The first few weeks after I gave birth are pretty much a blur, full of tense moments, heightened emotions, pain, and exhaustion. There's a reason sleep deprivation is a torture technique. Seriously, everything is worse when you haven't had enough sleep. When you are navigating these stormy waters with a partner, even the most loving couple is bound to argue, often about something silly or stupid that usually leaves you laughing after the fact. There are a ton of emotions you'll feel after your first postpartum fight, which seem ridiculously more intense when you're recovering from the act of growing and birthing a human being.
After my first two children were born, my then-husband (now ex-husband) was pretty much absent. He worked a lot, and even took a road trip with a friend three weeks after our second child was born. If you think that makes him an absolute ass, you are totally right. We fought about everything, mostly his absence, resulting in me shouldering a majority of the parenting responsibilities by myself, which was totally unfair. Our relationship was completely toxic. I am so glad I finally felt empowered to leave, because even single parenthood wasn't as stressful as co-parenting with him.
This time around I thought things would be different. I love my husband, and he is a great partner and a great dad. Turns out, even couples in loving relationships fight when they are figuring out how to adjust to another human being's presence in their lives. The good news is this is perfectly normal. You did just grow a human in your body and, as a result, you're experiencing tremendous physical and hormonal changes. Your partner can't possibly understand how those changes feel, and they're likely tired and stressed out, too, especially if they aren't used to you not being able to do all of the things you used to for your family. Honestly, I can't even remember what our first postpartum fight was about.
If you can get passed these tense moments, and the myriad of emotions you'll feel afterwards, you might find that your relationship will be stronger than before. In fact, you'll probably realize you can laugh about it all when you look back and remember that first post-baby fight and how truly unnecessary it was. Until then, here are some emotions you'll probably end up feeling:
I was so angry after my first post-baby fight with my partner. I was supposed to be recovering from growing a freaking human in my body, not fighting with my partner about stupid, petty things.
What if our marriage is failing? What if we should never had had children together? What if I am a bad mom? What if we made a huge mistake?
On top of postpartum depression and anxiety, that first fight was so overwhelming that I cried for hours.
Sleep deprivation is the worst and, I've learned, can make you feel like you are dying. Caring for a new human that you made is exhausting. So exhausting, in fact, that the last thing you have energy for is to fight with your partner about whose turn it is to get up with the baby, and who got less sleep last night.
For the record, it was me.
My anxiety took over when that fight was over, and I ended up staying awake that night imagining the worst possible outcomes of our fight.
Everything seems worse when you are tired and have too much on your plate. Our first fight was too much for me to handle on no sleep, while recovering from child birth, and while trying to parent a brand new baby and our other kids. It was all just too much.
I was so ashamed. As an abuse survivor, I get triggered so easily by arguments, and I thought things like: We don't do this. We love each other. We don't bicker about stupid, little things. Why is this happening?
I felt so alone, like I was not enough. I wondered why we had another child in the first place if all we were going to do was fight (which, of course, is not all we were going to do, or even the majority of what we were going to do). In the moment, I felt like I was failing.
Sometimes you just have to laugh, because otherwise you cry. And sometimes the fight was really about something silly or small, and when you look back on it,you laugh at yourself because it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. Usually, once the laughing stops, you realize you're not entirely sure why you were arguing in the first place.
Also, because when you are exhausted, you laugh at inappropriate things.
We can do this. Having a baby is hard, but that first postpartum fight made me remember that my partner and I are in this together. I knew we could figure things out and I knew we would always have each other's backs, even when we get pissed off about lost sleep or dirty dishes in the sink.
We love each other and are on the same team. Always.