I've learned that there are few certainties in life, and even fewer when it comes to parenting. Being a mom is literally nothing like I imagined it would be, and I had no idea how much it would change my relationship with my partner. Honestly, new parenthood can make or break your relationship, and there are so many doubts you'll have about your marriage when you have a newborn.
The good news, though? It's completely normal to have doubts, and most couples make it through these first few months of parenthood relatively unscathed and with the ability figure out how to co-parent successfully. The bad news, however, is that until you get to the end of that proverbial tunnel, things might be particularly bad and profoundly stressful. Parenting a newborn is hard, you guys. You're tired, stressed, insecure, and full of doubts about yourself. At the same time, you and your partner both have to learn how to be parents, and it can definitely put a strain on your relationship and cause you to question, well, everything.
Having these kinds of doubts is not necessarily a bad thing, though. If you decide that it's not possible to co-parent with your significant other, leaving your partner doesn't make you a bad mom. Most of the time, though, having doubts doesn't mean your marriage is doomed. It just means you have to adjust your relationship to accommodate your new bundle of joy. Having a baby changes everything, including your relationship, and you are bound to have a few doubts, especially in the beginning when you have no idea what in the damn hell you're doing.
I'll let you in on a little secret: no one is ready to be parents. Not entirely, anyway. If someone tells you they were, they're lying their assess off. I had so many doubts about my husband and our marriage when our baby was a newborn. The horrific combination of sleep deprivation, pain, insecurity, and the responsibility of taking care of a helpless, tiny human (that didn't come with any instructions) can make you wonder if you should have had kids with your spouse at all.
There were the many times my husband left the baby care up to me so he could get some sleep. I was left to deal with every midnight feeding and diaper change, all the while simultaneously working to support our family. It really sucked, and made me doubt his ability as a parent, a partner, and a grown-ass human being.
To be fair, I was also questioning my judgement. I mean, I was the one who agreed to have kids with him.
Ideally, you will get on the same page with your partner about major parenting choices before your baby is born. If you're not on the same page, it'll be pretty damn obvious, say, when your husband tells you that he wants you to continue breastfeeding,when you want to stop. Or when he is unsure about whether or not the baby should get vaccinated. Some choices — like how you want to use your body — are entirely up to you. These disagreements, whether big or small, can cause you to doubt your partner and your ability to co-parent.
To be honest, I had doubts about whether or not my husband would still think I was sexy when I still looked pregnant after delivering our baby, had stitches on my labia, and stretch marks lining my belly. And even though my husband told me every single day that I was still incredibly sexy to him, it took me a long time to eventually believe him.
I often remind myself that men in our culture don't often have "practice parenthood" forced on them from a young age, like most women do. Between baby dolls and babysitting, I pretty much knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to become a mother. My husband, however, had never held a baby before our first child was born. I often asked myself, "WTF?" or "Why?" when it came to the ridiculous things he did, like put the diaper on backwards, dress the baby inappropriately, or not know how to give the baby a bath. At the same time, people would compliment him any single damn time he did anything with the baby. Can you imagine what the world would be like if people complimented moms every time a woman was seen holding a newborn at the store, or feeding a baby in public? Pretty awesome.
Once your baby is born, people stop being concerned about you and start focusing almost entirely on your baby. I often caught myself doubting whether or not my husband cared about my health and wellbeing, now that our baby had officially joined the world. The isolation of new motherhood made me feel so alone.
Of all the doubts I experienced after having a baby, by far the most daunting was the idea that I would one day, maybe, have to parent my baby by myself. I totally thought I would fail at single-parenthood if I left my husband, so I stayed for way too long. The good news is that once I did leave him, I was a way better mom. I just didn't realize how capable I was at the moment, though.
Even the best marriages can falter when two brand new parents are caring for a newborn. My husband and I fought about so many ridiculous things when our baby was brand new and we were horrifically sleep deprived. It made me doubt our relationship and our marriage. But then I would find myself questioning why I was mad or why we were fighting about something silly or small (the answer was almost always sleep deprivation) and gain some perspective. We'd laugh, and sometimes cry, and the doubts would fade away.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherlode, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.