…Then Comes the Baby in the Baby Carriage
No one ever tells you. It’s all balloons and storks, beautiful showers, and adorable little clothes. Swooning over baby head smell and little toes. Setting up the nursery and filling an overnight bag for the hospital with items you never would have thought of on your own. (Tennis balls to soothe back pain, anyone?) This one little baby is a life changer.
Who knew all but 7lbs pounds of cuteness could change so much? My baby didn’t just change my sleep schedule; she changed me as a woman. Birth has a way of doing that. Women are strong, capable beings. The world will sometimes tell you otherwise. But I found my strength in the delivery room. With the coaching of my great birth partner, my husband, I birthed a child! There’s power in that moment. There’s power in desperately trying to figure how to feed my child, learn new things my body has never done before, and overcome the teary eyed days that fill the first few months of our new life together. Mix raging hormones and sleepless nights and it’s quite a cocktail.
But in addition to all those physical, chemical, and emotional changes, came the changes in my relationship with my husband. Some changes were for the better and others, well, they were lessons learned. Our communication patterns changed the most — from helping him understand how to care properly for a newborn, to how we fought and engaged in conflict. I had less patience and empathy for him. My rope was a bit shorter, given what I was having to face on a daily basis. Our intimate moments changed as well.
Remaining abstinent for the first four weeks after birth wasn’t that hard — you’re both exhausted from the baby waking up every two hours — but fun in the bedroom died that year. I would flop into bed at the end of the night, my breasts smelling of milk, and though I wanted to be with my husband, I wasn’t able to put in any care for the evening ahead. I remember walking into the bedroom after putting on something special and in being near tears because of how much my body changed post baby. It was a difficult transition for us — separately and together.
Many people reading this might stop here and loudly proclaim they never want children. I can understand why. But hear me out and let me finish. Romance and intimacy don’t have to end until your child leaves the nest. The first year might be difficult to adjust to, but once our stormy seas were calm, we made sure to work on making our marriage remain the bedrock of our family relationship.
Once we got through the first rocky six months or so, we forced ourselves to focus on a few things in our marriage.
It’s important to remember your first love. The person who helped to make this family unit possible. He needs you. Your soft touch as you pass by in the kitchen, your kind word of encouragement, the look that says something that cannot be spoken because little ears hear. Be intentional with your words and actions. Remember who you were before kids, when it was just the two of you. I lost myself that first year and after wearing “mom clothes” for way too long, I remembered what I used to wear pre-nursing and once I was finished, went out shopping. It was a well spent $80 for our marriage. I felt better, flirted more, and walked with a pep in my step and guess who noticed…my husband. I have at times literally put these actions on sticky notes. I need the reminder. I get so caught up in taking care of babies that a bright sticky note helps to reinforce where my heart wants to engage.
(Of course, you should expect your husband to initiate as well — but that’s a separate article.)
Date Nights Aren’t Optional
I’ve heard many scoff at this idea. But I’ve seen too many marriages disintegrate in that first year because all the time and energy had been spent on the tiny bundle of joy. The priority needs to remain between you and your husband. I know you’re tired and can hardly think about getting out of the house because you haven’t showered in days but who cares? Go anyway. Date nights are not something that can be tossed to the sidelines. Even when a child wasn’t taking a bottle, we didn’t let our little threesome dates get in the way of our creating intimacy. Don’t let the difficulty of adding a third person to the mix keep you from the moments that might be found in getting out of the house. How you look or what you do, doesn’t matter as long as it’s a scheduled time for the two of you to connect.
The Best Parent is A Good Spouse
Our family works best when our marriage works best — when my husband and I place our relationship as the priority. When my husband and I are loving each other vibrantly, wholly, and unashamedly, when children can see what it looks like for a husband and wife to love each other and communicate in healthy ways — this is what is supposed to happen when a family is created. We must show our little ones how to respond, act and live out in healthy ways.
It takes work to keep the marriage foundation strong after a baby is born but it also provides a place to try new things, live out courageously and take bold steps. Thirteen years later, three children, a bed rest pregnancy (read: no intercourse), and one miscarriage, our marriage foundation has been through some mighty storms, but our continued hard work, prioritizing each other, and tenacity have given us what we have now. And I am forever grateful.
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