Love it or hate it, the newborn stage doesn't last forever. It's both wonderful (sweet snuggles, marveling at the tiny perfection) and frustrating (breastfeeding challenges, lack of sleep), and the constant needs of a baby can put a strain on new parents. When a couple's at the end of their proverbial rope, it can be hard to give that primary relationship the extra TLC it needs. Fortunately, you can take advantage of the special characteristics of this phase if you do these relationship-saving things before the newborn stage ends.
My husband and I tested our fledgling marriage by getting pregnant right out of the gate. We had exactly nine months to figure out who we were as a married couple before baby made three. When our daughter arrived she, of course, changed everything. We weren't just adjusting to having a newborn, either. I left my job as an elementary school teacher, and we said goodbye to my family and friends when we moved to a new state a month after our child's birth. There were lots of dynamics in play at the same time we were trying to figure out how to keep a tiny human alive.
Even with everything going on in our lives, though, we managed to do the following. It wasn't always easy, to be sure, but I think our partnership and our family are stronger for it:
Have A Night Out
Yes. Do it. Maybe don't post about it on social media (just ask Beyoncé). Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for taking a break or *gasp* prioritizing your relationship with your partner. It doesn't make you a bad mom. As a Chrissy Teigen fan tweeted in response to her haters, "Happy couples make the best parents."
If you don't want to, that's totally fine. Maybe you're breastfeeding and can't and/or don't want to pump, can't afford and/or don't have access to child care, or you're just not ready to be away from your baby. That is completely valid. Just don't shame a couple who wants a night on the town before the realities of an older child make that sort of thing more difficult.
Go Out To Eat
Take the baby and eat all the avocado egg rolls you want. You're tired anyway, and at some point you're probably going to run out or get tired of casseroles and freezer meals.
My husband and I went out to eat so many times with our newborn daughter because she just slept in her infant seat on the bench next to me or, yes, the floor. Crying was easily solved by sticking a boob in her mouth.
Call me selfish, but take it from this toddler mom that dining out with kids will never again be this easy.
Get All The Family Snuggles
Snuggling is arguably the best part of this stage because newborns are like baby koalas. Use it as an opportunity to bond as a family unit. Yes, one of you could get up and do the laundry while the other one is on baby duty, but you're missing out on the chance for a special type of togetherness. I say leave the dishes for later and commence cuddling.
Make Time For Intimacy
Postpartum sex can be complicated for many couples. According to WebMD, most women get the green light to have intercourse between four to six weeks after the delivery. There are physical discomforts, but there are also emotional considerations. Remember that intimacy doesn't have to mean sex. Be patient and open with one another as you rekindle the flame.
Watch A Movie Or Binge A Show
Newborns eat all the time, so you'll be spending some quality time on the couch. You might as well watch some TV-MA. My partner and I watched every season of The Walking Dead during the first months of our daughter's life. When they're old enough to make zombie noises, you'll have to cut it out.
At the very least, watch a full-length non-animated feature film. Because you may find that even Moana is too scary for your toddler, and suddenly you'll find yourself watching Clifford in Spanish on loop (how did that happen?) and praying your kid never discovers Caillou.
Take A Shower Together
Newsflash: your newborn isn't going anywhere. Stick baby in the swing, put it on autopilot, and hop in the shower. If you feel like getting all romantic, more power to you. Either way, you'll be clean and refreshed. Before you know it, you'll have a little person who can open doors and is really interested in what you're doing in there, as well as capable of destruction when unsupervised.
Hold Hands & Just Stare At Your Baby
The miracle the two of you made together (whether they're biologically yours or not, they made you a family!) will never be this small, vulnerable, and dependent on both of you again. Talk to each other as you try and memorize those perfect features and stare into the eyes of your precious child.
Get Pictures Taken
If your budget allows, you can have professional photos taken, or you can ask someone you know with a nice camera to do it. I was lucky enough to have a photographer friend who gifted us a newborn session as a baby shower gift.
It's really easy to get wrapped up in staging your baby to look like a mini-Harry Potter, but don't forget to jump into the photos yourselves. The newborn stage ends quickly (for better and for worse), and you'll be glad to be able to look back at the time your beautiful family increased by one tiny but powerful presence.