I like to think that I had a healthy respect for the significant changes that a baby would bring into my life. We can all guess what weeks of sleep deprivation and undernourishment feels like, but until you're in the middle of it and holding a crying infant, it's hard to grasp. The same goes for the ways a partnership is affected by the arrival of a baby. There are things you can only learn about your marriage after you have a baby (aside from the obvious, like how your partner functions as a parent).
My spouse and I had been together for nearly ten years before we welcomed our son. We met as students, so those years included many transitions and moves and job changes and various other milestones that adults tend to reach in their 20s and once they're "established" (whatever that means). So, I definitely felt like — and still feel like, if I'm being honest — I know my partner pretty well. Still, there are sides of him (and sides of me) that didn't come out until our son arrived and we were officially parents.
To be fair, these sides had no reason to come out before we were responsible for another human being (even when we got a puppy, because it's not the same thing). Still, while we knew we were in for an entirely new experience, we didn't realize we would realize the following until, well, we did.
How To Handle Each Other's Sleep Patterns
I suppose it's possible to have a sense of your partner's sleeping habits, before a newborn is thrown into the mix. Still, our transition to parenthood has cemented our previous knowledge, and required us to accommodate my tendency to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep through the apocalypse.
There were stages in our son's development (and, probably more to come) that required us to be up more frequently, so my husband often took overnight responsibilities while I slept. Then, because compromise, I'd get up early with our son and give my husband time to sleep in.
Who Functions Better On No Sleep At All
I mean, I knew my husband when we were both college students, so I watched him handle finals week and various other college activities involving late nights and early mornings like a champ.
Still, as I think you're probably starting to notice, it's different when there's a baby in the picture. When you're in college, there's a light at the end of the tunnel; like when you turn in your last paper, go home for the weekend, or take a nap after class. A baby taught me how we handle the desperation of sleep deprivation together, as opposed to separately, on a long-term basis and with no light in sight.
How Long You Can Both Go Without Showering
Luckily, I happen to like it when my partner is all scruffy, so spending multiple days in our sweatpants isn't the worst thing in the world. Still, it's a new level of commitment to know and accept the fact that neither of you will probably bathe for another week or so.
"In Sickness And In Health" Doesn't Mean Just The Two Of You
I will never forget our baby's first illness, and the subsequent ER visit we took as a family. It was a long and stressful night, and one I'm glad my partner and I spent that difficult time together, with our son.
Just How Creative You Can Get With Your Time
When we were child-free, a 90 minute window of free time was hardly anything worth celebrating. We had constant 90 minute windows of free time. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but that's how it feels looking back.
Now? Now we can go out to eat, have serious adult conversations, tackle important issues, and get back in time to relieve his grandma from childcare duty and see our toddler use the potty. Boom.
A Clear Sense Of Each Other's Goals...
Before our son came along, my husband and I both had a some informal lists of things we want to do in life, in our careers, and in our free time. Now, we have timelines and compromises and family priorities mixed in, and we're much more open and clear with how the coming weeks and months are going to look for each other.
...And An Ever Clearer Sense Of Household Priorities
Speaking of clear goals, having a baby in the house also forces you to figure out which chores matter most to each of you. My husband is much more inclined to keep surfaces and counters clean of clutter, while I'm probably going to turn to laundry before anything else. When you only have 12 minutes to get things done before baby's nap will undoubtably come to an end, tough choices have to be made.
The Strengths You Never Knew Your Partner Had
My husband's awesome at flying our toddler around the room. He has a ton of patience when it comes to long, rambling walks to various parks in our neighborhood, and he's creative in the kitchen when we're all hungry but we're out of our regular staples (which happens much more now than it did before we became parents). This wasn't necessary information to have when I fell for him, but I'm totally enamored by it now.