There are a lot of expected changes to a couple when they have a baby; fluctuating hormones, less (or no) sleep, your life suddenly revolving around a squishy little human.
But one thing that can come as a surprise, is how your relationship with your spouse can change. In the first weeks and months of being parents, Ben and I bickered and argued more than we ever had before.
Don’t get me wrong, we also spent copious amounts of time all snuggled up together as a family, marvelling at the tiny little toes of our perfect baby. He was incredibly supportive as I struggled through breastfeeding and adjusted to everything. He was, and still is, wonderful.
But we also spent time snapping at each other, being frustrated or letting passive aggressive remarks slip through.
I found myself really upset, thinking perhaps we weren’t ready? Perhaps we weren’t cut out to do this? Parenting is no joke, and those first few months can be insanely challenging for a couple.
It wasn’t until our daughter Willow was around 6 months old, I met a mother with a 6 week old baby, and I realised it wasn’t just us.
While chatting over a cup of tea, she quietly asked if I had fought with Ben when Willow was born. My response of “OH MY GOD YES!” was instantly met with a sigh of relief and laughter, as I recounted some of our finest relationship fails the first couple months.
This is something that lots of new parents go through, yet both me and this new mom felt isolated and too embarrassed to admit our spouses were driving us crazy. If I had known other new parents experienced this challenging adjustment period, I’d have felt relieved and more at ease with our relationship.
We’ve since become better at our communication, and have learned to notice unhelpful habits or reactions we have when speaking to each other.
Below are my top 3 tips I have for new parents going through the rough newborn phase. We still practice these today as we encounter new struggles together.
Speak openly & honestly about how you’re feeling
I would tell Ben when I was feeling resentful, even though I knew it was irrational. He hadn’t gone through the physical pains of pregnancy and birth, and I’d be jealous he wasn’t struggling with breastfeeding, or having a baby constantly attached to him. But when I decided to be open, and tell him all the not so nice things I was thinking, we were able to talk them through and share how we felt.
Be kind & patient with each other
I would sometimes forget that this was all new for Ben as well. I’d be so wrapped up in how I felt; exhausted, sore, and hormonal. I’d forget Ben was trying to figure it out too. It’s easy when you are sleep deprived and feeling overwhelmed to let tempers rise, and snap at each other. But try to take a deep breath before responding and remember you’re in this together. Be kind, forgiving, and sympathetic with each other, whenever you can.
Prioritise Your Relationship
It’s so easy to get swept up in the craziness and sheer exhaustion that is parenthood. If you feel up to a date night, and have a family member or friend able to babysit, then go out for a quiet dinner together, and spend some time just the two of you.
This isn’t something we did at all when she was very little. It took us months until we remembered we were a couple and had a life before becoming parents.
Even if you just take the time to cuddle on the couch while baby is asleep or chat for 20 minutes before bed, any time spent together without your baby, and specifically not talking about your baby, will help give both of you a break. It’s good to remember your pre-baby life, and why you decided to give this whole relationship thing a whirl.
Relationships take work, and when you’re parents, it’s all too easy to let your relationship slide down your list of priorities. Becoming parents with your spouse is such a beautiful experience. It deepens your connection and love for one another, but it is definitely a challenge to re-calibrate your entire life.
Face challenges as a couple, be as open and honest with each other as you can, have the uncomfortable conversations, and try to approach each other with love and kindness at every turn. It’s not always easy, but caring for your relationship in this delicate period will not only make your life easier in that moment, but strengthen and deepen your relationship for years to come.
Roseanne is the blogger behind the honest and inspirational personal blog Roseanne Writes. Native to Scotland and now calling Canada home, Rosanne helps mothers navigate motherhood while remaining true to themselves. You learn more about Roseanne and follow her personal blog here.