For a brief moment after my daughter was born, a scary thought swept through my mind. I envisioned myself on the side of the road holding up an “anywhere but here” sign. Am I awful? I know I am. What kind of person lands her dream life, and wants to run away? It’s amazing what a lack of sleep and normal human interaction causes one to think.
In fact, it’s amazing how basic our needs become shortly after baby. We revert back to survival mode where safety, food, and water are all we need. Important things lost their priority. Clothing was questionable. Sleep was optional. Relationships were nonexistent. If I was in survival mode, my marriage was figuratively on life support. Neither of us wanting to “pull the plug”, we survived with daily bouts of impatience, resentment, and neglect.
Our evenings used to include glasses of wine over dinner, reality television, and intimacy. All of the things were took for granted were now replaced by eating cold chicken while strategically pumping breast milk. There was no conversation. No wine. No reality television. No fun. No intimacy.
People prepare you for stretch marks, sleepless nights, teething, and tantrums. No one ever warned me that (for some women) intimacy with your partner after having a baby is not the same. There were times when I would physically shudder at my husband’s touch, or I would come up with every excuse to avoid intimacy. This went on longer than I’d like to admit. I hated feeling this way about the relationship I had declared in front of family of friends “to have and to hold, in good times and in bad.” Were these the bad times? How could a new baby bring bad times in a marriage? These were supposed to be happy times, and they were. However, I was learning that children really do test the vows of marriage. It’s easy to stand at the altar on your wedding day, many pounds lighter, years younger, not sleep deprived, happy in love, and repeat after the minister. It becomes harder when you begin to live out those same vows.
Our vows were tests because intimacy was not the same. Intimacy was not the same because intimacy takes time. To a new mother, time is a precious jewel. Time becomes an enigma. As I was lying in bed one night, I looked over at my husband, and he seemed foreign to me. Were we becoming the couple that has kids and completely neglects their marriage? This thought jolted me, and I cried out from my heart for change.
I didn’t know where to start, so I went to google and my girlfriends. After a little researching and talking to my girlfriends, I learned that marital satisfaction is often at an all-time low after introducing a new baby to the family unit. Well, duh, but why? Pick your favorites – lack of communication (that’s a biggie!), little to no sleep, role shifting, loss of identity, lack of sex (another biggie!), postpartum recovery, hormones, resentment, loss of identity, oh, and did I mention HORMONES (I feel like it needs a second mention). In my marriage, I think it was a combination of all of the above.
I knew had to exhibit some initiative, and what began as a cry in my heart, turned into action. As amazing as children are, it’s so easy to become entrenched in parenting and forget about your partner, so I decided to consciously make my marriage a priority. Prioritizing marriage looks different for every couple, but for us it means quality time in the evening after our daughter is in bed, date nights, pursing our passions and supporting each other in those pursuits, and making time to recharge away a few times per year.
Over time, we slowly moved our way out of survival mode, and edged our way back to relationship. At times, I could see my husband approaching me with slight hesitation not knowing what to expect. Would I bite his head off like a praying mantis? Possibly, but he still approached me.
Now, we’ve learned to embrace the new normal. What used to be long conversations about life has turned into sweet texts to each other throughout the day. Moments that used to be spontaneous and fun are now scheduled. Even sometimes intimacy is reducing to a quick brush of the feet under the sheets to remind each other that we’re still in this together, forsaking all others only unto thee.
Did your marriage struggle when your first baby was born?