I am going to say something that perhaps some would take umbrage with, but I stand by it: there are some things you can only learn about your spouse after having a baby. That's not to say that having a baby is the only life event that can make you learn things about your spouse, or that one's relationship is unfulfilled if it doesn't include children. I'm just saying that the rigorous demands of parenthood are going to bring out certain things that would usually (probably) remain hidden, from all those who undertake it. The parent-specific changes and adaptations produce revelations that might not have come up otherwise, and there's just really no getting around that fact.
You know how in video games you get to the end of the level and you face off a particularly difficult villain in a boss battle? Sometimes it takes you a couple tries to get it right but, eventually, you win and it's like, "Oh phew! Thank goodness that's over and I never have to do it again!" That's what a relationship is like. Having a child with your partner is like getting to the next boss and realizing, "Oh crap, that first boss was really hard but now I see that was mere child's play! What the fresh hell is this?!"
Going up against this next boss (in this case, your very tiny and innocent looking child who is beloved by both you and your partner) is going to require you to dig deep within yourself and your partnership. In other words, it'll require you to learn new things about one another, including the following:
How Well (Or Poorly) They Communicate
This will make itself clear in a matter of days, if not hours, after the birth of your child. Let's be honest — you probably had a pretty good guess as to how well you and your partner communicated, before you decided to throw a baby into the mix. If that was a problem, ignoring the problem is no longer an option. You might be able to coast by on a relationship with poor communication skills, but once you're raising a kid together it's pretty essential. Even if you were already pretty good communicators, this baby is going to require you to up your game. Seeing your partner as a parent is going to let you know just how much they (and you) have to work on it.
How Well (Or Poorly) You Work Together
Coordinating childcare, household chores, errands, cooking, pediatrician appointments, middle-of-the-night wake-ups; it's all going to be absolutely essential. This will require varsity level communication along with actually having the skills and wherewithal to complete the tasks. A
gain, this is something you will discover quickly. For many couples, teamwork goes so badly that one parent often just decides to take on the majority of these tasks themselves, rather than learn to cooperate. (Let's not be coy — when this happens in a hetero couple, it's usually the mom.) While this may seem an imperfect but acceptable solution in the short-term, it is definitely going to cause issues (shortly) down the line. Figuring things out (especially while figuring out a new baby) may be arduous at first, but in the end the effort is well-worth the frustrations.
How Sexy They Look Holding A Baby
Because OMG they're so nurturing and loving and strong and sensitive and protective and serene and they're holding a tiny human you made with them! This attraction originates in the deepest cranny of your primordial monkey brain and gets you right in the feels (specifically in your loin feels).
How Many Of Their Quirks Are Sheer Genetics
When you see your child behave exactly like their parent — maybe it's the same idiosyncratic chuckle or an identical brooding scowl — you'll see so much of your partner's personality is inborn.
Sure, there's certainly an argument here for "nurture" or at the very least "nurture and nature" but, guys, I swear that my son couldn't perfectly mimic some of my partner's expressions that impeccably if he practices for a thousand years. That craziness is genetic.
How Heavy (Or Light) A Sleeper They Are
Either they will stir from a sound slumber the minute they hear the baby sniffle or they will snore through your child screaming bloody murder. I have found in many families that one parent will fall under one category and the other in the second. This can, on occasion and in the tired throes of another near-sleepless night, cause some bitter resentment on behalf of the light-sleeping partner. (Not that I would know anything about that. Nope. Not at all.)
Try not to take it too hard, light sleepers. The heavy sleepers can't help it. (Of course that doesn't mean you have to get up every time. In fact, give them a good hard shove and make them take their turn.)
How You Love Them Even When They're Covered In Poo
You wouldn't have thought it was possible to love someone so completely when they're smeared in feces, but here you are.
How Stupid Their Stupid Face Is When They Do Something Stupid
OK, they're not stupid and neither is their face and you shouldn't call them stupid, but parenthood is stressful. It will bring completely new and very intense stressors to your relationship, and that stress can result in you being profoundly frustrated with your partner.
Sometimes your frustration will be valid. Sometimes there's a good chance you're using them as a scapegoat. It happens. Recognize it, talk through it, attempt to be kind in spite of it, but don't feel too badly if there are times when you just stare at your partner so angrily you feel like lasers are going to shoot out of your eyes.
How Well You Complement Each Other (Or Not)
This is kind of like working together, but there's a little bit more to it. Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, and their own personal style. Obviously you and your partner are a couple in the first place because you could tell how well you complemented one another. Having a child will bring that to another level.
Does your calm mellow out their energy during a two hour screaming fit? Does their ambition to stay ahead of things keep the house from falling to pieces? Does your "go with the flow" attitude enable you to adapt to what needs to get done and what just has to wait? You're going to discover all sorts of new and expanded ways that you and your partner mesh.
How Much You Love Having An Uninterrupted Conversation With Them
Because now that you have a child those moments will be tremendously rare. I don't think I've had a full conversation with my partner while our children were with us in about five years. When it happens, however, it's pretty magical (and definitely appreciated).
Where Their Priorities Lie
There's going to be a whole reshuffling for both of you, hopefully in a way that will jive for a harmonious family life that still takes into account your individual needs equally. However, is tough, and it might definitely take some trial-and-error type experience.
For example, you may find that your partner continues to put as high a priority on going out with their friends as they ever did, but to the detriment of your overall family goals. Or you find, to your great joy, that you're both completely on the same page and you just need to iron out some details.
This one time, my dad was walking and holding my then-infant brother when he tripped and started to fall forward. In most situations, he would have fallen directly on top of the baby. But my dad is, apparently, a damn ninja. Halfway through his fall, he twirled around and landed on his back, holding the baby straight up in the air, unharmed.
Was this a skill he always possessed but never had reason to employ? Was this a dad superpower that he gained after the birth of his son? I don't know and I shan't question it further. The point is, becoming a parent will reveal new and marvelous abilities. You're all basically X-Men, is what I'm saying.
Just How Committed They Are To All Those Plans You Made For The Future
Because some of them will fall apart (and that's OK) and some of them will likely remain non-negotiable. It's up to you, as a couple and parents, to figure out what you can let go and what's worth fighting for together.