more directly, Ted advises: “Make her the decaf coffee every morning. Even if she leaves it cold and forgets to drink it most mornings because she falls back asleep while you’re working or (later) taking the kids to school.
She was up all night feeding the baby so help start her day in a way that helps her reset.
Acknowledge her strength and beauty
Ted also noted that pregnancy, labor, and birth all take their toll on a new mom’s body, and that can seriously affect confidence.
It’s important to “tell her she is beautiful and help her see that in the moments when she is feeling most self-critical and hopeless about her body,” Ted noted.
He suggested reminding her that she’s a “superhero” who “literally just moved all her organs around” to “give you a child that will be a gift to you for the rest of your life.”
Ted’s biggest takeaway
Having a baby does some major things to a woman’s hormones, so Ted advises himself to be patient and — above all — compassionate
“Remember your job is to be her rock through all of this, so toughen up and keep perspective when her tongue is sharper than you know her best self intends,” he wrote. “Normal will return soon and you want her to be grateful that you kept it together… not resentful and disappointed that you hijacked her emotions by making her problems yours.”
Gonder shared he wished he had been able to find some “good dad advice” along his own journey, so he’s providing that for other dads now.
Ted’s personal insight into what we would have done differently in the past 5 years is great, but what do childcare professionals think?
We turned to an expert to see how parents can build off of Ted’s letter to himself.
How to be a supportive partner
1. Do the heavy lifting
Ted was spot-on about helping lighten the figurative load for a new mom, but doing the literal heavy lifting is a big help as well.
“During pregnancy, her body including hormonal influxes can lead to back and pelvic pain. To help prevent your wife from developing aches and pains, try to take over the heavy lifting like grocery bags, lifting other children, moving furniture, cleaning and or laundry,” said Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with more than 30 years’ of experience treating prenatal and postpartum women.
2. Give her massages
Acknowledging and celebrating what a new mother went through is just the first step. A more hands-on approach will help as well.
“Tell your younger self to offer your wife a massage when she is sore during and after pregnancy or take care of the baby while she goes for a massage or physical therapy sessions to relieve back pain,” said Ryan.
3. Food and diaper duty
Changing diapers isn’t the only part of carrying for your baby that you can take over, especially to help a new mother get some much-needed sleep.
“One thing you can do with a newborn is to have your wife go right to sleep after a 9-10p.m. feed and you take over caring for the baby in another room for the next few hours. When the baby wakes up around midnight, you feed and change the baby. Then when the baby wakes up 2 to 3 hours later your wife can resume feeding the baby. That way she will be able to get 4 to 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep,” said Ryan.
4. As much emotional support as possible
“Eating nutritious food on a regular schedule will help her feel more grounded and less cranky. If she is busy nursing the baby, you can make her a sandwich to eat while breastfeeding to help keep her blood sugar levels from plummeting. If you don’t know how to cook, try to buy some prepared foods that she likes and have it ready for her to eat,” said Ryan.
You can keep some healthy snacks ready in the refrigerator like cut up pieces of cheese and fruits.
5. Make sure to feed a new mom
As Ted mentioned, new mothers are recovering physically and totally sleep deprived. Along with compliments and thanks, compassion and understanding are the ultimate aid.
“Understand that she may be short tempered and cranky. If you respond even-tempered and ask her how she thinks you can help her she will find that very helpful. Don’t try to guess what she needs you to do. Keep a clear line of communication open,” said Ryan.