You'd think marriage and pregnancy would go together like peanut butter and jelly but, for me, there were times it felt more like mayo and chocolate. Not so much gross, but it just didn't make sense or (sometimes) felt way harder than it probably should've. Pregnancy was a trying time for me every time I went through it, and my relationship suffered as a result. I learned some things no one will tell you about marriage after getting pregnant only because I lived it and learned from it (I hope).
My first pregnancy, way back in my early 20s, was a shock, surprising both my partner and I. I was on birth control so although we were careful, things still happen. That's life, I suppose, but once we knew and adjusted to the change it would bring, we were elated. At that time, we weren't married and my partner had no plans on asking me anytime soon. I don't blame him because I'd been married and divorced right out of high school and the day I discovered this first pregnancy, he and I had only been together for a little over a year. We were young and unsure of just about everything. Would we even last? Only time would tell.
That pregnancy was difficult for a lot of reasons, mainly that my partner and I were having a baby before we were fully committed to staying together. I had a mound of health problems and was miserable the whole nine months. After the delivery, I experienced such awful postpartum depression (PPD) that I became suicidal before seeking treatment. I'm surprised we made it through all of that, but we did. The very next year, we got married. My daughter was my maid of honor, carried down the aisle by a long lost friend and, although it would be about a year before we'd even think about trying for a second baby, I could see all the ways our relationship changed just by being unified by marriage.
Once we actively attempted another pregnancy, I suffered two miscarriages at two separate times. These trauma-filled moments still linger between my partner and I, even all these years later. I thought I'd never carry another baby to term. It changed the way I thought about everything, especially my relationship with my husband. Then, one unexpected day out of the blue, I took a pregnancy test for absolutely no reason other than I had a metallic taste in my mouth that wouldn't go away. I was pregnant again five years after my first pregnancy almost to the day. This time, however, I was in a committed relationship with another child to care for. I couldn't help but wonder all the ways the pregnancy would affect those things.
Now that I've gone through it and come out the other side, marriage still in tact, I've learned a lot and grown up a lot. Here are some of those things that no one will tell you about your marriage and pregnancy and how the two may (or may not) mesh.
Your Relationship Becomes An Afterthought
It's no one's fault that everything your marriage was before pregnancy fades to the background. As you both experience bodily, hormonal, and life changes throughout those nine months, your relationship is going to be tested in ways it hasn't before.
My husband and I have always been great friends at the very base of it all, but during pregnancy even that tried-and-true friendship wasn't as prominent. We focused more on being parents than being partners. The only things that saved us was already having one child and finding ways to talk things through, no matter how uncomfortable.
Hormones Rule (Almost) Everything
I wanted to be rational. I wanted to think things through like a mature adult. I wanted to avoid nitpicking, nagging, and stupid fights. Pregnancy didn't care about any of that, though. My hormones decided how I'd react to basically everything, no matter how I tried to talk it through in my mind first. It's an unfortunate side effect that almost ruined my relationship with my husband, and didn't fix itself until after labor and delivery.
Empathy And Compassion Wane
Those times my husband would get a cold or stub a toe on the door, I felt my sympathy lackluster. The immediate response was always something pregnancy-related, like, "You don't know what pain really is!" or, "Try being pregnant and then see how much you complain!"
Of course none of this was helpful and all it really did was drive a bigger wedge between us. It was hard to bite my tongue and to feel compassion for this man who had no idea all the things I was dealing with 24/7. It was infuriating. Now that I'm well past pregnancy, I see from his perspective that maybe I was infuriating, too.
You Begin Keeping Score
The old tally was never more in business than during pregnancy. One point for him doing the dishes, three points for me putting them away. Two points for when he'd take out the trash, seven for when I'd pay the bills.
Honestly this carries over into marriage after the birth of children, minus the massive amount of contempt. Now, we share responsibilities like a team, where as when I was heavy, miserable, and peeing every five seconds, he couldn't have done enough to "win" for the day. Sorry, honey.
Priorities Shift Dramatically
We were once young love birds just having fun, then we had one child and morphed into parents. Priorities shifted with the first child but after marriage, even more so. There was no question we wouldn't be together for the long haul now, so with the second pregnancy I remember priorities shifting further away from the relationship.
In other words, the marriage was taken for granted simply because it felt more secure than when we weren't married. Our roles are largely as parents through most hours of the day and it's hard to turn off that switch. Now that we have children ages 5 and 10, it's imperative we find that switch regularly and make time for each other as partners, not parents or we know now, we won't make it.
Conflict Resolution Is Absent
There was a time, during the above aforementioned "young lovebirds" phase, when we knew how to resolve petty fights at least a little bit. While communication has always been something we struggle with (and has caused issues on its own), pregnancy threw any and all chance to fix and/or end conflicts out the freakin' window. I could blame hormones, my partner's deafening lack of gusto for fixing things as the months dragged on, or the fact that we once again weren't sure if we could survive another pregnancy.
Now that we're a little older and a lot wiser, I see all those times we fought about which shelf the strawberries should go on to be nothing more than distraction from being scared to death at this whole parenting thing. To be honest, ten years later, we're still scared to death. But now, we resolve to talk things through.
Finances Take Their Toll
One major issue within our marriage had to do with money. We've never had much of it but pregnancy has a funny way of taking what's left and flushing it. You need so many things for the baby, it's hard to get, and stay, ahead. Our finances took a big hit and because of my health problems, I was on mandatory bedrest at home so my work shifted as well. I took on more freelance jobs, scouring the web for anything I could do from home. But even still, it was rough.
Money is the biggest problem in a lot of relationships and for us, we couldn't even find a mature way to discuss it. Instead, we started to resent one another which led to more communication problems and more conflicts we couldn't resolve. These things weren't fixed immediately after delivery but at east then, we could take a step back, start a working budget, and figure things out, together.
Body Changes And Discomfort Make Intimacy Different
Throughout my first pregnancy, I wanted nothing to do with sex, intimacy, or my body. I was uncomfortable, sick, and didn't feel attractive at all. I know this hurt my partner, but I couldn't force myself to change things.
During my second pregnancy, it was the exact opposite but even as husband and wife things weren't the same as they had been with my pre-pregnancy body. We had to learn how to adjust in many ways, not only around my growing belly but our changing emotions and feelings about being together in general.
You're Bound To Change, Somehow
It's so easy to grow a apart when there's any kind of challenge in a relationship, and there were many times my husband and I rode that wave far too long. We've been to couple's therapy and sat up late many nights hashing out our issues because we so desperately wanted to find ways, and reasons, to stay together.
Love is tricky and honestly, my relationship wasn't ready for a baby. We had to work at staying interested or, through the natural course of life and evolution, we may have drifted farther apart than we did. Pregnancy changed me in a lot of ways (as it should, because how else would I have been prepared for motherhood?). It was vital that my husband learn how to change with me, not against me. As we prepare to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this October, I see now that he did just that and I'm so grateful he did.