I'm in your relationship.... dropping bombs
I watched The Joy Luck Club dozens of times as a teenager, absolutely loved that movie. Recently, a certain portion of that movie has been rolling around in my head. One of the women is in an unhappy marriage and she has a baby “to save the relationship.”
Wow. And I thought I had some wrong ideas about what having a baby was all about.
I started dating the man who would become my husband at the tender age of 17. Around the age of 26 , we could no longer answer the “so when are you two getting hitched?” question with “but we’re still so young.” So we tied the knot in 2009. We bought a house. After more than 10 years of building what we consider the strongest and best relationship any two people have ever had, we decided we were ready to take on the next naturally occurring challenge of couplehood: becoming parents.
I can honestly say, now that I am safely past what Harvey Karp refers to as the “fourth trimester”, that if there were ANY cracks in the foundation of our relationship, the last three months would have split them open and then sucked us down into a giant sinkhole of misery.
The hubby and I have officially crossed the 12-years-together threshold (when the peanut was almost 2 months old), and we have NEVER had a fight. It’s just not the type of couple that we are. Having more or less become adults together, we built the relationship we have on the idea that open and honest communication is the only way to keep either of us happy. This is not to say we haven’t had bumpy times, but we got through them by telling each other how we felt and taking steps to fix things.
Twelve years of relationship tranquility, and I found myself (on multiple occasions) struggling not to yell at my husband.
The fourth trimester goes something like this: crazy hormonal mom + frustrated and helpless-feeling dad + screaming newborn + NO SLEEP FOR ANYBODY= the perfect storm of relationship landmines. It is truly miraculous that through that quagmire either of us was able to (desperately) cling to the mantra “this isn’t me” and not escalate into a sniping pity party of who has it worse off.
Instead, in the few moments of peace we had we would cling to each other saying “I really couldn’t do this without you” before drifting off into anxiety ridden sleep,
I feel like there are a few potholes that I could very easily have stepped into along the way, so I share this with the goal of warning you about them lest you bend a rim on the wheel of your relationship car (I did that once with my actual car, true story).
Tempting though it might be, DON’T KEEP SCORE. If you find yourself thinking “it’s not fair, I have to _______ , ____________, and ___________ while my partner gets to __________”, you are heading down a slippery slope of blame game that nobody will win. As a woman your blanks are probably breastfeed, carry around, deal with this damn baby while hubby gets to leave the house and go back to work. The bottom line? In those early days IT’S NOT FAIR, BALANCED, OR EQUAL IN ANY WAY. As the mom, especially if you are breastfeeding, that’s just the way it is. Accept it, move on.
I read somewhere that the hormones that go raging through a mom’s body post delivery and make us bat-shit crazy are also there for the important purpose of keeping us functional for our babies. I distinctly remember taking a three hour nap at the hospital and feeling as though I’d slept the whole night. HORMONES. You know who doesn’t have those? Dad. So when he comes home from work and mentions that he’s exhausted and you mumble bitterly under your breath, “Try keeping this effing kid alive all day…” remember that his body is not cut out to tackle this the way yours is and try to cut him some slack.
Any man worth his salt will undoubtedly be disappointed by how little there is he can do in those early days, so try to reach out to him and get him as involved as possible. Let him know just how helpful it is to have him take the baby and burp her (it seems like nothing to him, but those 5 minutes without a baby in your arms can spell sweet relief to you in the form of a much-needed shower) or change her diaper.
Finally, don’t forget to try and get a couple of minutes alone together at least once a day. When the kid goes down for a nap, try to hold each other for a couple of minutes before collapsing from exhaustion. If nothing else, marvel at the novelty of his being able to get his arms around you again now that there’s no baby inside you.