Finding out your pregnant is one of the most exciting times in your relationship. I felt my husband and I become closer and fall even more in love with one another as we prepared for the next stage in our lives together. My husband was a rock star at supporting me and being there every step of the way. He went to all the classes (even a special for-guys-only one on his own), was at every ultrasound appointment, helped meet and decide on a pediatrician, and so much more. I knew I had picked the perfect man to help bring a child into this world.
And then the baby got here, and I felt like the rug was pulled out from under my feet.
Let me qualify this by saying this is not a post bashing my husband. He is amazing, and I love him with every ounce of my being. (Ick.) I am just sharing my “deer-in-the-headlights” experience with motherhood and how it affected my relationship with my husband in these first three months. Apparently, it’s common, but once again, no one told me! My expectation was that he and I would be a stellar team, and together we would navigate this new, trying world with laughter and hugs. My reality was that I resented Travase and was more often than not disappointed and angry with him. Not good.
And so my first step, in my exhausted and crazy state, was to seek couples therapy for the two of us. After all, we had had plenty of “conversations” about our feelings and what we needed from each other, but we just kept going around in circles. I figured we needed professional help. Then, I saw a list of resources on one of the counseling websites and noticed a lot of books and articles written about couples with new babies, and so I thought maybe I’d do some reading before I went to extreme of counseling – after all, when would we have time for that!?
The three books I ended up getting were
And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by Gottman and Gottman (listed on the counseling website),
Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More and Argue Less As Your Family Grows by Cockrell, et al. (listed as a suggestion on the B&N website), and
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Chapman (recommended on my birth club forum).
The 5 Love Languages book is kind of silly and pretty much offers No, duh! type of advice. We both took the love language test at the back, and the results were not at all surprising, but showed that we have completely opposite “love languages.” I will say I think the idea that we have one love language is silly, but it did start the conversation between Travase and me and helped us realize that how we think we are showing love to one another is not how the other perceives love.
I started reading Babyproofing Your Marriage, and I’m already close to being on chapter 4. (That’s a lot considering the lack of time I actually have to read!) It has been like therapy for me because I feel the problems addressed in the book were taken straight from my own life. So much of what is written has been what Trav and I have gone through, said, or thought, and it helps us see, if not understand, each other’s perspective. I will say that a lot of the things some of the dads in the book have done are not exemplary of Trav. He’s never come home and asked, “What’s for dinner?” or “How hard can taking care of a baby be?” He’s not that clueless! I like that the book talks to both the husband and wife and identifies what our own “faults” are and how we can support and help one another out. The cover says it’s a must-read for all expectant couples, but I think that I wouldn’t have believed Trav and I would ever be like the couples in the book before we had Ellis. We were a solid, happy couple. Having a baby completely changes the dynamics of your relationship, but like the book says, you just can’t know what it’s going to be like until you know. You can’t predict what kind of parent you’re going to be like or how you are going to act.
I had this conversation with a couple of my girlfriends when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago. I thought I was going to be a laid back, cool and collected mom, and I turned into this high-strung, always on alert, I’ll do it because I don’t trust anyone else, crazy woman. My life would be easier if I asked for (and allowed) help. Unfortunately, the only person I trusted enough to accept help from was my husband, who just couldn’t be here enough due to this stupid thing called work. Mommy-guilt is a constant. If I’m not giving my daughter one-hundred percent of my time and attention, I feel like a bad mother. How dare I be so selfish to go use the bathroom when my baby clearly needs me!? I didn’t think about my baby for 2 minutes; what’s wrong with me? And so on. To exacerbate this, Trav is a problem solver while I insist things be done “the right way,” whether that makes things easier or not.
When I was having trouble the first days and weeks with breastfeeding, Trav’s solution was to pull out the pump to offer me some relief and help with the feedings. I read that I shouldn’t pump until after at least 4 weeks, or when breastfeeding had been established. So I felt anguish about that.
When we argued because I was losing my mind needing help and a break and Trav was working what felt like 24 hour days, his solution was for us to hire a nanny. I’ve considered but not conceded to this idea just yet. What’s the point of me staying home if I still need to hire a nanny? I really just want my husband to come home in the evenings, and even if it’s just a 30 min. break with him hanging out with the baby, that’s enough for me.
When I felt that my supply was diminishing, Trav suggested we supplement with formula, an idea which I completely shot down. I purchased some Fenugreek and started eating oatmeal for breakfast. Until the pediatrician tells me my milk is not enough, I’m staying away from formula (or until 6 months, when I’ll probably be completely over breastfeeding).
I find myself laughing out loud and crying all on the same page reading this book, but most importantly knowing that what we are going through is normal and temporary makes me feel so much better.
Oh, and I saw this article on Facebook a while back and found it to be a good read, too. Chapman would probably say these two were speaking separate love languages, hers predominantly Acts of Service, but I think we all appreciate a little help. Most women will say, “Well, duh, of course we’re happier when you help out!” But apparently, this is a new concept to most men.
To be fair, there are men out there who DO get it. (And before Ellis, I was one of those women who thought staying at home would be ‘fun.’ Give this guy a medal.