metro mama

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Baby and Marriage

My last few posts have focused on my favourite stories about my relationship with my husband; however, our relationship hasn’t always been easy. Of course, marriage is never easy—it requires constant effort and commitment. Add a baby to the mix and it’s infinitely more challenging (for us it was, anyway).

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Cakes’ birth was really traumatic and Sean had to take on so much responsibility. For the first few days he did all of the diaper changing and feeding; he exclusively finger-fed Cakes (a very time consuming process) because we were still hoping to breastfeed and the nurses who were “helping” us had us terrified of nipple confusion; he was worried sick about me. Needless to say, childbirth was as exhausting and stressful for him as it was for me.

We made it through the first nightmarish week, but parenthood continued to be a struggle. She was up every two hours during the night; she was colicky and cried every evening; I was spending hours each day pumping breast milk; the construction of our new home was delayed and we were trapped in our one-bedroom apartment; it was a scorching hot summer, so we could rarely leave our air-conditioned prison.

Parenthood was not what we had expected. Of course, it is wonderful--it was also devastatingly hard at first: hard on both of us and hard on our marriage.

After the first few months, things did get better: we slept more; she was no longer colicky; I was healthy again. There were still challenges though. The division of labour became an issue. Sometimes one or both of us would resent the other, thinking we doing more of the work. We would alternate night feedings, but he could not help me pump milk every three hours. He took on all of the cooking and grocery shopping, on top of his job. I resented doing most of the housework.

The additional work a new baby brings to the home, brings another big adjustment—lack of time; specifically, lack of alone time. When the baby slept, I would greedily hoard those precious hours to read, or watch tv. Spending time with my husband became the last priority in a busy day. I also had trouble adapting to being at home. I really missed my friends at work and envied him for having so much time away from us to go to a job he loves.

Lack of physical intimacy was another a stress on our marriage brought about by baby. I wouldn’t even consider sex for months after the birth and didn’t really enjoy it for a full year. For once in my life my breasts were magnificent—but I couldn’t stand for them to be touched. I felt fat, unattractive, and tired all of the time. He couldn’t help but take my rejection at least a little bit personally.

On the positive side, having a child together taught us a lot about each other. I have a new regard for his patience and dedication. He saw in me, a strength he didn’t know existed. In our baby’s nurturance, we found a common goal that superseded everything else and united us like nothing else could. We learned what was truly important to us and how to work as a partnership.

Our daughter is 15-months old now and our marriage is stronger for having weathered the stormy past year. After the initial turmoil, life has finally improved in many ways. We have time: time to pursue our own interests, time alone, time with friends, time for each-other, and time as a family. We have love: physical love, emotional love, committed love, crazily intense love for our daughter. We have confidence and commitment: we’ve survived this—we can handle anything, can’t we?

But can we handle a second baby? I’m sure we could. Do we want to? The short answer? Nope. Not yet at least.



Blogger bubandpie said...

Amen, sister. BTDT for ALL of it (except some portion of the birth trauma, but the rest? - yeah).

8:55 AM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Oh yeah, you are so right. The first few wees? Killer, but Misterpie stepped up a lot. The next several months? Seriously hard and yeah, resentment does est in easily when you're both tired and exhausted and never get the things you prized so much before without even knowing it. even closing in on 2.5 years, there are times it's just knocking me out, but I'm sure it'll come. Really. I'm sure. Yeah, yeah, hold onto that thought...

11:35 AM  
Blogger Gabriella said...

I honestly thought I was the only one going through this, as I never read anyone writing about this. Thanks!
Samantha is just one now, and we are still working on getting our marriage back to where it was. I don't know if that's possible. But we're trying.
I'm glad you wrote this.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Mamalooper said...

We thought we were ready for the impact of Monkeygirl - Hah! I don't think you can really prepare for it. For me the sleep deprivation is the worst. I turn into a crabby, crabby, snarky bag with a very sharp tongue. And I can't think straight. No wonder they use sleep deprivation for torture!

Monkeydad is a gem, though, and has definitely stepped up to the post from the get go. The stressors in addition to the sleep deprivation have been just the changes to our lives (mostly mine) and for me, lack of enough time to recharge each day. Now that Monkeygirl is 9 months, it's a ton easier and I feel like I have bits of my old life in my new life.

1:53 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

What a great post. It does take so much work, but if you both have the strength to work it through and can come out the other side, then the rewards are fabulous.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous MetroDad said...

Well said! We went through something very similar. And the crazy thing? We're thinking about doing it again!

2:51 PM  
Blogger penelopeto said...

Very courageous post, and I think that you will be speaking to and for many with it - definitely us. Even without a stressful birth or major sleep deprivation (thanks to cosleeping), our marriage has taken a toll. It's the expectations that we have of one another that must change. We are definitely still working out how to make this more of a cooperation and less of a competition.

3:01 PM  
Blogger virtualsprite said...

That was so well put. That first year is so tough, but you know once you make it through that, it's downhill from there.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous something blue said...

Today you caught me on one of those heavily sleep deprived days. In hindsight I think it would have been smart to have a little more time in-between the girls but c'est la vie. In years to come, they might like being close in age. Easier to gang up on me during their teens. Ugh!

If you decide to have a second, you'll make it through and your marriage will crumble and then cement stronger foundations again.

(Ok, I'm sleep deprived and babbling...)

3:50 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I have heard this so many times from other people... that marriage IS really difficult when that first baby comes around. Ours was too. And once my son turned 3 ish, it got better. So happy to hear you guys are stronger for it.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

This post really is so well put. It completely captures what happens between two parents at the birth of a child.

I can't think of any parents I know who didn't experience the type of adjustment you describe.

10:33 PM  
Anonymous krista said...

Sometimes I ascribe all my problems with my husband after Aidan was born to the fact that we were so young when we had him... (we actually split up for awhile when he was about 1) It's nice to be reminded that sometimes it isn't just about age, and that it is about the human experience of a family adjusting and changing...

As for a second baby, I don't mind the 5 year gap between my kids at all. I think I'll wait another 5 for a third.

11:05 PM  
Blogger creative-Type Dad (Tony) said...

Wow- it's like I'm reading my own baby story here.
Yeah, the wife and I went through this (down to the sore boob thing).
It was tough, but we survived and couldn't be happier.

We want to try the whole thing again, but just not anytime soon.

2:45 AM  
Blogger petite gourmand said...

I'm with tony,
I feel like I'm reading my own story...
Isn't it nice to have things feeling "normal" once again?
I sure don't miss those early months.

9:52 AM  
Blogger tania (urban_mommy) said...

Whenever I read posts like this I get very scared because my experience has been so freakin' easy in respects to my son, yet my husband and I still face a lot of the same challenges you outline. Which means, regardlesss of 'easy' babies or 'challenging' babies, your hooped. Its hard no matter what. That sucks. Doing it all over again, regardless of the nature of the child, means an uphill climb for many months, guaranteed. It makes it tough to want to do again.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

Were you peaking through my windows during our first year as parents? That's also us, to a T, except for the traumatic birth. Well put!

12:02 PM  
Blogger myredwagon said...

Even though people (friends, other parents, doctor etc. ) warned me that having a baby is tough on a relationship, I didn't take heed. Now that I'm in the midst of it, I feel like I'm the only one. I felt like I was drowning at the beginning. I now feel like a good mother, but I still feel like the world's worst wife.....
I'm 8.5 months in....your post and the above comments give me hope. Thanks.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

Things changed so much in our marriage after we had our baby. It was a huge strain and it's never really gotten back to the way it was. Having children is stressful. Yes, it's also fun and rewarding and all that stuff, but it IS stressful and that takes it's toll after a while. Glad to hear you guys are feeling that life is getting easier! I'm starting to feel that way also...but we're already trying for the second so we'll be doing it all over again soon enough.

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Wow, I just read your birth story -- how traumatic. I don't blame you at all for not feeling ready. I think you both need to really feel like you are ready to go for that second child before you begin trying again. And if it never happens, but you both are OK with that, that is fine too.

You are right -- parenthood is HARD, even when the birth is perfect and the breastfeeding is wonderful and you're not feeling sleep deprived. Doubly so when everything is not perfect (and really, not very many people do have that perfect experience). Take the time you need to feel positive about the steps you want to take.

((hugs)) for sharing your story and for being such an amazing mom -- it comes through in your writing.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Naomi said...

I too had a traumatic birth. For the first week of my son's life, all I could really do was feed him, and only barely. My husband did most everything else - diapers, cleaning, etc.

We were both off together for the first 8 montsh of The Happy Boy's life. That helped, in regards to the baby, but our marriage still suffered.

And it has not gotten back on track. ANd we're about to do it again (foolishly? Perhaps.) We really want 2, and the clock ticks loudly for me.

We are finally starting to work at our marriage. More. I hope. It's a huge battle, and one that you can never abandon.

7:45 AM  
Blogger sunshine scribe said...

Yay you for writing it real.

This post ressonates with so many people. No one talks about the hell that a marriage goes through in the first year and how its not all butterflies and harps. Its hard work.

You are such a great mom and partner. And writer too!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Mother Bumper said...

So many things you wrote about, I'm experiencing right now. As Bumper gets closer to the one year mark, things are changing (for the better) and reading your post helps me breath easier knowing that someone else has survived. Great post!

7:01 PM  
Blogger Haley-O said...

I totally related to this post. Having a baby is a huge challenge for a marriage. But, you come out stronger when things settle, hormones return to normal, etc.. Thank you so much for this beautiful, honest post.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Desitin's Child said...

My story exactly. Baby is 2 now, and things are getting easier, but jesus it is hard.
You've summed it up so well.

6:33 PM  

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