I recently had a pre-term baby and much of our lives have been spent in the NICU. Since then I’ve noticed the nurses, doctors and lactation consultants expect my husband to be a poor father to our baby. It irks me. For example, whenever the doctors or nurses come to talk to us about our baby they always speak to me only. They only ask me about the baby’s feeding habits. The nurses are surprised when my hubby gets up to change the diaper and does well with it. The lactation consultants ask me about my milk supply even though he is the one processing and keeping record of volumes. It is like they expect men to be uninvolved and distant. It is a shame.
I wonder if any other Offbeat Mamas with loving, supportive and nurturing male partners experience the same thing with medical professionals? How do they handle it? — Amy
First, as a fellow parent of a preemie, I can say this has nothing to do with your child being premature and everything to do with societal norms and traditions — my husband has TOTALLY had to deal with this. Our NICU was actually awesome about addressing both of us every time they spoke to us, but the nurses at our son’s pediatrician’s office haven’t been.
I think part of the reason behind this is that doctors and nurses see a lot of moms. I kind of nerdily (I have a BA in Sociology, guys, I can’t help it) pay attention to this at my son’s doctor’s office: a lot more moms or female caregivers accompany their child to appointments. I don’t know if this is because of work schedules (probably) or dudes just aren’t interested (I doubt that’s the case across the board), but whatever the reason — it is what it is. I also think that societal norms dictate that this is what is “supposed” to happen — women take care of the babies.
In our experience it’s not terribly hard to politely, but effectively, turn the tide. My husband has been able to come to almost every single appointment our son has had, which has helped tremendously — he’s also taken him in on his own a few times. If we’re in an appointment and the nurse or pediatrician repeatedly directs questions at me, I’ll very intentionally defer to my husband. Like, if I’ve been talking about cold symptoms and they ask if he’s been coughing, I’ll look at Sean and say, “Hey, do you remember him coughing?” and then I’ll let him speak. We also make sure my husband and I both hold our son at different points while in the office — that way they’ll look at each of us while we’re all talking.