And Then There Were Three... (Marriage After a Baby)
Somewhere during the transition from being only a couple to becoming parents, the loving couple fades away – but does it need to be that way? Whether you are parents already, or planning to be, read on…
The spell is cast as soon as the first cries are heard. A tiny newcomer bewitches two well-functioning adults, becoming the singular point of their attention, their love, their worries, and their routine. Love comes naturally towards the baby and with it comes a relentless drive to do what is best for the child, to do right by him or her. The hitch is, we start doing right ONLY by the little one.
Family and friends are generous in painting a rosy canvas about the joys of parenthood, the utter sense of fulfilment that a “complete” family brings. None, however, tell the couple about the challenges they shall invariably encounter in the journey ahead.
Be prepared – from before
Let’s take a case in point. The weeks I plan meals (and nearly follow it!), I am a better person, more tolerable company for sure. The days I rack my brains just before I have to head to work about what I can serve my family, I am quite the grinch. The key is to start preparing mentally for what is to come, so that we are better equipped to adjust to the changes.
A newborn requires attention and energy and patience. Along with those, what the upbringing of a child needs is immense skill. But there is no prep manual that readies a couple for the trials and tribulations that become an integral part of their lives every day, once the baby arrives. And thrown into the eye of the storm, inexperienced and unprepared, the two individuals toss around and drift apart.
So, my suggestion is, whether you are on your way to becoming parents, or remotely considering the possibility, start preparing for the realities that you will have to face within a few months. Talk to young parents if you know any and read the ocean of material available on the internet about solutions to the bumps a marriage might hit after a baby. This is not to discourage or scare would-be-parents, but rather to make them stronger, get them ready, and get them thinking about how they might handle situations that could rock the boat.
Remember why you are here and accept the new
It was just a little while ago that you were all for each other – only. The movie binges, the long lunches, the late nights, the squabbles and the making up, the trips to the grocery store, the wine and dine evenings – all these, and much more, were real and tangible a few fleeting moments ago.
Now that you’ve welcomed a new life, new realities face you. Role changes, lifestyle adjustments, even strain on finances. Despite the pressures of negotiating this fresh turn, remember that the two individuals who came together to create the miracle you hold in your arms today are still here.
Every time a niggling rage, a seething complaint, or a breaking point comes, remind yourself that you started this journey as a team and you still are the same duo, just with additional responsibilities. Your goal is the same -- making a happy family -- though the approach may often be different.
Passion may be lukewarm sometimes, which means instead of a whisky sour you may be settling for a hot chocolate. Accept this as the new normal in your marriage and search for the joy in all that is new instead of moping over what is bygone.
When we had our son, my husband and I would squeeze next to each other on the bed as I held my feeding infant on my lap. We’d plug in our earphones and watch a movie on the laptop together. It would take us three days to complete a movie (unlike the three-movies-in-a-row days), but it was the best we could do. Those movie breaks were our most intimate moments, and we treasured them.
Don’t expect, just explain
A whirlwind of tasks will consume all your energy when you have a child, and the hormones going berserk don’t help either.
Both parents are struggling with the new roles thrust upon them. They try their best, but being clueless about most tasks, being a first-time parent, they struggle, invariably falling short of their partner’s expectations.
With both unsettled, fights break out as emotions spiral out of control.
Establish a ground rule. No blaming and no brooding.
You could be stewing: “What did I do wrong? Why can’t they be more understanding, I’m trying at least!” or “Can’t they learn a thing? Who puts a diaper this way?”
You could be screaming: “Why did you buy this brand of diaper????” or “Why should I be the one stuck at home with the baby?”
Make some effort to be more accommodating and pragmatic. Fretting by yourself won’t help, so ask politely: “Could you tell me where I went wrong? I’ll try to do it right the next time.” You probably won't know why they bought that particular brand of diaper, but might find a solution if you just say: “Next time, please buy ABC brand as it is better for the baby.” Whether it is listening or expressing, keep the lines of communication wide open. Don’t retaliate. Instead give clear and specific guidelines. Explain frankly what you need or hope for since it is difficult to understand your hidden expectations or woes.
Time – to oneself, to one another
Give yourselves time. Time to learn, to grow, to make mistakes, to heal. There will rarely be moments of epiphany or miraculous wisdom coming your way to provide all answers. You have to hike this climb patiently holding each other's hands, trusting your intuitions.
Give yourselves time. To look into each other's eyes and steal a smile while folding baby clothes, to splash one another a bit while giving the baby a bath, to laugh together when the baby tinkles on one of you, to flip next to each other exhausted - these are your pockets of time. Enjoy them, hold them dear. And nothing beats a date night (if you can manage it) of course.
Give yourselves time - away from all this, away from each other. A half-an-hour massage once a month, a coffee break in your own verandah while everyone else is busy, a few pages of your favourite book before you catch a few winks. Let the chores be. Let the world melt away for a few minutes every day. Those are your precious minutes, yours only.
So be generous to each other, share in the other's pain and joy, and reach out instead of shutting down.
Because NOW is the time.
Now is the time you need each other deeply, now is when you know there is one thread in your relationship that will forever hold, now is when who you are together will define who your child will be. Now is when you start loving each other the most.
- Shatarupa Chaudhuri
Shatarupa Chaudhuri is a book lover, an amateur artist who loves to dabble with paints, a lazy writer, rain lover, and a self confessed chocoholic. When she isn't working her day job as Senior Editor at DK, her world revolves around her son Tubby.