I am that person who thought her marriage absolutely wouldn't change after a baby was introduced into the mix. Boy, was I wrong. Instead of thinking everything would stay the same, I shouldn't been afraid of the word "change," especially since my marriage has changed for the better. Instead, it took several months after my daughter was born for my husband and I to realize we needed to adjust. I wish someone had told me what every mom needs to know to survive marriage postpartum. While I'm not saying that knowledge would have made the growing pains any easier to endure, I think it definitely would have made things a lot less messy.
My partner and I didn't really have nine months to prepare for our daughter. We had been trying to start our family, with no success, for several years, and we decided to move back to the United States from abroad in order to adopt. Five weeks after we arrived, we got the call that our daughter was here and everything in our lives changed in the span of six hours. We were still adjusting from returning to the United States after eight years away, getting settled in our new jobs, and furnishing our apartment. In fact, when our daughter arrived we had a couch, a bed, and little else.
Perhaps our situation was extreme, but I do think that no matter what situation you're in, things will change once you have a baby. I think my entire brain changed when we had our daughter, and it took a while for it to shift back to a semblance of what it once was. Over the course of that first year with her home, I realized quite a few things weren't going to be the same in my romantic relationship either, and took several steps to help my marriage survive such a big change. Here's what I learned:
You Will Experience Change
Things do change once you have a baby, despite how much and how vehemently you declare they won't. Your priorities suddenly shift because you have to care for a baby who needs you, at first, all the time. I found it difficult to care about my husband (at least, as much as I did before our daughter arrived) when my entire brain was completely focused on my newborn daughter.
I think that's natural, and I think it's important to remember that as your newborn grows, you will be able to focus less on them and more on things around you. However, even in the midst of newborn life, it's important to track your energy and attention so it doesn't shift 100 percent to your baby forever. Your partner deserves to remain a priority, and so do you.
You Won't Understand Your Partner All The Time...
When my daughter was very tiny, I felt like my husband was a member of an alien species I didn't understand. He didn't realize how my brain had changed since having my daughter, so he'd ask me questions and I'd just stare at him as though he was speaking a foreign language. Questions like, "Do you want to go out to dinner tomorrow night?" or, "Should we go skiing next month?" I was having trouble thinking past the next feeding, let alone tomorrow night or next month.
...And Your Partner Won't Understand You
Instantly, everything (for me) revolved around the baby and her schedule. I don't think that ever fully happened for my husband. For whatever biological or personal reasons, his brain didn't make a full switch to parent life the second she came home and, as a result, he was still able to retain some of his former self.
I know he looked at me and thought, "Who is this lady who has replaced my wife?" In fact, a few times when we were arguing about whether to go skiing or go out to dinner, he would ask me a variation of that very question.
You'll Like Your Baby More Than Your Partner
You might feel like you like your baby more than your partner, but I think (for most people) that feeling doesn't stick around forever.
For about the first six months of mom life, I was fully obsessed with my daughter. In fact, I felt like I was pretty sure I wouldn't need anyone else for the rest of my life. That wore off, and I do really like my husband again now, but it took a little while to regain my obsession with him.
You'll Have To Work To Stay Connected
It definitely takes more work to stay connected with your partner after having a baby. Going on dates together and spending quality time just the two of you, or even just having a whole conversation from start to finish, used to be such a simple thing. Once your baby arrives, though, asking to do any of those things is like being asked to climb Mount Everest with a sherpa on your back.
Just know that it's worth it to climb the mountain, and climbing the mountain does eventually feel easier than Mount Everest.
Your Greatest Enemy Will Be Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is so hard on relationships. It made my husband and I more snappy and grumpy, especially once the newborn adrenaline had worn off, than we had ever been with each other.
It didn't take us long to realize we both deal with sleep deprivation and stress differently, but still take it out on each other. The simple act of recognizing that some of the words coming out of our mouths were because we were exhausted, helped give each other a break. Also, sleep training saved our marriage.
Your Babysitter Will Save You Both
Having a babysitter, especially a non-family babysitter, sometimes feels like a giant hassle and expense. I had to get everything ready, write out instructions, and mentally prepare myself to leave my daughter behind. However, I can safely say it was more than worth it.
Get the babysitter, go to the restaurant, have an actual conversation, even if you're only gone for two hours. Trust me.
Your Listening & Communication Skills Are Clutch
No one can read the minds of their partners, especially if they're sleep deprived. Keep this in mind when you're wondering why your partner doesn't seem to understand what you've only insinuated. Speak clearly, try to keep your emotions in check, and really listen when your partner speaks, too.
Perfecting your listening and communication skills when you're an exhausted new parent might easily be the hardest thing you're asked to do, but it's also arguably the most important.