3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently After Having a Baby
It was 3 AM. Our two-week-old son, Strider, was crying for the third time that night. To say we were exhausted was an understatement. We were full-blown zombies ready to eat each other alive.
“Why is he CRYING LIKE THIS when I’m trying to change his diaper?” my husband yelled.
“Because he is a HELPLESS INFANT WHO DOESN’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING,” I yell back.
“WELL WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?” he yells again.
“BECAUSE YOU’RE YELLING AND HE’S YELLING AND I JUST WISH NONE OF US WERE YELLING!”
On and on this went. We were literally yelling about yelling.
I didn’t expect the birth of our child to birth so much tension in our marriage.
To give you a little context, my husband and I are both pretty laid-back. It takes a lot to fluster us and make us mad, especially with each other. But somehow, after having a baby, the nursery became our war zone.
I thought that once Strider grew a little and started sleeping better, the feelings of frustration between us would subside.
Nope. In fact, the tension grew with him.
“Why did you put the same onesie on him again?”
“Why are you holding him like that?”
“He’s clearly upset, why are you still trying to play?”
“Can you do bathtime any faster? It’s already past his bedtime!”
With every new milestone Strider reached, there was something new for us to pick each other apart over.
Finally, we had an epiphany: we hadn’t been on a date in over 4 months, and after having a baby, sex and intimacy were nearly nonexistent in our marriage.
Yep. Somehow in the hustle and bustle of having a baby and trying to care for him, we genuinely lost sight of each other and stopped taking care of us.
This was a huge problem. How could we build a loving relationship with our son if our own relationship was falling apart? And how could we give him the strong loving home he deserves?
Looking back, there are 3 things I wish I had done differently after Strider was born:
Praise my husband for being the awesome dad he is.
Maybe it’s maternal instinct, but I genuinely felt like I was the only one capable of taking care of our baby well. I had some real Mama Bear feelings over my little cub, and everyone else was a threat to his well-being, even his dad. I wish I‘d taken the time to enjoy seeing my husband become a parent with me and praise him for all the ways he took care of our son because he really is an awesome dad. Just because he doesn’t do certain things the exact same way as I do them doesn’t mean he’s wrong or a bad parent.
Schedule a date night 4-6 weeks after birth.
We came home from the hospital in total SURVIVAL MODE. My husband and I were literally just trying to keep this tiny little human alive. We had zero time to think about ourselves, each other, or our marriage. Before we knew it, our little boy was over 4 months old, and we had spent 4 months living in the same house but not really connecting with each other. Scheduling a date night would have helped us to relax, reconnect and recharge. Plus, it would help us to mentally keep our marriage as the utmost priority, even before our relationship with our son. After all, if we’re not healthy and thriving, how can we set a positive example and love him well?
Stop the resentment.
Breastfeeding makes it difficult to take night shifts. I felt like my husband couldn’t get up in the middle of the night to take care of our screaming child because our child didn’t need him as much as he needed me. I had the goods that he couldn’t provide. Naturally, I started to resent him for sleeping through the loud wails and getting more than 2.5 hours of sleep at a time. The resentment grew when I saw the dishwasher needed to be unloaded, the bed needed to be made and someone needed to get groceries! How could I do it all with little to no sleep? Plus work full-time, mind you.
The answer, I’ve now realized, is that I’m not supposed to do it all. I’m supposed to ask my dear sweet husband, love of my life, the father of my child, to help me out. I’m supposed to be open with him and tell him how I’m feeling. Once I finally did that, we worked out a great schedule where he would change diapers in the middle of the night, and I would feed our baby. This helped me to not feel so alone. We also created a list of needs around the house on a daily and weekly basis, and we assign tasks for those. I’ve learned he’s very visual and having a list with exactly what he needs to do is a great motivator.
After we took these steps in our marriage (and Strider started sleeping longer stretches at night) we were able to work together as a team and support each other when we needed it most.
Late nights full of crying, tension, and maybe a little yelling are bound to happen during the transitional phase of bringing a baby home. Just remember to fight for your marriage, not against each other. Babies are the best. They really are. They’re so sweet and cuddly and they need you to survive. Just remember the best gift you can give them is a healthy, thriving marriage.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
We had similar challenges in our marriage as a result of our first child. I think the best advice any parent can have is to remember to take care of themselves and also their spouse. It is natural to take care of the baby but it can be un-natural to care for ourselves during the transition phase of a first time parent.
Thanks for the feedback.