"Are you sure your water broke?"

Jun 14, 2024
BY Partum Health Care TEam
infant sleeping in dad's arms, shutterstock

“Eight weeks premature?”

“How long in the NICU?”

"What do I do now?"

New parents ask themselves countless questions; my wife and I asked these, and more, when our twins were born. 

I’ve been open about how nothing had gone to plan before and during the birth of our twins, and how nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when we brought those two <6 lb babies home, with my wife still recovering after a traumatic birth. 

A little over five years ago, after one month in the NICU we brought home our twins. This photo was taken on our first day home as a family, I remember thinking how small, fragile and yet beautiful they were. I also remember thinking it was my responsibility to support them and my partner unconditionally on the unknown journey ahead.

As a partner I, like every partner, was doing my best to roll with the unexpected and try to figure things out one day at a time, while supporting, nourishing and loving my family. Through sleepless nights sharing feeding and changing duties, learning through messy diaper accidents, mastering the baby burrito, endless rocking chair sessions and of course snuggles we did the work.

Looking back, I was in survival mode and experiencing a wide range of emotions that I overlooked in the sprint and marathon that is new parenthood. I think it’s important to share the very real feelings a non-birthing partner goes through. We don’t talk about it enough.

One would think, after several years of trying to become parents and rounds of unsuccessful fertility treatments, I would have come up the learning curve and been more prepared to become a parent. The reality was I had only gotten as far as how to potentially conceive with my partner. The first half of our journey- the path to becoming pregnant had left us pretty emotionally drained, and in hindsight, left us with less energy to focus on possibilities that a twin pregnancy could bring.

Like them being born eight weeks early.

In fact, I was joking about my lack of preparation with friends just the night before my wife’s water broke. 

In that first month after welcoming our newborns, rather than feeling joy and excitement as a new parent, I found myself fearful and anxious, with few “actions” I could take to improve the circumstances. 

My wife had faced two life threatening complications and an unknown recovery period.  I was afraid for her wellbeing–both physical and emotional.  My kids were navigating an unknown future as preemies.  

I didn’t know if I would be up to the task of stepping up as a parent in that position. While I felt so blessed to have the support and resources we’d had up to those points, I also felt like it wasn’t nearly enough; yet I felt guilty asking for help from anyone.

“Shouldn’t I be able to handle this on my own?”

“Isn’t my privilege enough so that I shouldn’t ask for more help?”

“How do other people do this?”

“Am I the only one?”

There were moments of incredible joy; the first time my son wrapped his tiny hand around my pinky; the first time I could hold my daughter on my chest for a snuggle. But fear and anxiety dominated the earliest days of their lives and the eventual (fortunate) transition home was clouded by doubt and overwhelm.

Sleepless nights and the deep exhaustion new parents experience when having to suddenly keep another human alive only compounded the complex emotions I was cycling through. Happiness existed, relief and love too, right alongside concern and a vulnerability I’d never felt before. 

In hindsight, there were a few things that I know for sure would have made things easier.

First, having had a mental health specialist to talk to when I felt like I had nowhere else to turn. Someone to simply talk to and express my thoughts to besides my wife who was dealing with her own mental and physical health.

Second, a vetted, trusted night nanny to help us understand what was normal, and what wasn’t, to help watch over our children as they transitioned away from 24 hour continuous monitoring, and eventually help get our kids on better sleeping patterns. 

Third, a pre-birth meeting with a lactation specialist (or any other care providers) so I wasn’t scrambling to make phone calls during some of the most stressful days of our lives.

And while my wife and I and our twins got through this unimaginably stressful time I look back and am frustrated because these resources were available. I just didn’t know that I needed them. Or where to find them. Or how to access them.

That’s why I co-founded Partum. 

Every day my team and I work to forever change the standard of care for pre- and post- partum people and their families. Bringing this service into the world isn’t nearly as traumatic as those early days with our twins were but I do cycle through plenty of emotions as the days and weeks pass by.

I’ve been thinking about what to say to all the non-birthing partners out there. Here’s what I’ve got:

If you’re feeling like it’s not as easy as you thought it would be, that’s because it’s not. Being a great parent takes a lot of work. 

Remember that to show up for your family, you also have to show up for yourself. Take the time to care for yourself, and reflect on what you need to be the parent and partner you want to be. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  If you are seeking help to be a great parent, that’s not a sign of weakness- that’s a sign of love and strength.  

If you’re reading this, you’re already doing a great job. 

Your family is lucky to have you.

About the Author

couple holding baby

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