Ahh, the newborn years. Now that my kids are older, I can't say I miss them because, well, I don't. I mean, I guess I do miss the baby snuggles, that special newborn smell, and the sweet cooing, but that's about it. In theory and in the beginning, the newborn years seem serene until, of course, the reality of parenthood sets in. The stress, fatigue, and overall sense of, "What the hell do I do now?" can take their toll. Now that I'm long past it, I see all the ways the newborn years almost ended my relationship. Key word, thankfully, being "almost."
Throughout my first pregnancy and before my daughter entered the world, my partner and I declared our infinite devotion to one another, as two crazy kids in love often do. We did the birthing classes, read the books, continued date nights, and swore we'd always put one another first, no matter what. Ha. We were naive. I mean, yes, we were in love and we had wonderful goals, but we were definitely naive. We had no idea how much control our newborn would have over us both, or how much we'd be tested in the first years of her life.
I wouldn't trade the time, no matter how hard it felt, for the world. However, my partner and I had to find new ways to communicate, connect, and understand one another. These aren't bad things, no matter how difficult they were initially, and I'm actually grateful to be where we are because of all we've been through together. Still, there were some arguments that made me think we wouldn't make it to our daughter's first birthday. Here are some of the ways having a newborn almost ended our relationship before it ever really began (we're still going strong, 13 years later).
I knew I'd be tired as a new mom but holy hell it was next level fatigue like I've never experienced before (or after). All those nights of no sleep means neither I, or my partner, would pull an argument from literally nothing. Nothing to eat for dinner? Argument. A single sock on the floor? Argument. Tired of arguing? Argument. This went on until we decided to either work on it, or split up.
Oh, the joy of sleepless night and never-ending feeds, diaper changes, and staring into my newborn's eyes because she refused to go to sleep. My partner and I took turns (for the most part), but every now and then the conversation became bigger than us, spiraling way out of our control as we debated who should be doing what.
One time we started an argument about who had to bathe our daughter, and it ended with an argument about why we were together at all. That, my friend, is top-notch relationship-ending stuff.
Once my partner returned to work, we faced a brand new set of issues. Not only were we fighting when we were together (from being so damn tired), but while I stayed home with the baby he worked long shifts. It seemed as thought there was never any time for the two of us to connect. When you don't spend time together, how can you possibly feel connected?
There came a point where I resented my partner for being gone so much ("He must be having so much fun!"), and he felt the same about me being home with our baby ("She gets to lie around all day while I work"). We simply couldn't understand each other's perspective. No matter what we did, some days we had to tap out before deciding none of it was worth the trouble.
My postpartum depression came on gradually, but once it was fully embedded into my daily life I felt disconnected from everything, especially my partner. The days he put forth the effort to help with the baby and chores, I wasn't at a place to care. I was drowning and needed a lifejacket, but he didn't recognize how serious this had become until it was almost too late. Not only did postpartum depression nearly end my relationship, it nearly ended my life.
I didn't have a "traditional" outside-of-the-home job after the baby was born (and still don't), so money has always been tight. When you mix two tired parents, a fussy newborn, communication breakdowns, and money problems, separation is almost inevitable. There were many times we almost called it quits because the arguments over money were so frequent. I'm glad we eventually found our way out of the mess, together.
As you can probably tell from the above, my partner and I were pretty awful at resolving conflicts during those newborn years. I could blame it on our ages or maturity but, honestly, it stems from the way we grew up. He came from a household where he learned to let the arguments go until there's been enough space to pretend as though nothing happened, whereas I came from a place of constant fighting. My initial reaction is fight or flight. It took a long time before we figured out how to get through conflict in a healthy way, but back then and with our newborn present, it felt like every argument as a couple was our last.
Forget conflicting schedules when there's a baby physically between us at all hours of the day. We managed to be alone sometimes, sure, but for the majority of the early days it was the three of us. Having restricted couple time caused a huge rift in our relationship that was only exasperated by my postpartum depression. Our baby is 10 years old now and she still pushes her way between us.
There's a huge difference between evolving into the role of parents, and growing apart. Back then, we leaned towards the latter. We struggled to find balance and, in the process, we'd become people the other person didn't recognize. Even now there are times I wonder if we're close enough to stay together for life, or if too much has happened and too much has changed.
At the end of the day, if we can get through the newborn years I guess we can make it through anything. Unless I'm tired or hungry. Then he'd better watch out. Kidding. Mostly.