Through the nine months I was pregnant, I received a lot of (often unasked for) advice. Everyone told me that my life would change forever. About how that little human inside of me would steal my heart, along with my sleep, privacy and free time. I was told the stretch marks would never fade; that I would never lose all the baby weight.
NOBODY warned me about the counter-effect our baby would have on our marriage, and the strain and pressure it would undergo.
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Now, don’t get me wrong. Three years after having our child, we are still happily married. But I’m not going to lie. The last three years have tested our sanity, patience and yes, even our relationship as husband and wife.
Because as first-time parents, everything is so overwhelming, so new, so frightening. I was a zombie the first few months – lost in an endless, mind-numbing cycle of feeding, changing nappies and adjusting to weird sleep schedules. My husband, while being my constant support, was also learning to juggle work with sleepless nights and caring for a newborn.
In the middle of this chaos I began to feel jealous of my husband. His life had gone back to normal but mine wouldn’t for some years. Even though I was extremely happy to be a mother, I admit there were times I wished I could just dress up and go to work, rather than clean bottoms all day! These bitter feelings, coupled with exhaustion (neither of us had slept properly in months) and stress (if our son so much as sneezed, I’d get worried) was beginning to take its toll. On us. And our relationship.
So as we adjusted to our new lives, we started doing things in turns rather than together. I ate a hurried dinner alone whilst he entertained the baby. After which I nursed and rocked my son to sleep – often falling asleep with him – whilst my husband ate dinner. Alone. If I did the night feeds, he would let me lie-in on the weekends, but then would take an afternoon nap whilst I babysat.
We soon realised we were doing everything separately; not by choice but as a means to survive. This had become our new routine, the new ‘us’.
There were times when our son was asleep that we had time to ourselves. But one or both of us would be too exhausted to attempt to rekindle that spark. Or get intimate. We preferred to catch up on sleep or watch mindless television, just to ‘shut off’ for a while.
Talk. And fantasise. Basically, that’s pretty much all couples do sexually for a long, long time after becoming parents. I could literally count the number of times we got intimate after the birth of our baby. And that number didn’t even reach double digits! This was because of (among other things): Exhaustion, feeling very unsexy and smelling of milk and puke, and because I was still sore.
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Slowly, without even realising it, our marriage no longer revolved around us, but centred around our child. We ceased to be husband and wife and had instead morphed into Dad and Mum. Naps, feeding times and burping took precedence over dates, anniversaries and romance.
However, after the first few months, some sort of normalcy reappeared. For me, this wasn’t after one particular incident or something my husband said or did.
It wasn’t a sudden light bulb moment. On the contrary, it was in the small things that he did as a father and husband – and in the things we did together as Mum and Dad – that I came to realise that this equation is working out just fine.
No, not fine, it’s perfect.
Little acts of consideration, such as giving me a morning to myself while he looked after our son; making dinner because I was exhausted after a tough day or planning a holiday just for us to get away from the routine and spend time as a family – these were the things that made our bond stronger even when it seemed as though everything was falling apart.
Yes, we are still tired. There are still some sleepless nights. And our life still revolves around our precious son, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.