Postpartum life can be pretty damn complicated. While adjusting and living up to the responsibilities of a parent, you're also healing, dealing with rogue hormones, and (if you have a partner) continuing to nurture your relationship. In other words, post-baby life requires balance, patience, and flexibility — all things I'm terrible at. So when I realized there are things every couple should do so they feel like themselves postpartum, I'm not too sure my partner and I did enough to keep our relationship happy, healthy, and thriving. Caring for my newborn was exhausting and taxing and difficult, to be sure, but I can't help but think back on that time period and wish I had done more — that we had done a little more — to keep the passion (and communication) alive and well.
My first experience with postpartum life was so rough it strained my relationship with my partner. Our relationship was relatively new when I gave birth, and afterwards I was (eventually) diagnosed with Postpartum Depression (PPD). The demands of trying to mother a child who refused to breastfeed, all while dealing with the rise and fall of hormonal surges and never quite feeling like myself, took a toll. Everything I had with my partner before I brought baby our baby in the world was, for the most part, gone. It wasn't just the two of us anymore, so learning how to navigate life as a family of three was pretty difficult.
As a result it took a significant amount of time, for the two of us to feel like ourselves again, but I know some of the important things we did to stay connected were a vital part of keeping our relationship afloat. So trust me when I say I think every couple should do some of the following, especially if it feels like parenting has stolen some of the better parts of your relationship.
Make Self-Care A Priority
The biggest saving grace for both my partner and I after having a baby, was making sure we could care for ourselves the way we had before we became parents. There's always jokes about new moms not showering or wearing clothes with spit-up on them, and, yes, those jokes exist for a reason. But living that way only pushed me farther into my depression. Once my partner and I made a plan that allowed each of us time to do whatever we needed to feel confident, everything changed.
Get Some Fresh Air
I wasn't big on exercise. Ever. I always had health problems and struggled to get a handle on my always-fluctuating weight. My self-esteem plummeted when I became a mom, though, so I started to re-think the whole exercise thing.
Once I discovered my love of running (which started out as a hatred, really), I got self-care, fresh-air, and alone time to clear my head, all wrapped up into one. My partner found the same through different forms of exercise. The point is, feeling good and taking care of ourselves as individuals, helped us feel better and take care of one another as a couple.
Go Out With Friends
I've never been one to go out a lot with other people, but when I did I always felt revived. Postpartum life made nights out much harder to come by, though. I didn't feel like myself, even when I carved the time out to make plans. I think every couple should still make the effort, though.
Even though having a baby changed me, it didn't change all of me entirely. I still liked being around other people, and needed to have some adult interaction from time to time. So my partner and I just had to work a little harder to find time to go out with friends, have a dinner to catch up, and just be away from our baby so we could focus on one another.
Schedule Regular Mini-Dates
While it was important to recognize our individuality as people, rather than just parents, it was equally important to put effort in our relationship together. When a babysitter wasn't available for a major date night, we'd try to get our daughter to bed early enough so we could just be together, or pack a picnic and take her to the park. Things may have changed, but we made it a priority to find small pockets of time to enjoy each other as partners.
Find & Share A Hobby
Postpartum life, for me, meant not being into the same things I had been before I gave birth, or even found myself pregnant. I can't explain what changed in me exactly (other than an overwhelming fatigue), but it meant finding things I was interested in to remember those lost pieces of who I am that was now hyper-focused on my baby.
Every couple should go on a scavenger hunt for new hobbies, whether together or separately (or both) because they helped renew my state-of-mind so I could be the best mother, and partner, possible.
Motherhood isn't always funny, but it was important for my partner and I to find things to laugh about. Having a sense of humor — instead of sweating the small stuff — reminded us that everything didn't have to be so serious or dramatic. Things could be funny and we could laugh and it would all be OK.
Some of my favorite conversations with my partner came in the late hours of the night and after we'd put our baby to bed. We passed the time between feedings by talking about how we met. We'd discuss first dates, early kisses, and all the things that made us fall in love. This happy reminiscing renewed the tired bits of our souls.
Settle Into A New Routine
Creating a new routine for ourselves, our relationship, and our family to re-discover all we thought we'd lost was vital. Having schedules and routines felt comforting and helped us both relax so we could be, or do, whatever we needed.
Talk About The Future
Like reminiscing, whenever my partner and I sat and dreamed of what our future would look like, I felt closer to him and the person I was before the birth of my daughter. Making plans for where we'd' live, other children we'd eventually have, and other ways to bring each other joy reminded us we were so much more than we realized we could be.
Give Yourselves Permission To Fail
Of all the things my partner and I did postpartum, I'd say giving ourselves permission to fail was the most helpful. However I needed to feel was OK, and same for him. Parenthood is tough, and postpartum life is a re-discovery process. We needed to let one another know that we weren't going to hold it against the other person when they floundered. If anything, we would be there for one another when we needed help, understanding, and support the most.