I started my journey as a mom with a little too much confidence in myself. From an early age, I knew that being a mom one day was something I was meant to do. I looked forward to motherhood for years before my first positive pregnancy test and I assumed wanting to be a mom meant being a mom would come naturally to me. Of course I knew it would be difficult, but I really believe I'd adjust quickly and learn to juggle it all. I was so sure I could manage the demands of a newborn, work, and my young marriage. It wasn’t long before my first baby was born that I realized my marriage actually wasn’t ready for a baby and my false sense of confidence quickly deflated.
My husband and I were married young. I had a year left to finish my degree and had just turned 20 a few months before our wedding. Being young never felt like a problem for us because we had so much going for us. We had supportive families. We had friends who had also married young. We communicated well. We enjoyed each other’s company and had minimal conflict in our relationship. But when our first child arrived a month after my 22 birthday, everything about our life changed. Having a good marriage before kids didn’t translate to an easy marriage after kids. Rarely finding ourselves in disagreements wasn’t actually a good thing because we had a really limited understanding of how to navigate conflict on a regular basis. Now we had something to disagree on: The new baby we'd made together was now a source of conflict and to be honest, we sucked at fighting.
To be perfectly honest, I often found myself wondering if I had made a mistake. Had we become parents too soon? I'd felt so confident in our ability to raise a child together, but now I wasn’t so sure.
There were times we spent days in silence, something we hadn’t experienced before, simply because we disagreed on something related to parenting and we didn’t really know how to resolve our fight. I felt resentful much of the time, juggling motherhood, home, and work, feeling like my husband had the easier job, but lacking the skills to honestly communicate my needs. To be perfectly honest, I often found myself wondering if I had made a mistake. Had we become parents too soon? I'd felt so confident in our ability to raise a child together, but now I wasn’t so sure. We weren’t ready for a baby and that fact was crystal clear at each midnight waking and silent dinner we shared.
But even though my marriage wasn’t ready for a baby doesn’t mean I would change when we became parents. With a third baby due to arrive any day now, I understand something I didn’t see after the arrival of our first baby: Your marriage is never really ready for a baby, whether it's your first, second, or sixth.
As it turns out, a new baby was part of what our marriage needed in order to change and grow. Sure, we'd done some things to strengthen our relationship — like reading books, planning quality time together outside of our daughter, and seeing a premarital counselor — but the difficulties of new parenthood were exactly what forced as to take a good, hard look at how we were living our lives together and start making changes for the sake of our family.
Our marriage still isn’t perfect but it's always growing.
It was sleepless nights that forced me to start learning to express my frustration in a healthier way instead of sweeping it under the rug. It took disagreeing over how we were going to deal with a baby who still wasn’t sleeping at 1 year old that taught us that conflict wasn’t exactly bad for our relationship and our marriage. Juggling finding childcare for two and managing irregular work schedules taught us to work together in sticky situations when there didn’t seem to be a best situation instead of working against one another.
So no, my marriage wasn’t ready for a baby. We were too immature when she arrived. I was selfish and lacked an understanding of how to make the sacrifices parenthood requires. We sucked at conflict and our communication skills needed so much work.
But here we are, over four years later, with a third baby on the way. Our marriage still isn’t perfect, but it's always growing. My perspective has changed, and I feel less pressure to be ready for whatever is next, whether that be a surprise pregnancy or unemployment or family illness, and more equipped to approach my marriage as a growing and evolving thing with each new challenge. It's become so clear to me that being ready for what’s next isn’t so important, but being willing to learn from your inadequacy and ask forgiveness is. It's the knowledge I wish we'd had in our own marriage before our daughter arrived.