Tips for Communicating Postpartum to Your Partner
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Postpartum is a huge transition. Our partner doesn’t understand all we are going through. It’s not surprising that marriage can be difficult in the midst of a new baby.
The truth is they are also undergoing a huge transition AND we can use a few intentional tools to shed light on the things we are experiencing and needing as moms. By being purposeful about communicating your postpartum experience to your partner, you can improve the postpartum relationship and be a team in postpartum recovery.
When we talk about postpartum, people often assume it can be boiled down to postpartum sex, postpartum depression and your postpartum body. Yes, these are factors, but there are MANY MORE. Helping our partners to understand the wide array of transitions we are experiencing, AND normalizing the reality that postpartum is more than just 6-12 weeks, we can have less misunderstandings and resentment and more of a team approach to this new way of family.
We can all agree that:
In postpartum, a lot changes from the start and continues to change for weeks, months and years beyond.
Limited time together as a couple can cause added stress.
Shifting the focus on the baby means less focus on one another.
Sleep deprivation is hard on everyone involved.
You can tell your partner, in a moment of frustration, that he (sub she if applicable) doesn’t understand. He probably already knows this, though, and your reminder doesn’t help. Read on for things to try instead.
Pass Along What Is Helpful to You
Do you find yourself following social media accounts or reading blogs to help you understand your own postpartum experience?
Do you have a go-to place that you learn and normalize with other women?
Have you googled a scenario and found information on a specific webpage?
Forward this to your partner. Share with him the accounts, pages or books that have been most helpful to you.
Give him some insight to your thinking by passing along some outside insight.
(Important: This does not mean YOU do all the reading and work and pass along the cliff notes. You do NOT need to create more work for yourself. You simply pass it along and let him know that this information would be helpful for him to know and improve mutual understanding.)
Topics that you may want to pass along to your partner include:
Breastfeeding/pumping: Choosing to or not to and the implications of that
Mental load of motherhood
Deciding to return to work or not return to work
Keeping a family schedule
Society pressures women face that men usually do not (body back, milk production, always joyful)
2. Change criticism into questions
This goes for both partners- so this is something to discuss and keep coming back to. In the heat of moments, it’s easy to throw around criticisms. I’m not immune to this, but training the brain for this mental shift can save a lot of heartache and the temptation of escalated emotions. When I want to criticize my husband, I try to remember to turn it into a question. Sure, I might think he’s totally sucking at something… but let me give him the benefit of an explanation and his perspective. Usually, this insight allows us to connect. I ask the same of him- what he might see as an explosive wife might be a postpartum mom who feels lost in her escalated emotions that she doesn’t understand but is surely tied to a huge hormonal shift. Asking questions gives us both the chance to understand. Partners who understand postpartum more become not only better parenting partners, but better advocates in the workplace, communities and beyond.
3. Create a code word/phrase for when you can’t speak clearly.
Sometimes we know that what we are going to say isn’t what we want to say. Sometimes a question or comment can provoke us to say it anyways… here enters the need for a code word or phrase. Having a key word or phrase allows you to say “Not right now” to your partner and create a barrier. Give yourself the time to be in your emotions without reacting on them… and then plan a time to talk when you feel more rational and at peace.
4. Share Lists and Resources:
Trying to juggle doctor appointments, baby meds, grocery needs and the ongoing to-do list? Let me tell you right now- you do not have the mental capacity for this. You do not need to carry that alone and your partner most likely doesn’t expect you to. Using a few resources to share the load can help everyone breathe a little more.
Share a digital grocery list that makes it easy to add when needed or know what to pick up when someone has a chance to stop at the store. We use Anylist
Have a priority-based to do list. Personally, one of my biggest triggers is my husband saying “What can I do to help?” Don’t get me wrong, the gesture is great but I don’t want to have to mentally think through what’s a priority. By using tiered lists, either of us can easily see what’s most important when spare time arises. We use Todoist
5. Be Mindful of the Language You are Using
The way WE talk about our postpartum frames the way we encourage others to talk about our postpartum. If we want a cultural and societal shift, it has to start in our homes and this starts with how we talk to our partners. Take out the word “babysitting” when it is truly shared childcare. Take out phrases like “help me out by doing the dishes” and replace with “we need the dishes done.” Instead of saying “I’m just feeling crazy right now” say something like “I’m feeling overwhelmed with my emotions and I am not my best self.”
If we want the narrative, the societal expectations and norms to shift… we have to make these small shifts ourselves. Partners who understand postpartum more become not only better parenting partners, but better advocates in the workplace, communities and beyond.
So now I know what you’re thinking- this shit takes work. I know. I tried to find loopholes and couldn’t… but I leave you with these tips in hopes that you can feel more understood and supported in your postpartum- specifically from your partner. A supported mom is an empowered mom and empowered moms change the world.
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Are you soon to be a mom?
Are you in the thick of your own postpartum experience?
Could education, normalization and support bring you a better experience?
Maybe Postpartum Together is for you. This 10-week group coaching program (virtual) helps women just like you to be informed, empowered and together through postpartum.