9/9/13

Babyproofing Your Marriage


When you're preparing for a little one, you can talk about the nursery, the baby bag, even what the bring the hospital.  Even things like post-baby bodies are somewhat intimate and important to know.  Knowing any and all of these things are critical to your (and your baby's survival) there are other topics that women don't necessarily talk about because they're hard and personal and make you vulnerable.

When it comes to having a baby, the moment that baby is THERE, it's personal.  I mean, we all took health class, you know how that baby got there.

A man.
A woman.
Did.
It.
More than likely, you're a husband and a wife and you meant for that to happen.  You fell in love, got married, and decided a baby would be the next perfect step.  It may have happened the night you said "I do" or two or four or six years later, you made the choice.  Maybe it wasn't so planned and more the result of an amazing drink special at a local eatery (or wedding reception, I'm just saying).  Nonetheless - that baby is a physical representation of your love.  And then reality hits when they arrive and your true emotions, insecurities and desires come to light.

You knew becoming a parent would mean late-night cravings, sleepless nights, messy dirty destroyed clothes, piles of laundry, endless dollars on diapers and a swing they'd use for three weeks, but you bought into it.  Hook. Line. Sinker.  And you knew it would be hard.  And, my God, it is.  But you couldn't wait for that bundle to be yours.  Oh the blissful ignorance.

Often new parents, or even second or third time parents, think about what they need to do to keep that baby alive.  Baby comes out, the doctors hand them over and say "good luck, thanks for taking the hospital class!  It's yours to take care of now!"  You have read books on how to change a diaper, swaddle your newborn and the best music to play to get them to sleep.

What you not have considered is how to keep loving your partner.  You don't have time to think about how this baby will truly will change things, especially in your marriage.  And they will.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly something that warrants some consideration.

I want to preface my advice:  I know there is a lot of love in a lot of families.  I want to say that some moms and dads may read this and think "no way was that my experience."  But for those of you who ever looked at your partner and thought, "What the hell are you doing?  You're going to kill the baby, and then I'm going to have to kill you!"  You are not alone.  You may even be the minority, but certainly not alone.

Here are tips to prevent you from killing your partner (but let's be honest, your husband):

Try to relax.  This is first because it's the hardest for a new mom to do.  You are biologically programmed to protect and care for this baby.  You may not know everything,  but you certainly know better than anyone else.  If left in the wild, it would be you and you alone to care for you and your baby and nature gives you tools to make it happen and get things done.  

Lucky for the modern gal who lives with electricity and dads who watch Parenthood, today's dads are much different from the dads that we had, and even the dads before that.  Our children have fathers who WANT to participate.  They want to get up and feed and change and care and cuddle.  These instincts will mature over the generations but truly, these dads can do it.  

I try to live by the philosophy:  if it's not going to kill the baby, let him do it.  Surely, the routine may be off.  The most important thing is he's trying and you can let him.  I will attest, I struggled with a lot, even with a second baby, knowing better.  But it really is true.  Dad is trying to do well by you both.  Allow for some learning mistakes.  Try to only step in if blood, fire or starvation is a risk factor.

Share.  Be honest, even if it hurts.  And expect to hear criticisms in return.  This pairs along nicely with Step #1.  If you are struggling, say so.  Tell your husband, tell your mother, tell your neighbor.  If you are honest about someone else's behavior {read: husband}, expect that you may hear things you are doing that are bothersome.  Truly, this is about talking to people.  

Being a new mom will stretch your heart to points you never knew.  You will cry, hate, and love harder that you ever knew you could.  These are passionate emotions that need to have an outlet.  Find one.  You will find people who have "no idea what you mean, being a Mommy is such a blessing."  And it is.  But it's also hard and shitty and wonderful.  Be OK saying it, even if only to yourself.  Find someone who fits you.

Keep up with your friends.  This applies to all types of friends.  Friends who are moms, friends who aren't.  Friend who work outside the home and friends who don't.  Friends you know from college, work, dance class, yoga class, a random connection of cheery kids at the playground.  

Keep up with the YOU that was YOU before that tiny bundle came along.  And the YOU that is YOU now that they're around.  This does mean connecting with friends both with and without your baby.  Certainly, you'll miss your baby while you're out with girlfriends.  Your arms will feel a little colder and lighter without them.  Allow yourself to enjoy that.  Keep up with life and gossip and TV shows and stupid nonsense that consumed conversations before diapers and breast feeding.  You will come home and kiss their little nose and they will be none the wiser.  All they will know is their mommy is happy (and maybe smells a little like Pino Grigio).

Have sex.  I will admit, personally, this is a struggle.  You have weight, and loose skin, and an exhausted body, and one who is more often used for food than pleasure.  Sex is a like going to the gym: you know the cardio will be amazing for your body, the adrenaline will burst through your veins and you'll feel awesome, and those first steps running suck, but the rest, kind awesome.  

In fact, the actual goal is for those steps to be amazing.  Ah-maz-zing.  Don't forget how you had this baby is the first place.  Without getting to graphic, you know there was once a lustful time.  And while time and energy may restrain it, try to find that sexy time.  And maybe it's not even sex.  A good make-out session on the couch can make you feel like a sexy 17-year old again.  The glow of a movie and praying you don't get caught by your mom a sleepy toddler, kinda a good night, right.  The point is to have that time and allow yourself permission to enjoy it.  Allow yourself to be a WIFE not just a mom.  
Connect with him and he'll connect with you.
 This is the most important thing you can do to care for your baby.  Milk, sure.  Clean clothes, obviously.
A kid who sees unconditional love and arguments that can be resolved, this gives them a stable place to build their own sense of self.

The most important thing you can give your kids is a happy mom.  They don't care what you hair looks like or how much you make.  They only know your smile and your laugh and your kisses.  If you're stressed, that mess will bleed faster than wet crepe paper streamers.

Take time, be happy.  They won't regret the one night mom missed bath time, or when the babysitter read the bedtime story.  Your kids will know that you can leave and come back.  And that you're smiling in the morning and ready to play (at least after you've have your caffinated beverage of choice)


I originally wrote this for Kaitlyn and her "Preparing for a Little One" series - check out more on her blog!


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