For most couples, bringing home a baby is a greatly anticipated event. They host gender reveal parties with family and friends and gather for baby showers. They prepare the nursery, setting up the crib and changing station and stocking it with impossibly small diapers and onesies. They take childbirth classes and come up with a birthing plan for the hospital. Some even carve out time for a “babymoon,” a trip to enjoy time one-on-one before the baby comes home.
“The amazing thing about becoming a parent is that
you will never again be your own first priority.” – Olivia Wilde
But when the baby comes home, many couples realize he or she brings more changes than anticipated. You adore this little human you made with your partner but may feel unprepared for the demands the baby makes on your life. This can significantly impact your relationship with each other, especially at first.
Sound familiar? You are not alone in figuring out this newborn stage and adjusting to life with your partner after giving birth. So here are some ideas if you find your relationship floundering when baby makes three:
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
It may be obvious, but bringing another human into your home is going to change dynamics. Give yourself and your partner the gift of time to figure out new schedules and accommodate changing needs. Put off unnecessary decisions or changes beyond this very big one – your baby. When possible, take time off from work and other activities and focus on adjusting (and maybe time to sleep!). Take the recommended steps to heal physically from giving birth. Give yourself a pass if you can’t keep up with all the daily chores you used to do, at least for now.
Note on physical intimacy: your medical provider will talk to you about when you can resume sexual activity. Take this advice seriously, and also listen to your body if you need a little more time. In the meantime, find ways to connect that don’t involve sex. Give each other foot rubs; enjoy a favorite movie and snack while baby snoozes; play a favorite game. Make a point to talk every day, even if it’s for 10 minutes, to stay connected. You may find this improves your relationship on every level – intellectually, emotionally, physically and – when the time is right – intimately.
“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer,
bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier,
the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.”
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND
Remember all those people that came to your baby reveal and shower? Ones that sent cards or visited you after the birth? I bet a lot of them offered to help after the baby arrived. Now’s their chance to make good on offers:
- Hot meals delivered to your door? Yes, please!
- Gift cards to local stores? Great!
- Offers to sit with the baby so you can, say, take an uninterrupted shower? Awesome!
- Rides to checkups if you aren’t cleared to drive? Extremely helpful.
- And if you have a sainted friend willing to help with housework, don’t be ashamed. Say yes!
Just be clear – only say yes to the offers you and your partner actually find helpful. Don’t be afraid to be selective so that you are not adding to your load (see “boundaries” below).
SET BOUNDARIES TOGETHER
The idea of personal boundaries is simple to understand (what you will allow into your life, and what you will keep private) but can be complicated to live out. If you haven’t worked out boundaries as a couple, now is the time to have that discussion. Topics to consider:
- Who will be allowed to watch the baby when we can’t?
- How will we set limits on who visits the home, especially during newborn days?
- What offers of “help” won’t help us (i.e., loading up your freezer with foods you don’t like)?
- How will we divide up the necessary chores of caring for a newborn?
- When can we ask each other for breaks so that we can each recharge and be a better parent and partner?
The answers to these questions and others like them are highly individual. You may have to compromise in one area, and your partner in another. But you should agree on boundaries in this newborn stage, then revisit the topic as your child grows and your family’s needs change. A great resource on the idea of boundaries is boundaries.me. Life’s Choices also offers a series of classes for parents on creating and maintaining healthy boundaries.
EXPAND YOUR COMMUNITY
“When we encourage new parents to ‘treasure these moments
because they don’t last forever,’ we need to remember to also
reassure them that they will survive these moments
because they don’t last forever.” – L.R. Knost
Life’s Choices is a great place to start if you don’t know where to find appropriate community resources. We have a list of local counselors, should you need an objective ear to figure out your new life as a family. We can also connect you with local communities of faith, as we believe a church community is a great way to form relationships with like-minded parents and find support when you are in a time of adjustment or struggle.
Also, Life’s Choices offers great parenting classes in our offices that provide practical advice with a touch of humor for all ages and stages of parenting, including the challenges of the first year. Get in touch with us today for more information!