If you're anything like me, the first few weeks after you bring your new baby home are kind of a mixed bag. On one hand you will probably be happy to finally meet your newborn and get your snuggle on. On the other, you're likely to face some surprises, self-doubt, and of course, sleep deprivation. And when you experience these things with a partner, it can impact your relationship. There are so many ways that the first few weeks of new motherhood changes your relationship — for better and for worse.
There was nothing more amazing than meeting our son for the first time. I grew a tiny human in my body who is part me and part my husband, and he'll be in our lives forever. I mean, that's amazing. But there were so many scary and emotionally-charged moments staring us in the face as new parents, too, like when the baby got sick, wouldn't stop crying, or decided sleep just wasn't happening. The intensity of those moments, and the ability to problem solve together, generated some common ground and commiseration between the two of us, but it also made for more than a few petty fights about whose turn it was to walk laps with the baby or who was more sleep deprived. It also changed the way I looked at my partner. He wasn't just a lover anymore. He was a father, and that was astounding.
I admit that I got resentful of my husband's ability to sleep through pretty much anything, and it was sort of impossible for him to understand my postpartum depression and anxiety. However, in so many ways having a baby together has made our relationship stronger, at least once I stopped keeping score about who was getting more sleep. The first 21 days of motherhood can make or break your relationship, and here's how:
The first few weeks after I gave birth are pretty much a blur, full of tense moments, heightened emotions, pain, and exhaustion. When you are navigating these stormy waters with a partner, even the most loving couple is bound to argue, often about something silly or stupid that usually leaves you laughing after the fact.
You Gain Insight About Your Partner
I learned so much about my partners in the early days of parenthood. With my first husband, I learned that he would not support me and help when things got hard, and they got so hard. With my current husband, I witnessed vulnerability, tenderness, and caring for me and our baby that made me fall even more in love with him.
You Face New Challenges
New parenthood is not for the faint of heart and jam packed full of challenging moments. Facing new challenges, like breastfeeding struggles, your baby getting sick, and no one getting much sleep, with a partner and co-parent can make or break your relationship.
You Discover New Ways To Be Intimate
Yeah, for the first few weeks of motherhood, the last thing I wanted to do was have sex. Seriously. So, you have a choice: you can find new ways to be intimate (foot massages, naps, and lots of snuggling) or let the space between you get even bigger.
You Learn How To Be A Team
When things get hard and problems inevitably arise, you have plenty of opportunities to become a united front and work as a team — or leave your partner to manage challenges alone. My first husband's strategy was to roll over and pretend to be sleeping, or take a road trip with his buddy to get away from the stress of new parenthood. There's more than one reason he's now my ex-husband, friends. My current husband became my partner in parenting. We're on each other's team, for sure.
You Take Turns
So, yeah, in order to get through the first 21 days of new parenthood relatively unscathed and with your partnership intact, I have learned that sometimes you need to take turns, like getting up with baby, feeding baby, putting baby to bed, but also showering, running to the store, making dinner, and tending to the house and other kids if you have them. It can feel really weird to do things on your own, when you are used to doing everything with your partner, but if you both try to do everything, no one will get any sleep or a damn break.
You Prioritize Each Other
The first few weeks of parenthood teaches you to prioritize. In addition to finding time to even spend with your partner (which can seem impossible when you are a new parent) you also need to find ways to prioritize each other and your relationship, especially when all of your focus is on your tiny human. I learned the hard way that if you don't do this, your relationship will quickly become secondary to pretty much everything else.
You Become Parents
When you make it through the first 21 days of parenthood with your partner, your relationship changes — for better and, sometimes, for worse. You learn so much about your partner, by seeing how they respond to challenges, support you (or not), and care for your new little one. If you are lucky, seeing your partner as a co-parent will change the way you see them for the better and bring you closer together. If not, then, it's good to learn these things at the beginning of your co-parenting journey.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.