Say … ‘Dada!’
For Baby’s first year, maybe two, Mom is tops. She’s often the ultimate source of comfort, familiarity, food and life. She is the universe.
In a typical mother-father pregnancy-to-birth family structure, Dad might find it hard to compete with the fact that Mom’s body, which was a home to Baby, now serves as an oxytocin-laden food source. Her heartbeat was Baby’s lullaby; her voice and womb-whoosh were Baby’s primordial soundtracks.
Though fathers typically love seeing the birth of a mother alongside the birth of their baby — and more often revere her place of importance rather than covet it — it’s understandable that fathers also struggle with finding a proper place in Baby’s world.
Dad is rad.
Though Mom’s voice is the dinner bell that turns Baby’s head, Dad’s voice is familiar, too. In fact, the deeper tones of Dad’s voice provide a different kind of comfort to a newborn.
I encourage expectant fathers to talk to the belly, sing through the pregnancy and make their presence known. This will help solidify the bond after birth.
Dads also have top-notch kangaroo-care skills. Skin-on-skin with the father is a different experience than with the mother. A strong, warm, somewhat hairy chest provides a different kind of nap. Mom’s chest is often seen as a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet.
Dad is often Baby’s first playmate. With Mom soothing tears and answering cues of hunger and loneliness, Dad is often at his best during Baby’s quiet alert time. Baby will mimic Dad if he sticks out his tongue. She will “chatter” back to him.
By reading and singing and playing, Dad is a top contender for Baby’s first laugh. He’s her window to the world, showing and telling and exploring in healthy opposition to Mom’s biological tendency to pull close.
Dad’s biggest job.
You may think it’s changing diapers. What’s the magic spell Mom uses to ensure that poop explosions always happen in his arms?
Diaper duty is important, but your most important job as the father is to support Mom. Yes, you’re tired too. Yes, your life has been turned upside down. Sure. However, the hormonal roller coaster that Mom is on, mixed with recovery from pregnancy and childbirth, is on a different level.
The glass of water quietly placed on the bedside table while she nurses. Doing the dishes. Organizing her magazines. Ordering her favorite pizza. Protecting her right to sanctuary — the shower. These things make her who she is. These things bring the happy tears. You’re the foundation on which she builds Baby’s universe — vibrant, glorious and well-hydrated.
You’re on deck.
We’ve talked about how Dad supports Mom and Baby, with the voice and the chest and the universe-restoring healthy snacks. The BEST part of being a Dad comes next, beyond the baby years. In the toddler years, Dad is a hero, a pony ride, a comedian, a rock star. Mom is still key, but Dad will get a turn on stage — answering the whys, building the treehouse, scooping ice cream (liberally).
Pops, enjoy the spotlight!
Jen Wittes is a marketing director, writer, certified postpartum doula and mom of two living in St. Paul.