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A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

by Jeremy Martin-Weber, Relationship and parenting coach and dad of 8

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A Letter to Non-Birthing Partners

 

Congratulations, you’re having a baby! Or have recently had a baby. Or maybe it was a long time ago. Whatever it is for you, congrats! Having a baby is a wonderful thing that changes you forever. Even as the non-birthing parent, there is a lot of change when you welcome a whole new entire human being into the world.

That’s a good thing! Not an easy thing but still a good thing. 

A lot of the time, energy, and focus has likely been lavished on your partner and the baby growing in their body. That’s understandable – growing babies is a big deal! You may feel unsure about your role in all this or how to best be engaged in caring for your new baby when they’re here, let alone before or even as they are being born. I’m no expert but I’ve been there myself, 8 times now. There’s always a learning curve to becoming a new parent. As the non-birthing partner expecting a new baby your role isn’t relegated to being on the side-lines, you have an active and important part to play.

In the partnered life, most responsibilities can be approached and divided between partners through a conversation based on each person’s strengths, interests, skills, talents, availability, and so on. It rarely comes down to who’s capable – most people are capable of handling most responsibilities – they may not want to, but they can. It’s completely possible to divvy up those responsibilities through conversation that leads to an agreement about who does what. 

There’s one area in particular where, for many, it simply can’t play out that way: growing, birthing, and breastfeeding babies. 

Typically, one partner does all that, and the other partner does… what? Puts the crib together? Smokes a cigar? 

Well, from one non-birthing partner to another, I can tell you that there are many ways for you to be involved that go beyond putting a crib together and maybe fertilizing an egg (or ovum, to be exact). 

For all the books and articles and even classes for the birthing parent, there’s not a lot for the non-birthing parent. So what exactly do you do? Besides wait for the kid to grow up and then you get to be the “fun parent?” (Hint: don’t do that, it won’t serve you, your partner, or your child well.)

What is the nonbirthing partner or dad role with a new baby?
The most important thing you can do is to regularly tell your partner that you want to be as involved as possible and then demonstrate that by being present, interested, curious, and active (that means taking the initiative and actually doing some stuff instead of waiting around to be invited or told what to do). Listen to your partner about what they actually need and want – don’t do something they don’t care for and expect appreciation and praise. The demands on them are massive, don’t make it even more. The biggest difference between you and your partner is that they don’t actually have a choice but to think about having a baby – their body is literally changing every day to make that possible. It serves as a constant reminder. And eventually, it’s not just their body that reminds them, it’s the little body inside their body that reminds them too! You, on the other hand, have a choice. And it comes down to the choice of being involved, or missing out, and it takes effort. Which, translated into your partner’s perspective means that they’re either going through this experience without you or together with you. Don’t wait. No matter how far along the pregnancy is or how old the baby is, it’s not too late to start demonstrating that you want to be involved – the longer you wait the harder it will be, so back to this: don’t wait. You don’t have to know everything. You don’t even have to know anything. You’ll figure it out together. Don’t expect your partner to manage you, you’re not an employee they have to work to direct, be a partner by being proactive.

Following is a list of some of the ways you can be more involved:

PREGNANCY

  • Don’t wait. Demonstrate that you want to be involved now, and every day. 
  • Tell your partner that you want to hear about what it’s like for them to be pregnant. 
  • Tell them that they’re not a nuisance for sharing about their aches and pains and the special parts. 
  • Massage them to help with the aches, but also for connection, and to help relax them. 
  • Get informed about pregnancy, birth, and babies beyond what your partner is willing to share. 
  • Don’t get cocky about what you think you know about growing a baby in your body. No matter how much you think you know, you still aren’t the one experiencing it in real time. 
  • Listen.
  • Be willing to talk about pregnancy, birth, and babies with your partner as often as they want to. It may feel like you’re talking about it all the time, and that’s all you two talk about anymore. GOOD. It won’t last forever, but your partner doesn’t get breaks from being pregnant, so you can deal too. 
  • As a matter of fact, don’t expect your partner to always be the one to bring it up. You go ahead and start that conversation too. Let your partner be the one to say that they want to talk about something else for once – they will, if they get a chance to talk about it enough. This demonstrates your invested interest in your partner, their experience, and the baby.
  • Be a more attentive partner. Offer to do more for your partner. 
  • Tell them they’re beautiful. 
  • Don’t forget romance – keep doing the stuff that reminds you of your love for each other. And it’s ok if that turns into talking about babies. It’s just the deal. 
  • As your partner gets closer to birth and things get harder for them to do, you do more of those things – unless your partner doesn’t want you to. 
  • Don’t coddle your partner, or treat them like they’re sick. Let them tell you when they need to do less. You can ask them about it, but don’t tell them what they can and can’t do. 
  • Talk about the birth. What they want. How you want to be involved. Discuss a birth plan together. 
  • Go to prenatal appointments with them whenever possible and rearrange your schedule to do so. 
  • When they start nesting, do all the things that they say need to be done in order for this baby to arrive in a safe space. It doesn’t matter if some of those things don’t make sense to you. They matter to your partner. 
  • Welcome all of your partner’s feelings. Listen and validate your partner’s experience. 
  • Pick out baby clothes together. 
  • Prepare for the birth together. 
  • Go to the birth classes. 
  • Go to the new baby classes. 
  • Talk with your partner about what you’re both looking forward to, what you fear, how you feel. 
  • Be more present. 
  • Your partner will need more time to be in their own head to sort out what they’re experiencing and how they feel about it, and just be in the moment. Do what you can to help make that happen – more responsibilities around the house, more cooking, meal planning, etc. 
  • If you smell bad to her because of what you eat, don’t eat that again until after the birth and don’t take it personally- pregnancy hormones can create the nose of a bloodhound. 

 

BIRTH

  • More than any other time in this experience of bringing a baby into the world, labor and birth needs to be all about your partner. Your job is to support your partner. 
  • Do everything you can to allow your partner to focus on the work their body is doing – in other words, minimize distractions, and don’t be a distraction. 
  • Let your partner call all the shots. 
  • Do what they say they need. 
  • Remind them of aspects of the Birth Plan as needed. 
  • Go to bat for them. If there needs to be a conversation about the Birth Plan or what your partner wants with a nurse/doctor/midwife or other birth attendant, you do it. Run interference when needed. 
  • Encourage your partner. 
  • Ask them if what you’re doing is what they need but don’t be needy about getting accolades that you’re doing the right thing.
  • Massage them when they need it. 
  • Keep your hand where they directed you to put it, and don’t move it! You’ll never put it back exactly where it was before. 
  • Tell them you love them. 
  • Say affirmations to them (you’ll want to have discussed them beforehand). 

 

NEW BABY

  • Support your birthing partner as they recover from birth. Encourage them to rest. Do everything you can for them so they feel like they can focus on their healing. 
  • Take on all of the household responsibilities, and it’s ok for the house to not be perfect. That doesn’t mean that it’s ok to just let the house go entirely. Dishes still need to be done. Laundry. Trash needs to go out. The house still needs to be clean, even if it’s messier. 
  • Spend time with your partner.
  • Bond with your baby as you change their diaper. 
  • Your partner gets to feed your baby – you get to enjoy watching them. At some point you may have more of a role in actively feeding but it usually takes WAY more work to pump than to nurse directly and you giving the baby a bottle could undermine lactation at first so just sit back and enjoy the bond your partner and the baby are developing through feeding.
  • Keep being attentive to what your partner needs – this will be a part of your bonding with the baby and your partner.
  • Go to baby well checks.
  • Hold your baby. 
  • Feel insecure about that, or other aspects of caring for a new baby? That’s normal. Ask your partner about it. You’ll become more comfortable and confident in time.
  • Talk about the birthing experience with your partner. Invite them to share what it was like for them, what they liked, didn’t like, what surprised them. 

 

As you can see, there’s plenty to do to not only demonstrate that you want to be involved, but to actually BE involved and strengthen your connection with both your partner and your new baby. Do it. Jump in. Don’t wait. You won’t regret it. Nobody ever looks back and says they regret the time they spent loving their loved ones. This time and stage may be consuming in the moment but it really is so brief. Neglecting your role in this time is something you’ll never be able to undo and could damage your relationship with your partner. You matter in all this, don’t minimize the impact you have in this time by not fully being present and participating to connect with your partner and baby.

Martin-Weber Coaching

Jeremy Martin-Weber, relationship family, and parenting coach has been married to his wife Jessica Martin-Weber for 24 years and is the father of 8 children. His background includes music performance, teaching, non-profit director, mentor, and running a non-profit coffee shop. To support as many families in their relationship goals as is possible, Jeremy co-created We’re All Human Here and helps administrate The Leaky Boob in addition to his work as a relationship and family coach. For a free coaching consult, sign up here: https://bit.ly/3akaRR7.

Breastfeeding and COVID-19 Research and Resources

Updated June 19, 2020
Compiled by The Leaky Boob, theleakyboob.com, Facebook.com/TheLeakyBoob

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This resource list is an evolving work in progress. If you are aware of some resources or materials that should be included, please comment with the link.

 

Health Organizations Recommended Practices and Protocols:

Considerations for Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

 

Evaluation and Management Considerations for Neonates At Risk for COVID-19 – Caring for Newborns

  • CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

“…the risks and benefits of temporary separation of the mother from her baby should be discussed with the mother by the healthcare team, and decisions about temporary separation should be made in accordance with the mother’s wishes.”

 

Breastfeeding advice during the COVID-19 outbreak

  • WHO (World Health Organization)

 

ABM STATEMENT ON CORONAVIRUS 2019 (COVID-19)

  • ABM (Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine)

 

Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns: Advice for mothers during COVID-19

  • Public Health Agency of Canada

 

Clinical Management of COVID-19

  • WHO (World Health Organization)

 

Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies, including COVID-19

  • United States Breastfeeding Committee 

 

 

Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding and COVID-19 Specific Resources:

 

SARS‐CoV‐2 and human milk: What is the evidence?

  • Wiley Online Library
    • Kimberly A. Lackey, Ryan M. Pace, Janet E. Williams, Lars Bode, Sharon M. Donovan, Kirsi M Järvinen, Antti E. Seppo, Daniel J. Raiten, Courtney L. Meehan, Mark A. McGuire, Michelle K. McGuire

 

New Studies Investigate How COVID-19 May Impact Breast Milk and Pregnancy 

  • University of California San Diego School of Medicine – Michelle Brubaker

 

Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records.

  • The Lancet
    • Huijun Chen, PhD – Juanjuan Guo, MS – Chen Wang, PhD – Fan Luo, PhD – Xuechen Yu, MD – Prof Wei Zhang, PhD – Prof Jiafu Li, MS – Prof Dongchi Zhao, PhD – Dan Xu, MS – Qing Gong, MS – Jing Liao, PhD – Prof Huixia Yang, MD – Prof Wei Hou, PhD – Prof Yuanzhen Zhang, BS 

 

Antibodies in Infants Born to Mothers With COVID-19 Pneumonia

  • Jama Network
    • Hui Zeng, MD – Chen Xu, BS – Junli Fan, MD – Yueting Tang, PhD – Qiaoling Deng, MD – Wei Zhang, MD, PhD – Xinghua Long, MD, PhD

 

Guidelines for Healthcare Facility Management of Perinatal Care of Persons with COVID-19 of Suspected COVID-19

  • Bryna Sampey

 

Skin-to-Skin Care and COVID-19: downloadable file

 

Breastfeeding and coronavirus disease-2019: Ad interim indications of the Italian Society of Neonatology endorsed by the union of European Neonatal & Perinatal Societies

  • Wiley Online Library
    • Riccardo Davanzo – Guide Moro – Fabrizio Sandri – Massimo Agosti – Corrado Moretti – Fabio Mosca

 

COVID-19, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: What We Know Is Reassuring

  • Helpful blog post with compilation of materials explained

 

Mother-Infant Contact and Breastfeeding Should Remain Top Priorities during COVID-19

  • John Hopkins Nursing, Dr. Cecília Tomori

Breastfeeding, Separation, and COVID-19 Specific Resources:

When Separation is not the Answer: Breastfeeding Mothers and Infants affected by COVID‐19

  • Wiley Online Library
    • Cecilia Tomori – Karleen Gribble – Aunchalee E.L. Palmquist – Mija-Tesse Ververs – Marelle S. Gross

 

COVID-19: Separating Infected Mothers from Newborns: Weighing the Risks and Benefits

  • Harvard Medical School – Melissa Bartick, MD, MS, FABM

 

Mother-Baby Separation for COVID-19 Not Evidence-Based, Experts Say

  • MedScape – Troy Brown, RN 

 

Should New Mothers With COVID-19 Be Separated From Their Newborns

  • The Hastings Center
    • Stowe Locke Teti – Christy Cummings – Louise P. King – Cynthia C. Coleman – Kayla Tabari – Christine Mitchell 

 

 

Maternal Mental Health, Separation, and COVID-19 Specific Resources:

COVID-19 and maternal mental health: Are we getting the balance right? 

  • MedRxiv (The Preprint Server for Health Sciences) – CHS (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory – BMJ – Yale
    • Anastasia Toplidou – Gill Thomson – Soo Downe

 

Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety and depressive symptoms in pregnant women: a preliminary study

  • Taylor & Francis Online
    • Ferit Durankuş – Erson Aksu

 

 

Breastfeeding and Separation Resources, General:

Rights of Children in Relation to Breastfeeding in Child Protection Cases: downloadable file

 

 

Helpful Breastfeeding Resources, General:

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months of life may reduce the risk of respiratory allergies and some asthma in children at the age of 6 years.

  • Wiley Online Library – Gayla Bigman

 

 

Working with Health Care Providers Resources:

Breastfeeding Empowering Language in Medical Settings

  • Mom2Mom Global- Amy Smolinski

 

The SHARE Approach—Essential Steps of Shared Decisionmaking: Quick Reference Guide

  • AHRQ(Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

The SHARE Approach is a 1-day training program developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to help health care professionals work with patients to make the best possible health care decisions. It supports shared decisionmaking through the use of patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR).

 

 

Current and Ongoing Studies:

ISRHML Activities and Guidance related to COVID-19

  • ISRHML (The International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation)

 

 

Additional Resources:

Safe Handling of Containers of Expressed Human Milk in All Settings During the SARS-CoV-2(COVID-19) Pandemic

  • National Library of Medicine – National Center of Biotechnology Information
    • Kathleen A Marinelli – Robert M Lawrence

 

Publishers Provide Scholarly Content Free on Project MUSE During COVID-19 Crisis

  • Project Muse

 

Is there a resource or research you’d like to see included here? Please let us know.

 

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There is No “ME” in UterUS: A Tale of Uterine Envy

by Jamie Grayson

There are many reasons I’m jealous of women.

You can wear more clothing that shows skin in the summer and it’s still appropriate.

As long as you don’t look like a damn clown, you’re able to wear makeup to cover blemishes.

You can blame mood swings on an “Aunt Flo.”. Who the hell is she?  Why don’t I have one and why doesnt she send me birthday cards???

You can carry a child.

The other day I was on a train and a pregnant lady sat across from me.  She was wearing a skirt and tank top, so she looked like many other pregnant women I see on the train. As a matter of fact, she looked like many men I see on the subway. It’s New York. Expect the unexpected.  But then, she changed.

She moved her hands over her stomach and immediately started glowing. I shit you not. It was as if a connection had been made that no science or religion could argue about.

She is a mother.

I sat on that train trying not to cry.  Sometimes I get emotional while working with clients. The first time I see a new baby I’m usually a wreck. But that’s ok in that situation. Crying on the subway, not so much.  It has been a nutty few months and I’m just a little bit more susceptible to my feelings right now.

I realized a long time ago that I physically couldn’t carry a child. I know, it’s a shocker.  I feel completely blessed to be able to work with and around expectant and new parents daily. The greatest honor of my life was being able to spend six months in Minneapolis with my family and those two nuggets I’m obsessed with, as well as being my sister’s labor doula.  It was life-changing.

When female friends complain about something, I often respond with:    “Yeah. But I can’t get pregnant.”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I mean every single word.

I know women have to deal with many things I’ll never understand:  training bras, heels, haircuts that cost too much, highlights, menopause…the list could go on and on. However, you’ve also the ultimate blessing:  you can carry life.

I know all women cannot do this, and my heart goes out to them. That’s a topic that deserves an entire post on another site.

This goes out to the guys.

I’ve not met many guys who feel this way, so I definitely feel as if I’m in the minority.  Most guys I work with or meet are actually ecstatic that they’ll never be pregnant. I honestly cannot say I blame them for feeling that way, but I’m wired differently.  I dont know when these feelings started. Was it the birth education center?  Maybe. Was it working with my clients?  Mayhaps. I do know that one item I hold near and dear is a video of my sister, Jennifer, and I walking into the delivery room after my sister Olivia was born.  I remember sitting outside and hearing her cries for the first time. Walking in that room blew my mind. What my 16 year-old brain could only understand as something growing inside my mom was now here.  I could touch her and hold her and hug her.  For sixteen years she has constantly amazed/bewildered/aggravated/enraged/enlightened me. She’s my rat girl (long story) and always will be  Sixteen years later I’m amazed at what she’s become, and thrilled by what my youngest sister, Elizabeth, continues to be.

I’m starting to ramble.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be that connected to a life. I’ll never know what it’s like to feel someone kick me from inside.  My loins will never produce my offspring. Women always complain about “the curse of Eve.”

What about the Curse of Adam??

 

Jamie Grayson, known as TheBabyGuyNYC, is a nationally-recognized baby gear expert and baby planner, and has been featured on Martha Stewart, Today Show, and several regional news programs.  Traveling the country speaking at expectant parent events and product launches, writing forStrollerTraffic.com as well as other media outlets, and working with expectant families takes up most of his time–although he still makes time for a movie and a cocktail on occasion.  Questions?  He’s always available on Facebook or Twitter.