Not so long ago, you promised each other solemnly, “a baby won’t change OUR relationship.” The truth is, once a baby enters your life, your relationship with your partner will never be the same again. Ever. And there are things about losing those loving feelings that even your closest friends will probably never tell you (you probably wouldn’t believe them if they did). For Instance:
- Relationship truth 1) Foreplay can be reduced to “are you awake?”
If you don’t yet have a baby, think of how tired you were in the first trimester of pregnancy and multiply it by any number from ten upwards. Exhaustion can have a ripple effect on your relationship. Be kind to yourself. Recognise the high price to your family of unrealistic expectations of perfection – those ‘insta-perfect images’ are posed bullshit, anyway.
Learn to rest when baby sleeps (do chores with baby in a sling when he is awake so you don’t feel ‘guilty’ about snoozing or at least, taking it easy, during the day). Say “no” to invitations that will be tiring and discuss sharing the load with your partner (or anybody else who looks willing and able – even if you have to pay them). And, for some tips to help your baby (and you) get more sleep, check out Pinky’s book ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’.
- Relationship truth 2) Spontaneity’ will not happen without careful planning.
You won’t just have to make plans for ‘spontaneous’ lovemaking. Everything from a walk in the park to dinner for two or a dash to the bank will require forward planning. On the other hand, you could also be forced to learn the real meaning of spontaneity – seize the moments and
make them special.
- Relationship truth 3) You’ll discover the true meaning of the term ‘Coitus Interruptus’:
This is not just a family planning method for teenagers and optimists. When you do get around to making love, even if your baby is soundly sleeping, you can bet your boots he or she will yell just as you get to the moment of bliss. This waking seems to have little to do with hunger, noise or movement and more to do with a primitive survival response. It is probably related to the same deep connection between mother and baby that has a mother waking from a deep sleep just before her baby stirs, or triggers a milk letdown as her baby cries – even if she’s up the street and her baby is at home.
Try making love when baby is awake –you are less likely to be interrupted. Little (immobile) babies can be easily amused by flickering candle-light. Yes, the “quickie” was invented by resourceful parents!
- Relationship truth 4) It’s not only lovemaking that will be interrupted. Your train of thought will seem permanently derailed by baby demands.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are having a deep and meaningful conversation with your partner, but with experience you will learn the valuable skill of maintaining your thread of conversation and pick up discussions exactly where they left off with the same emotional intensity.
- Relationship truth 5) He wants sex. He thinks that making love to you will reassure you his feelings for you haven’t changed. You feel all “touched out” after giving to a baby all day. You see sex as one more demand. You want cuddles but you withdraw because you know cuddles will lead to sex. He withdraws because he doesn’t want to pressure you, or he feels rejected.
You both need to be nurtured and maintain your close connection with each other. Before a baby came, lovemaking was probably the main expression of your connection for each other, now you may need to find other ways to stay close. Try cuddles, a massage, and a meal together, without pressure to have sex. Understanding and respect for each other’s feelings will see passion return at a greater level than if resentment is left to simmer or you simply drift apart.
- Relationship truth 6) Jealous feelings are not just for left out partners or usurped toddlers.
Most partners feel irrational when jealous feelings are aroused by their own helpless dependent offspring having their needs lovingly met. You too may have similar twinges of the green-eyed monster as your partner gives all their adoration to your little baby and seems to hardly notice you, especially if they take to calling you “Mummy” (heaven forbid!). Feelings of jealousy (for either partner) can be due to a deep psychological awakening that could be echoes of early experiences of sibling rivalry or unsupported needs. Share your feelings with your partner and talk about what you need to feel supported (like reminding them you have a name). It is also important to be able to say, “that’s not really supportive,” without your partner being offended.
- Relationship truth 7) Resentment, a cousin of jealousy, can be a big dampener on relationships.
You feel trapped as you see your partner driving off to work, joining the real world. He or she feels trapped as they drive off to work, ‘knowing’ you have a free day to meet friends for coffee or lunch. In spite of rational role planning, emotions play havoc if you can’t empathise with each other’s adjustment to your new responsibilities. It is never too late to develop good communication skills. However, it would be best to practise BEFORE a baby comes along, because when we are under stress, it is all too easy to fall back on bad habits, like shouting and screaming, rather than listening and respecting each other’s feelings.
- Relationship truth 8) Sometimes it helps to ask for help.
Most of us plan for practical and physical support when we are having a baby. We need to acknowledge that there will be profound changes to our relationships and see support for this as legitimate too. Talk during pregnancy about how infancy and childhood was for you and try to understand what feelings may arise. You can then discuss ‘how can we share these feelings?’ and ‘do we have friends we can have these conversations with?’ If you feel dissatisfied, distrustful, or can’t talk any more, these are symptoms outside help is called for. It may just take a couple of sessions with a counsellor to set you on the right track. It’s not a slur on your ability to cope but may save your relationship.
Pinky Mckay is Australia’s most recognised and respected breastfeeding and gentle parenting expert. She’s a mum of five, an iBCLC lactation consultant and best-selling author. If you are a new parent or parent-to-be check out Pinky’s book “Parenting By Heart”