Awhile back, a friend and I were flipping through the scrapbook from A’s first year of life and she landed on this picture and just stopped.
“Wait… how old was A. here?”
“Five weeks,” I answered.
“You looked like THAT five weeks post-partum? Seriously, woman, what is your secret?”
(This, like all photos in this post, is a “pic of a pic” and, thus, is not great. But I think you’ll get the point.)
I’m sharing that exchange not because I want to be all braggy-pants, like, “Heck, yeah, I snapped right back after giving birth! I’m just like those celebs in their post-partum bikinis!” Um, no. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But, I do want want to address what my friend was seeing as she flipped through the early months of A’s life.
For one thing, I was clearly happy. Of course, one would HOPE I’d be happy at the baptism of my child, right? That’s fairly unremarkable. We’ll look a little more closely at what was going on with me in just a moment.
For now, though, let’s talk about something else that became readily apparent as we flipped pages: there were a ton of pictures of A. being snuggled, carried, and transported through everyday life– by Daddy. These weren’t posed shots of family walks on the weekend. They weren’t evening cuddle shots when Daddy finally got home to help with the bath– no, they were simply random candids capturing basic, everyday life– and the father, the breadwinner, is in a whole lot of them.
When our son was born, my husband and I were EACH given eight weeks of paid leave. As it turns out, I never went back and have made my main job keeping the home and caring for our little ones. My husband, however, absolutely did go back– but not before he had two whole months home with his newborn baby.
This meant that he had ample time to connect with this new little person. He didn’t have to settle for the couple of busy hours between supper and bedtime that so many new parents are given– he could sit on the couch and watch a game while holding his baby. He could change him, take him to the grocery store, or juggle him while scarfing lunch– he experienced the whole “newborn” package, if you will, and that was good for so many reasons.
Beyond the abundant bonding between Dad and baby (not to be discounted!), paid paternity leave meant that I had another adult in the home to help– and not just ANY adult: my co-parent.
I had my post-partum check-up after that first baby a mere 4 1/2 weeks after he was born. When my obstetrician walked in, she stopped short–
“You look AMAZING,” she said. “What is your secret???”
And I told her, with perfect honesty, “Eight weeks of paid paternity leave.”
Let’s look at that (kind of blurry) picture one more time, with a few things highlighted.
1. Bright eyes– These were thanks to plenty of rest! That’s much easier to do when you have help!
2.Glowing skin– I didn’t need makeup, though I could maybe have used a dusting of powder on that shiny complexion. I was healthy and nourished and it showed all over my face.
3. Upright posture– Notice the lack of slump? I wasn’t exhausted! I wasn’t weary! I was, truly, good to go and feeling great.
4. Minimal excess weight– At that post-partum check-up, I weighed in at two pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. I had gained 29 pounds in the pregnancy, so it’s not like I had nothing at all to lose. But, with proper rest and good meals, I honestly didn’t have to work to lose. My body did what it should because I could care for it properly.
*And, hey, see that happy guy? Well, he knew he had three more whole weeks home with that sweet baby boy!
Finally, I think the paternity leave my husband had helped him to better understand “where my days went.” Once he DID go back to work, he had a very good idea of what was going on at home. He never questioned the cleanliness of our home or the state of my dress– he truly knew what it was like to care for a baby and, thus, was better able to relate to my days.
Paternity leave is not the norm in our country. PAID paternity leave is nearly non-existent. But, if my experience is any indication of the many, many benefits, I truly hope to see a shift in that some day.