It is no question that life changes drastically with the arrival of a baby. Everyone understands the huge responsibility that comes with bringing a baby into this world; however, you don’t realize just exactly how difficult and time consuming it can be until baby has arrived.
As a new mom your entire focus is on keeping this tiny human being alive. There is hardly any time to bathe and feed yourself, much less to strengthen your marriage.
Unfortunately, the stress, sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion that comes from taking care of a newborn can greatly weaken a marriage.
Thankfully for us we had this understanding going into this journey of parenthood; however, just because you know what is coming does not mean it makes it any easier. For us the changes that were the most difficult to face as a couple would be:
No down/quiet time to focus on our relationship: In the first two months there were days where we barely said two words to each other. Not because we were angry or upset, simply because we were so focused on keeping this tiny human alive. Hubby would come home from work and then the next few hours were filled with trying to feed and calm baby (a screaming child does not exactly help with good communication). Then once baby was finally asleep we didn’t want to waste any of the precious time and promptly fell asleep ourselves. Sleep deprivation is no joke!
Hormones, hormones, hormones: There are no end to them those first few weeks. It’s hard for hubby to deal with a crying baby and a crying wife!
Personal expectations: All of the sudden there is the switch from wife to mom. The change of your mind and heart to mommy comes immediately and the same thing happens for dad. Each of you are going to have expectations about how the other one will fulfill their role. Everyone’s take on parenting is different, so if it doesn’t match up those expectations it can lead to tension. Also, there are expectations when it comes to baby. After following all that advice you read from Pinterest and parenting books and baby still will not get into a routine or go to sleep easily…that can cause some not so nice feelings to rise to the surface.
It’s not the end of the world! Yes, the changes are immense. Yes, it will be hard! However, there are some steps you can take within your marriage before and after baby comes to help keep your bond strong.
Communication is key!
As I mentioned communication can be quite trick once baby has arrived. One simple thing you can do to prepare beforehand is to discuss what your roles are as parents.
- What fears do you have going into parenthood?
- What expectations do you have for yourself and each other as a parent?
- How will we raise him/her (discipline, schooling, etc.)?
Knowing these ahead of time can save feelings of disappointment or frustration later on.
Once baby has come and it is a bit more difficult to maintain that good line of communication, simply because of the time and energy it takes to take care of baby. One small, yet important thing you can do is to make sure whatever communication you do have is characterized by love and encouragement. It is so easy to snap or say something you don’t mean when you haven’t slept and are frustrated by a crying baby. Keep your words and tone loving and it will go a great way to keeping your marriage strong.
Make it a priority to spend time together.
This goes hand in hand with good communication. It is so key to let the other person know that they still have your love and attention even when it all seems to be directed towards baby. Whether its bundling up baby in the stroller and taking a walk together, getting takeout and watching a movie once baby has gone to sleep, or finding a few minutes for coffee together before work, any little thing you can do to spend some quality time with each other is great!
Those little moments do go a long way towards strengthening your relationship, but do try to give yourselves a date night once a week or every two weeks. Husbands can begin to feel a little left out when all mom’s attention is on baby…and as a mom it’s hard to turn our attention away from baby when we are with them. So let family or friends have the blessing of watching your little one while you two can get away and focus on each other without any distractions. It’s amazing how refreshed and closer after a night out together.
You are a team!
The last thing you want to be doing is arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes or do the laundry while baby is crying in the bedroom. Before baby comes set up a plan for the two of you as to how you can work together to get all those household chores done. This will of course differ for each couple and whether or not both parent’s will be working, but get this done before baby comes and it will make a world of difference.
Be a team when it comes to taking care of baby. Sometimes dad’s can begin to feel a little left out, especially if mom is breastfeeding. It may seem to them they never get a chance to take care of their little one. One thing that worked for us was for me to pump once in a while so that daddy could give baby a bottle. This allows dad to feel like he’s helping mom, bond with baby…and even allows mom a few minutes to go get a nice hot shower! If baby is having a rough night share the responsibility of staying up. Let one person sleep while the other soothes baby and then switch after a few hours.
It is the norm for a new mom to feel a bit discouraged with the way pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding have changed her body. Couple that with exhaustion and the desire to have some personal space after having a baby attached to you the majority of the day it can be hard for couples to keep the physical aspect of their marriage strong. It is important to sit down and discuss your thoughts and fears about how your body has changed and to discuss new approaches to intimacy. Although scheduling a time for intimacy might be unromantic it can help to find the time to reconnect and rekindle the pre-baby passion
Respect the hormones.
As moms we need to realize that we are not going to feel exactly like ourselves after birth. Along with the physical changes come a flood of hormones that can tend to take control of how we feel. Realize that it’s going to take some time to be “normal” and being weepy or sensitive right now is okay.
The key is to realize when your hormones are causing you to feel this way and clue hubby in. It can be very helpful for him to know “I’m feeling sad because of the hormones” and not because you think he did something to make you feel bad. It will allow him to help your through this time by supporting and loving you instead of feeling down or defensive.
Taking the time before baby comes to talk about these different areas will help to make the transition from being just husband and wife to parents a bit more smooth. Being on the same page in these areas will allow you to be able to love, support, and grow your relationship even when you are in the trenches of parenthood.