6 Strategies to Thrive in Your Marriage After a New Baby
Congratulations! You just brought home a new baby. What a joyful time for your family! Maybe you’re a first time mom or maybe you’re adding to the crew you’ve already got at home. Either way, welcoming a new baby to the family is a big change for everyone.
Those first several days, everything is so new and exciting. You’ve got this adorable little bundle that wants to snuggle all the time and you can’t stop kissing their sweet face. You’re on a high that simply cannot be topped. But after those first few days, exhaustion starts to set in and things get real. You realize that this is quite a transition and that the baby takes up every waking (and sleeping) moment of your day. Things that you once had time to do (i.e. showering, folding laundry, sitting down to eat a meal) suddenly get pushed to the wayside. Oftentimes, our marriages even take a backseat to the new baby, which can cause a lot of tension between mom and dad.
I mean, think about it. Before the baby came, you and your partner had all the time in the world to devote to each other and now, your attention and effort is being completely demanded by another little human.
One of the biggest things I struggled with when we came home from the hospital was that I felt I hadn’t gotten a chance to even talk to my husband in several days. I remember one morning I woke Ben up to give him a hug and tell him that I missed him, and the tears just flowed. It’s a really odd feeling -- missing the person that you are still seeing and spending your entire day with.
What’s even harder is that during these first couple of months, baby just wants mama. Dad can struggle A LOT with this realization. In the hospital, babies are so tired from their big arrival into the world that they will literally cuddle up and sleep on anyone just trying to escape this cold new world they’re in. Fast forward to getting home, babies are more aware of being outside the womb. They know who their mama is and they seek her for comfort. They know her smell, the sound of her heartbeat, and they long to be close to her. This is part of why babies nurse so much in the first few weeks. Nursing is the closest comfort they can get to being in the womb!
Once you get home, you may (or may not) notice that your husband may be struggling to find his place in this new role as “dad”. The baby cries now when he tries to hold him, he can’t feed the baby (if you’re breastfeeding), and chances are, dad doesn’t have any clue when it comes to changing a diaper. He can often become frustrated, reserved, and retreat from the whole situation. This can make mom feel like he isn’t trying or simply doesn’t want to help with the baby. *cue more tension*
While it may seem like it’s normal that your marriage may just have to come second to this new addition for a while, this doesn’t have to be true, and the longer you wait to “fix” it, the harder it will get. When you married your spouse, you promised to be a team. You promised to work at your marriage and strive to make it better each day. If you get lazy in your marriage, it’s inevitable that you’ll grow apart and start to resent each other, and guess what -- as your children grow, they’ll see the way your marriage works, and they’ll think that’s how it’s supposed to be. We have to set a good example of love for our kiddos and that starts with a good foundation of marriage between mom and dad! Having a baby can (& should) change your relationship for the better!
Here are some simple strategies to help you and your partner be present and supportive in your marriage, while making it even stronger despite this huge new change!
Keep communication OPEN. Be 100% honest in how you are feeling. Postpartum life brings about A LOT of emotions (so moms, you likely won’t be able to hide your feelings anyway!). Talk to your partner often about ways he/she can be supportive and don’t let anything stew for too long. The sooner you get things out in the open, the sooner you both can start working on ways to adapt.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. Postpartum hormones are no joke. You may find yourself becoming angry, upset, and overwhelmed with things that you usually wouldn’t bat an eyelash at. It’s totally normal and OKAY! Your spouse will likely take some time to adjust to all of these emotions and will eventually understand that this is part of the package for a short time. While some of these feelings are impossible to ignore or try to control, remember that your spouse cannot relate to anything you went through during pregnancy, childbirth, and afterward. As much as they may try to understand the physical, mental, and emotional experiences, they simply cannot. So when you find yourself starting to get worked up about something small, (i.e. a harmless joke) take a deep breath and remember that they love you and they’re not against you! But, if these things are beginning to take a toll, refer to tip #1!
Let your spouse take part. In typical mom fashion, we often want to do everything ourselves to make sure it’s done the “right way”. Get rid of this mindset, sister! If you keep up with this, you will 100% become exhausted and frustrated. I am for sure guilty of hanging over my husband’s shoulder trying to micromanage how to change a diaper. This caused one of our biggest arguments! Let him change the diaper how he wants. Let him help you give the baby a bath. Let him feed the baby the bottle or burp him (if you’re breastfeeding). Let him read a bedtime story. We learn by doing!
On the other hand, ask him to help out with the housework. Be careful not to bark orders at him, but instead say, “It would be really helpful if you did ______ while I nurse.” And make sure to thank him afterwards! This makes him feel needed and appreciated.
Self-care. You may be thinking, how does this help my spouse? And no -- it isn’t so that they’ll find you and your new “mom bod” more attractive. This is all for you, mama! Let’s be real, birthing a human followed by sleepless nights and long days with seemingly no time to do anything but feed the baby, change the baby, rock the baby -- it’s easy to forget how to be a human yourself. But when you take care of yourself, you’ll feel more like yourself (even if it’s just a shower!) and it will be easier to pour into your marriage and your family altogether.
Enlist help. When things just get to be too much and you both really need a break before hitting your tipping point, ask for help. Call your parents, your in-laws, a friend, a neighbor -- anyone who may be able to bring you a meal, run an errand, or come sit with the baby, if only for an hour while you both take a much needed breather to reset.
Make time for each other. Chances are, you have plenty of family and friends who would be more than willing to come babysit for an evening while mom & dad go on a little date. For a marriage to work, there has to be effort! You both deserve a night out, uninterrupted, to let loose, catch up, and rekindle the flame a bit! Try to schedule a kid-free date night at least once or twice a month.
Hopefully, you will find these strategies to be easy to implement and effective! What are some other ways that you can prioritize your marriage?