When you think about becoming parents, you usually think about the positives: the cute baby sounds, how sexy your partner will look with a baby in their arms, the morning cuddles with you all in the bed. People warn you about the diapers, the crying, the lack of sleep, but you think it will be different for you, and your relationship will defy all those newborn odds. I know that's how I felt. Boy was I in for a surprise, because there were quite a few scary times when being new parents threatened my relationship with my partner.
My husband and I walked into parenting with the overconfidence of recent college grads entering their very first job. We thought we were ready for anything because we had read a bunch of books and made notes and attended multiple classes. We were even prepared for the never-ending dirty diapers and the assault of baby toys. However, not once did we think how having a baby might affect "us," as in the people who made this baby. We thought plenty about how to nurture our baby with milk, and songs, and reading books he couldn't understand. We did not think about how important it would be to continue to nurture our relationship with time spent together (just the two of us), with laughter, with doing things that are fun, and yes, also things that were romantic (there are plenty of ways to do it besides "doing it").
It really took us by surprise when certain moments of parenting a newborn almost threatened our relationship. Luckily, we weathered the storm. And when we went into our second pregnancy, we kept all the things we learned from the first in mind, making sure to do our best not to make the same mistakes twice.
When We Had To Decide Who Would Be Allowed To Visit The Hospital
Even though we were new parents, we knew that having people visit me in the hospital would be a stressful situation. I don't really love receiving visitors when I am in a vulnerable state. I much prefer being in "hostess" mode, or, at the very least, wearing mascara. And even though I came to the hospital fully prepared with every type of mascara I could possibly want, I knew the possibility of even putting a comb to my hair was slim, once I was checked in.
Deciding who would be on the hospital visit list was almost as difficult as deciding our wedding invite list. Which is probably why we ended up in a similar place as with our wedding, where we said yes to everyone on the original list, and overflowed our tiny hospital room to capacity. Hosting family in a sterile hospital room that you're sharing with complete strangers, while trying to come to terms with brand spanking new parenthood, is not the sweet stuff of new baby memory books.
When We Were Fighting About Where My Partner Should Sleep When I Was At The Hospital
The first night that I was in the hospital laboring, my husband slept in a cot in my room. He didn't want to miss any of the action and, heaven-forbid, the birth of his first child. However, after the baby came, my husband had insisted that it would be "best for both of us" if he slept nearby at his aunt's apartment instead of in the hospital room next to me. I was terrified of being alone in the hospital, even though I would have the capable hands of the nurses nearby to help me. I wanted him to stay, but there was nothing I could say to convince him otherwise.
When we were arguing about this, I thought I would go mental. I had just given birth, you know. How could he do this to me? How could he leave me here overnight like yesterday's news?
My husband remained ever-practical about matters and appealed to the basest part of my desires. He pointed out that by sleeping at his aunt's house, he would be able to pick up croissants and eggs for me from the place I liked on the way over to the hospital. "Besides," he said, "don't you want me refreshed and ready to help the next morning instead of groggy and tired?" He did have a point. Even though I didn't like the sleeping arrangements, I did appreciate the croissant.
When We Endured Those First Weeks Not Sleeping At Night
General erratic newborn feeding schedules have the capacity to break up even the tightest of bonds between loving partners. Add colic to the equation and it's a wonder people don't break out into world wars.
I was so angry and resentful about the amount of work I had to do in the middle of the night simply because I was the proud owner of two lactating breasts that I, sometimes, found myself thinking of horrible tricks to play on my husband while he innocently slept. Certain pranks from my sleep-away camp days came to mind, like the time my friends tied my BFF's feet together and then put shaving cream in her slippers. Of course I didn't think about the fact that I would be the one stuck cleaning the shaving cream in our bed, since he would be leaving for work early, but lack of sleep can make the brain do some pretty weird stuff.
When My Partner Went Back To Work
Speaking of work, it was a dark day when my husband went back to work. You would've thought he had been skipping off to some luxurious margarita-filled retreat while I was stuck home with a screaming newborn, that's how jealous and hurt I was when he "left me" to go to work. I didn't understand why he "couldn't just stay" another week. He had already been on leave for two weeks, but it had felt short because one week was spent in the hospital with me from the c-section recovery. Like I said, I wasn't all rational, and I think this was a mix of my crazy hormones and not sleeping. I don't blame him even if he did want to high tail it out of there. I know he would have liked to spend more time with his new little guy, but I was a scary monster. Even I didn't want to be around me.
To this day, I can still conjure up that feeling of having been betrayed when I watched him put on his tie to go back to work that first day, as I sat weeping and nursing our baby. I know now that he was not going out of his way to hurt me. He was doing his job, the way many people do their jobs even if it is not the thing they necessarily "want" to be doing. He was being a rational, pragmatic adult about things, while, at that time, I was being ruled by pure, raw, emotion.
When We Had To Manage All The "Come See The Baby" Visits
When you have a new baby, everyone wants to come say hello. For most people, the time to do that is on the weekends. If you have a partner with a full-time job, you can say goodbye to lazy, lie-in-bed and discover what it feels like to be a family of three, because in five minutes you'll have company coming over and you'll have to feed them, too. Then, a couple hours later, you have the pleasure of cleaning up after their visit.
We are blessed to have so many loving friends and family who all wanted to spend time with our new baby, but managing all of those visits (the timing, the scheduling, the food planning) is a lot of work and energy that we just didn't have. It nearly broke us.
When We Were Too Tired To Hang Out Once The Baby Was "For Real" Asleep
We tried to spend time together after the baby was sleep, but damn. We were exhausted. If we managed to stay up to watch an episode of Homeland while holding hands, we usually fell asleep mid-episode. So even our little attempts at bonding were thwarted.
When It Wasn't Even Fun To Drink
Drinking used to be a great way to loosen up and connect, but it is so not fun to wake up with a hangover when you have an infant. First of all, after drinking, there's the pump and dump session (not fun). Then, the piercing cries waking you up from your alcohol-fueled nightmares reminding you that no, you are no spring chicken anymore and you are supposed to be a responsible new parent. Then someone needs to suckle you. Is there alcohol still in your blood stream? Is it time to freak out?
Being Sober Suzie (which for me, meant one glass of wine instead of my usual pre-baby martini) on the one date night I'd been able to summon the strength to attend with my husband was like, fine, but didn't exactly conjure up the feeling of the good-old-days.