Marriage & newborns: Keeping the spark alive
In the couple months after we got married and before we got pregnant, I'd read quite a bit from individual men and women as well as married couples on how hard it is to keep the spark alive after a baby.
I, like many a naive young woman with no clue just what great a teacher experience is, thought to myself that it couldn't possibly be as hard as people make it out to be. You decide to make time for each other even if it means making some kind of weekly timetable. You get the help and support you need to take time away from your baby and spend time with your partner. Simple.
If being a new mom has taught me nothing else, it's taught me to less judgemental of others!
The first three months of mummyhood for me went by in a big blur and my husband's face was mostly lost in that blur too.
A typical day with my newborn went something like this
- Wake up after 20-30mins sleep
- Nurse baby off and on for an hour
- Hand baby over to husband or mum for about 30mins while I shower (a lot of moms don't have the luxury of their own mums being able to help out, mind you.)
- Nurse baby off and on every hour or two all day long with breaks in between to use the toilet and eat and drink
- Attempt to leave the house everyday for a short walk just to get some fresh air
- Glance at my phone and feel appreciative but guilty knowing I won't be able to return any of the missed calls. Wish people would text instead but know that even messages will take me some time to reply to
- Night time comes and it's time to get ready for another 9 hours or so of three hourly if not hourly feedings
As you can see, nowhere in a typical day does marriage maintenance intentionally happen. It really did take effort and more than anything else support to have any quality time alone. For me, availability of support would never have been enough anyway. I wouldn't have been comfortable leaving my new baby with anyone I didn't fully trust or didn't know well enough so hiring a random sitter would not have been an option.
It's different for everyone
I feel obligated to say as well that if you were like I was before I had a baby, don't think you need to do a total 180 on your idealism. You might end up with a baby who never cries, is happy to be in anyone's arms, will happily drink from a bottle as well as your boob even though they're exclusively breast milk-fed and loves their sleep. If your baby is like this, you will feel so much more comfortable planning anything else in life including time away from them. You'll also be able to have quality time together as a couple with your baby knowing their incessant crying will not turn out time together into a miserable mess.
I do still think that ultimately two people both have to be playing the long game in the family. Keeping in my mind that their newborn will not be a newborn forever and that any time sacrifices being made now will change and also become more enjoyable is important to keep in mind.
How did your partnership change after you first welcomed your baby? If you're much further along in your parenthood journey, what realistic advice would you give to new parents to keep their relationships strong?