The joy a mother and father experience at the birth of their first baby is unparalleled in this universe. But what happens to you as a couple?
Even though a baby is the greatest blessing and gift, nothing can prepare you for the toll a baby can take on a relationship. Suddenly you both have to cope with a new dynamic, not only in the domestic sense of house work, paying bills, tending to all baby’s needs but also the new dynamic in the love relationship between you and your partner.
It is never exactly the way it was. Your friends all seem to cope so lovely. Happy pictures on Facebook (oh, the illusionist’s book!), smiling, loving couple with bouncing bonny baby. The epitome of what a new family should be. Cue some white doves ascending into the heavens, wings flapping, frangipani flowers floating down to the meadow.
And then there’s you
And then there is you. Frizzled. Hair dirty in a bun. Pyjamas smelling of baby puke. Dishes that are piled up in the zink. “Who must do those dishes?” asks Mum to no-one in particular, all by herself in the kitchen. “Must I do the dishes and clean up and prepare food and feed the baby, all at once?!” We all know at whom she’s aiming this lamentation at… He hears her lamenting but by goodness, he is just so utterly TIRED. Plus, he feels a bit left out and sad also, because what happened to those special hugs he would get from her for no reason. Surely she mustn’t love him anymore. That must be it. Everything is now about the baby, and I miss my wife, he thinks to himself – a tiny bit begrudingly. Can you relate?
The good and bad news
Moomie did some research on this topic, and some very interesting notions came to light. It turns out – and here is the good and the bad news – EVERYBODY struggles like crazy after baby is born! The first two years wreaks havoc on many a loving relationship. Yes, most new moms really despise their partners at some stage or another during this time. Most partners shy away to escape the reality of opposing views and arguments and the terrifying silent treatment that might follow it.
Are you currently in love with your partner?
Says first-time mom Annie: “Not at all! It still proves to be a daily struggle. In fact, when our baby was eight months old and I finally had my pre-baby body and confidence back, I was ready to call it quits, arguing that we should rather create two happy households for him than contain him in one unhappy household. My husband would have none of it and dragged me to counselling. My, how you feel as if you as a couple can move mountains when you walk out of a session but the moment you have to divide chores such as bathing baby and doing the dishes, all the resentment flow back and a screaming match ensues. I must say that the older baby gets and the more involved dad can become, the better it goes but currently we are parents first, cohabitants second, income earners and providers third. And husband and wife somewhere down in the twenties… I know we need to make time for ‘us’ and do the date night thing, but seriously, when you can get a babysitter for the night, would you rather not spend it getting sloshed like before you became a parent and rather use those precious moments to just, like, sleep?”
Just too damn tired
Another new mom, Cathy, says what a lot of the other respondents also indicated as their experience of it. “Since the baby came, nothing has been the same between me and my husband. “I think we are too busy with all the logistics of caring for a baby for the first time, that when the last moments of the day arrive when we are able to communicate a bit, we are just too damn tired.” Cathy has put on quite some weight after the pregnancy, which makes her feel uncomfortable in her own skin and results in her pulling away even more from her husband. “Intimacy is basically non-existent and that perpetuates the notion that “something must be wrong with our relationship, the horror”!
What is normal anyway?
The true problem here seems to be that new parents aren’t aware of the huge strain the responsibility of a baby brings into the dynamics of a relationship. Everything was fine and dandy, and then suddenly, everything seems out of control. Plus you don’t like each other all that much (shhh, don’t say it loud!). Plus everyone else seems so fine. Maybe we should get a divorce, surely this is an unbearable state of being. But here’s the thing. It is NORMAL. This troubling time is something that most couples suffer through (in silence, nonetheless). And somehow, that is a comfort to know.
Maybe the time has come that we, as the loved ones, start telling each other about this dark side too.
Tips to live by
Really talk. (Not scream.) And not only about the meaning of the newest baby poop deposit and how long the bottles need to sterilise for in the microwave – talk about you and him (or her), about your partnership. What are your fears? What do you long for? What makes you happy? What will bring you added joy?
Take time out
For yourself as a couple. Even if it is just a walk around the block. Get a friend to watch baby for an hour and just go and walk at dusk, holding hands, looking up at the sky, connecting.
Do little things
Your energy is sapped throughout the day by baby and family and food and shopping for the home and the garden and the dogs and cats and grandparents wanting to visit and work. But take a few minutes and do something tiny. Go give a lipstick kiss on his mirror in the bathroom early before he wakes. That will brighten his day. Pack a nice lunch and include a little note where you tell him you still love him. And that although you are consumed by fatigue, you haven’t missed how sexy he looked while getting ready for work.
Remember, never forget
- This too shall pass.
- Your partner is human, and, just like you, he is just trying to keep his head above water.
- Cut yourselves some slack. You’re doing a pretty great job at caring and providing for another human being without any prior experience in this department, so well done!
- The qualities that you loved about one another before baby is still there, buried under diapers and colicky baby screams. Once the chaos subsides, the sun will come out to shine on you both again.
We’d love to hear about your own experience. Please include some tips on what worked for your relationship either in the comments below or our relationship forum. – Jana Cloete
Picture by: Dani G Photography. Contact her at email@example.com.