Adding a baby to a loving relationship is the BEST. A new little person that the two of you have made brings you closer together as a couple and takes your relationship to another dimension.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses when you bring baby home, which is often a surprise for some couples. It can take a lot of time to adjust to a new dynamic and all the changes that parenthood brings. In fact, a recent study concluded that transitioning to parenthood was associated with reduced satisfaction and quality of the relationship, with many couples confirming that changes to communication, intimacy, and being unprepared for the impact of having a baby, caused significant stress on their coupledom.
While your relationship might feel close and healthy now, you need to be prepared for how a baby is going to impact you both. That way, you can get on with enjoying your new arrival and keep your relationship happy and healthy along the way.
Here’s what you need to prepare for:
1. All the emotions
Having a baby is an emotional business, right from the first contractions. And however the birth pans out, each of you will go through a profound experience in the delivery suite, with various emotions in the mix, including fear, powerlessness and feeling overwhelmed. If you move into parenthood with these emotions lingering, adjustment to parenthood is going to be that much harder. Add sleep deprivation and hormones to the mix, and the two of you are going to be under a fair amount of stress when you bring baby home.
Make sure you give yourselves space to talk about what’s going on for you and be sure to discuss any challenging emotions that are getting hard to manage. Tricky feelings have a way of emerging unexpectedly if they’re not dealt with! The two of you need the opportunity to express and process whatever is happening and don’t forget to factor in time for self-care, too.
3. Different home duties
If you’re like most couples, there are probably certain household tasks that are delegated to either one of you. One does the shopping and cooking while the other takes care of day-to-day cleaning, for example. When you bring baby home, this is all thrown into the air. You’re not going to have time to get things done while your partner is at work, and your partner is going to be busy supporting you and baby, so the way things work in your home is going to change.
Discuss who does what now, and how this is going to change when baby arrives. What extra support can you bring in to make this easier on you both? For example, hiring a cleaner for a few weeks while you get through those early parenting days, or ordering a food delivery service so you don’t have to worry about who’s stepping up for cooking duties right away.
4. Sharing baby care
If you’re planning to breastfeed, then you’ll need to spend a lot of time with bub in the early weeks. Some partners end up feeling left out, as there is so much emphasis on feeding early on, but there are lots of ways for dads to get meaningfully involved too, without the need for feeding equipment. Also, you’ll be surprised at how much time caring for bub takes up, so there will be plenty of baby-love to share evenly.
To make sure that both of you get ample time to bond with your little one, discuss how you plan to make this work. Perhaps dad can get involved with settling and changing baby’s nappy in between feeds, or doing bath time with baby each evening after work.
5. Couple time
Your quality time together is about to be shaken up, with date nights being shelved for the time being. Finding time to connect with and enjoy each other’s company is going to be under strain while you both find your parenting feet, but it’s still possible to stay close when life is crazy busy.
With a baby in tow, quality time is less about planning nights out and more about seizing little snippets of time together as they arise. Ten minutes over a cup of coffee, holding hands on the couch, and making sure your hugs are really heartfelt will all go a long way to helping you stay connected. Plus, with your baby being happy to travel, you can enjoy together time during walks with the pram or baby carrier. When you do get those precious windows of time together, be sure to use them to focus on each other – put those phones away and avoid multitasking while you connect.