The addition of a tiny, red-faced bundle of joy is a momentous occasion in any relationship, indeed, in any family. From the moment the eyes of the new parents alight on the precious face of the child they made together, the bond is sealed, for life.
Thus begins an entire new chapter in the lives of the parents. Their previous roles as husband and wife now expand to include mom and dad. Parenthood is, of course, daunting, especially for a first-time parent. So many fears and concerns; there is little reason to believe these fears abate over time, but rather that they morph into different fears – where initially the fears encompass basic needs like whether the child is hungry, tired, ill, in need of a nappy change, eventually the concerns stretch further than that, to include fears about friends, schoolwork, peer pressure… Then career choices, choice of romantic partner… The basic needs concerns never really go away either (except for nappy changes, we hope) so all in all, parenthood is fraught with trials, tribulations, and ceaseless concern.
Why, then, do people make the decision to go ahead and have a baby?
Because all the negatives thrown in together are but in a drop in the ocean of the love, joy, laughter, the general wonderment, that a child brings with them. It is arguably the very most important thing any two people who love each other can do, and the blessing that this child represents increases exponentially with every year added to their precious lives.
While this little gift is just that, an extraordinary boon, this new chapter does bring with it new challenges for the parents, not only in terms of their new child, but also in terms of the restructuring of their relationship that is synonymous with it. Things start to change. Mom may now be self-conscious of her body and the changes that pregnancy has wrought on it; this, coupled with lack of sleep, can lead to a decreased sex drive. Dad, having experienced none of these physical changes, possesses the same sex drive as before. So this can lead to frustration, fighting, and distance between mom and dad.
Now at this point is it important to note that the addition of baby does not downgrade ‘husband and wife’ to second position – it should still be the primary relationship, but practicalities must be observed too. Hubby can put himself to sleep, baby cannot. Hubby can take meds if he isn’t feeling well, baby cannot. Hubby can ablute without external help, baby cannot. Baby literally, physically, requires sustenance from his mother, hubby can make his own food. In light of the enormous stress that having a baby places on mom, specifically, it is entirely plausible that hubby may start to feel neglected. Fear not, there are ways to combat this. Dad, help out as much as possible. While you lack the necessary physical equipment to breastfeed, there are other ways you can provide aid:
Ask if you can assist.
Nice and easy, but effective.
Speak gently, be supportive. Surprise your wife with something she’s fond of, make her feel special and loved. There are certain things she hasn’t been allowed for 9 months – treat her with one of these.
Things like sterilising; dummies, bottles, pumps… Washing, cooking, that kind of thing.
when you go to work. Just a phone call or a message to show you care. Ask about baby; there are so many weird conversations moms want to have about their babies – frequency of bowel movements, colour, consistency… Yes, it’s gross, but it’s your baby too. Showing (or even feigning, if you must) interest in this stuff will show your wife she’s not alone.
Take care of yourself.
Try to engage in things that will decrease your own stress levels (exercise is always a good option) so that you can be more patient and present with your wife and baby. However, this tip is mostly for you – it’s a trying time of your life too, so take a load off.
It is very easy to get caught up in all the things that need doing for the little one, but make time, intentionally, to be alone with your husband. No one ever said leaving a baby alone with a sitter for the first time would be easy, but that is little comfort in the face of how tough it actually is; nevertheless, it’s not an excuse. Also, it does get easier… So plan a date night, and enlist someone you trust to take care of baby. Yes, in the back of your mind you will most likely be a bit stressed anyway, but be present in the moment, give your man your undivided attention. He will feel it, appreciate it, and feel loved and secure in response. Your sex-drive might well be low, or even non-existent, but plan a special night for your man, maybe even after your date night. Get dolled up, buy a new bedroom number that makes you feel sexy, and then show your husband that you find him sexy too. Remember, the changes that you see in your body, that make you feel unattractive, are something different in your husband’s eyes; they are evidence of the blessing that you bore him. Be as aware of your husbands needs as you are of your baby’s, it’s imperative.
A relationship is like a tree – if you don’t feed and water it, it’s going to die. Your life will never be the same again, but one day, the kids will be all grown up and gone. What remains, then, is the marriage you have watered and fed with the person you chose all those years ago. Make sure you prioritise this beloved, always and in every situation. Make them feel loved, appreciated, valued, special. Make sure your marriage is something to go back to, so that you and the one your soul loves can begin this brand new chapter together with no fear of the future.