6/8/15

How a Baby Changes Your Relationship


We make ourselves stretch tired arms through the blankets to get closer even if it's just for a "good night". We go on walks, take turns pushing the stroller, we laugh and listen to our small girl babble in the straps below. Dinners are gathered around the coffee table, legs crossed on the floor, Florence bouncing in her jumper next to us. Bath time now replaces happy hour beers and long evenings without bedtimes. Groceries have become our weekly outing. Our living room hears a lot less indie rock and a lot more "wheels on the bus".  

This is the way life looks with three. We've found more joy than we ever prepared for. We've become simple in ways that a parent must. We've dared to keep making our days inspiring. We can testify that babies change things. Here's how we keep finding each other through the change.     

"I made you mashed potatoes, they're in the fridge". This is kind of how our love looks these days. I think a baby simplifies your love for each other. At the end of a long day, the love you need is a back rub or a spare 30 minutes for a shower and combed hair. Simple acts of love become the ebb and flow of everyday relationship. I think it's a beautiful part about having a baby, there are constantly opportunities to serve your partner. "Babe, will you bring me a glass of water", is something I would never would have asked for from Alex before, I would have gotten up to get it myself. Parenthood is very humbling. What you realize very quickly is, I can't do this alone.

Not much else matters. Babies have this amazing ability to turn everything upside down with the snap of their fingers. I have days when I get caught up in my thoughts and I put pressure on myself to start this and do that and then she calls. A small yelp is all it takes to get me across the room, swooping her up, smelling her wrinkly neck rolls. It's amazing how everything else stops so suddenly, and there we are mom and baby rocking back and forth in our our breast feeding world. I have a friend who told me that every time her boyfriend and her get in to a fight, one of them will pull up a picture of Florence on their phone and raise it up in the other's face, kills an argument in a heartbeat. There's something about that innocent set of eyelashes blinking up at you that melts away the useless, pointless energy in our lives. Babies remind us what's actually important.   

Entering into parenthood is kind of like the first trip you take with your serious boyfriend/girlfriend. Everyone tells you, it'll either make you or break you. And it does break you, except in parenting, there's not such an easy way out-so you lean into each other, harder. And that's how it makes you. Because every single decision now is for the family. When you say something you wish you wouldn't have, you're so much quicker to apologize. You're faster to admit you might be hard to love somedays. You make more of an effort to be kind and generous. There is something about keeping the family harmonious. It's so much different than a relationship with two adults-that third dynamic drives everything towards good.   

***


I felt that this post would be enriched by a couple other parent's perspectives. I've asked two other new moms to tell us a little about how a baby has changed things for them. Here's what they had to say.

How has your time with your guy changed since baby came?


Emilie: The first thing that came to mind is intimate time. When there is a moment that we are both free and the baby is sleeping, usually one or both of us wants to sleep too. There is a lot less down time. Every moment needs to be used efficiently. I don't even like to watch Netflix unless I am nursing or folding laundry, etc. I feel like I am nursing during most meals, so Chris puts a lot of them together, and brings food to me while I drape a napkin over the baby. This relates to the next question, but I did not realize how much I miss having a meal that I can just concentrate on eating, or rather, not need to concentrate on anything at all!

HannahHonestly, Scott and I have always been pretty low-key. Our evenings before M usually involved eating dinner together and then winding down with a TV show on Netflix - we still do that now, but M is with us. Our social life with friends is still something we pursue, definitely, but it depends on if I'm in the mood to nurse in public and deal with trying to get M to go to sleep in a loud bar/restaurant. We tag-team these efforts so that we still maintain a good relationship with our friends, but it's certainly more work.



What's the hardest thing to let go of from your pre-baby days?


Emilie: We definitely want to hold on to going out with friends (who don't have babies). Since she is little we have brought her to some parties, and our friends pass her around, but as she gets more of a schedule, it is becoming clear that we will not be able to have as many late nights with friends. Soon we will have to get a babysitter if we both want to attend an evening social activity.

HannahHmmm…. personally, my get-things-done attitude. I have ALWAYS been a busy-body (the type of person that has to have something to do even while watching a movie) and that has certainly had to change since M came along purely for my sanity. I basically can't make a to-do list for the day, even if I REALLY want to, because inevitably things WON'T get done and then I end up feeling very frustrated and overwhelmed. Relationship-wise, I suppose having the freedom to be intimate whenever we wanted is gone. M has to be asleep otherwise I am too distracted with worrying about her to enjoy intimacy. 


What things have been gained since baby came?


Emilie: Our relationship with our parents has deepened significantly. We understand them better, and to an extent, they understand us better, because we so acutely share the emotions of parenthood. I have come to respect motherhood as a lifestyle, my body in it's capacity to nurture life, and as grandiose as it sounds, a deeper respect for all living things. My baby's life is so precious to me that I value the lives of others much more deeply. 

HannahFor me, learning to slow down. She has forced me to abandon my to-do lists daily. Some days we literally spend the whole day snuggling on the couch because she is just having a rough day and I am slowly learning to soak that up instead of be frustrated by it. For us, I feel that we have a renewed sense of working together to achieve a common goal. Not to say we don't lose our patience with each other, but for the most part, we tag-team to take care of M and that has been really positive for our relationship. I am learning that he respects me in this roll as "mom" and I love watching him be a dad.


What things have been lost since she came?


Emilie: Sleep, body self-consciousness, make up as a form of cover-up, pottery and breakables at floor level, attempts to create a sophisticated home decor. 

HannahIn my life, my need for alone time has had to be put on the back-burner, which has been exhausting. As a true introvert, I need space and being her life source has not allowed for that much at all. I do find myself getting more easily flustered at the end of the day and at the end of the week - I think purely because I haven't had time to myself. For Scott and I, intimacy has been the hardest adjustment. It took me WAY longer than 6 weeks to heal - I didn't start feeling even okay until about 10 weeks and then I didn't feel good enough to even enjoy sex until probably 12 weeks. We have had to change our sex life some, as noted above, as well as be more communicative about what feels good for me as that has changed too. We are working through it, though, and will probably be better lovers in the end for it.



What areas of your relationship have been strengthened now that you have a baby together?

Emilie: We work together. She has consumed our attentions, and share a love for her that is unique between the two of us. 

HannahAgain, a sense of shared purpose has been strengthened. When Scott gets home from work, he takes M off my hands so that I can do something to unwind, like cook dinner or tidy the house (I know, strange, but those things really do help me relax). We find ourselves talking about what we want her to experience, as well as things we can't wait to do as a family. It's fun to work together on this parenting thing ;) I feel like we both, out of necessity, have had to learn how to be more patient with each other and with M. I find that we both try to pause before we react in an effort to keep things calm and be less reactionary.



What areas have been challenged?


Emilie: We had our first fight in which I raised my voice and became accusatory. I was surprised that it was rooted in my deep protectiveness of our daughter. Though Chris would do anything for me, and anything to improve my life as the mother of his child, I felt that he was not acting as though he would do anything for the child, who had suddenly become more important to me than my own life. For example, I feel as though everyone who has come to visit and help us, and Chris too, have taken care of Linnea so I could sleep. But I felt like they were doing so at the expense of her comfort. I would much rather have woken earlier to prevent her from being hungry for any longer than needed, but I felt like people were trying to 'protect me' from tiredness in a way that I did not want to be protected. 

HannahOther than our sex life, we have basically switched rolls professionally and that has been challenging for me. Scott was a student for the past 4 years and I was the one bringing home the money. I never imagined that those rolls switching would be so hard for me. It hasn't been difficult for him, I suppose. He always wished he could be the one working instead of me, so he is really enjoying this new phase of his professional life. However, it has been so challenging for me to accept my new roll as a mom. I find that sometimes I am resentful and even jealous of Scott being able to pursue his professional career, but when I think about going back to work I know that I would rather be here raising M - it's tough, haha. I guess the challenge for Scott on that front has been figuring out how to support me in this new roll, making sure I feel appreciated and needed and purposeful.




What has helped you both get through those hard/stressed days?


Emilie: We discovered that after a day that I am home alone with Linnea, I need time that Chris holds her and I do something, like the dishes, or grocery shopping, to re-charge and to feel like an effective individual. 

HannahTag-teaming. That and doing something together either after M has gone to sleep or on the weekends doing something as a family. When I think about our most stressed moments as parents, usually when M is screaming or won't go to sleep, we take short "shifts" in getting her to calm down. And I mean SHORT shifts - when she's at her worst we take 5-10 minute shifts trying to get her to calm down. Usually it doesn't take more than 30 min to an hour to get her calm again, so while one of us is dealing with her, the other is taking deep breaths and unwinding. When we finally get her calm, we try to do something together whether that be watching a show on Netflix or sitting on the couch together while we each read something of interest to ourselves. Sundays are a nice day for us to do something as a family during the day, like go for a walk around our neighborhood or grab brunch somewhere new.


What has surprised you about your spouse as a parent?


Emilie: Just how much he loves her. He makes up songs, and does crazy things to make her smile. She has become his muse.

HannahScott has always been a sensitive, compassionate man. Watching him embrace that all the more with M has been such a joy to witness. He also lets his silly side show more, which is fun :) He is always telling M how beautiful and smart she is - I love seeing how he is already starting to build a trusting and encouraging relationship with her.



Has your love/trust changed for your spouse?


Emilie: I am more confident in his love. 

HannahI know now more than ever how much he respects me as a woman. When I was working, I didn't necessarily need him to tell me that he respected me - I felt respected and needed at work. However, when I became a mom my self-confidence and sense of purpose (and honestly my pride) took a surprising dip. After being honest with Scott about this he told me how much he respects me and appreciates my roll as a mom. He makes sure to tell me that often, especially after a hard day. That, in turn, translates to me loving and trusting him more :)


After a long day, what is the best thing your partner can do for you? 


Emilie: Easy-- hold the baby, and if need be, get her to fall asleep. 

HannahTake M off my hands. Starting at about 4:00 in the afternoon, I am just done. Done with dealing with her crying, done with changing diapers, done with being covered in spit up, done with being a walking boob. The first thing he does when he gets home is reach his arms out and take M from me and I feel such a huge lift (literally and figuratively) off my chest. I can feel myself take a deep breath when Scott gets home because I know I am going to have a break. I love being M's momma and staying home has been a good thing for me overall, but man, at the end of the day I am just done.


***

Thank you so much Emilie and Hannah for sharing a glimpse of your precious lives with us! It's so reassuring to hear how similar our needs are as mothers, and how a baby pushes the boundaries of our relationships, always making us more on the other side of it.  Emilie Maierhofer lives with her husband, Chris, and daughter Linnea in Detriot, MI. Hannah Key is mom to Maxine Gean and lives with her hubby, Scott, in Houston, TX. She also runs her own amazing photography business, read her blog here!

ps. This post about parenting and love by one of my favorite bloggers is so good. 

Be First to Post Comment !
Post a Comment

Custom Post Signature