My Husband Took Paternity Leave, and It Was the Best Thing For Our Baby — and Me

To my husband's and my surprise, our baby girl was born a little over two weeks early. Her early arrival elevated the nerves and stress I was already feeling about becoming a first-time mother. Fortunately, my husband was there to calm me down and assure me that everything was going to be okay. He's always been my rock and has helped get me through some dark times in my life. (I can't stress how thankful I am for his constant support.) So I was especially grateful when my husband was able to take paternity leave so that he wouldn't miss a second of our baby's first month of life.

The first time I held my baby in my arms, I remember feeling pure happiness. I immediately fell in love with her; she became my entire world. I also remember spending a lot of time feeling overwhelmed and completely exhausted. At the beginning, my days and nights blended together into one never-ending state of existence. It was a whirlwind of breastfeeding, pumping, diaper changing, and rocking my baby in my arms — I loved every second, but it was all-consuming.

Although I said that I was fine, my husband had a way of knowing when I was about to hit my limit. He'd insist that I rest while he took over. He'd take care of the baby, cook meals for us, do the laundry, and clean the house, so I could rest and recharge. Thank goodness he made me do it, because I definitely needed it!

He provided support in other ways, too. I was determined to breastfeed for the entire first year, but my baby had other plans. She had difficulty latching from the very beginning and as a result, she was losing weight quickly. She already had a low birth weight, so I was extremely worried and distraught. I was a mess of emotions, but my husband helped me through it all. We visited our hospital's newborn club, met with lactation consultants, and learned new techniques to help with breastfeeding until we finally were able to get our baby on track to a healthy weight. I'm so thankful my husband was there with me during this difficult time. Although the strategies we learned did help me provide breast milk for my baby until her first birthday, I still needed to supplement with formula for the second half of that year. To a certain extent, I felt like I was failing my baby when I had to supplement, which my husband quickly helped me realize was a completely absurd way to think. He helped me understand that there was nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, he showed me that I should be proud of myself for doing everything I could to make sure our baby was getting the nourishment she needed, whether it was from my breast milk or formula.

During my husband's paternity leave, I remember frequently catching my husband lovingly gazing at our baby as he held her in his arms. He'd sing to her and tell her stories. I was seeing my husband in a whole new light. He was a dad now, and it made me fall in love with him even more. I am so glad my husband took paternity leave, because he was able to bond with our newborn just like I was. Although there were times when life seemed hectic for us, life was always beautiful. We shared so many memorable moments with our baby, ones that will remain in our hearts forever.