As much as I read about having a baby before I gave birth to my first daughter, the parenting books did nothing to prepare me for what a newborn would do to my relationship.
And after four babies, our marriage is still recovering. But after talking to lots of couples, I'm glad to know I'm not alone. Now that my kids are almost all out of diapers (hooray!), I've thought a lot about why babies are so tough on relationships.
See if you agree with my reasons, and my solutions.
1. Lack of sleep
I know I'm not the only person who gets completely irritable when I don't get enough sleep, so it's pretty obvious what that's going to do to a relationship. Add another sleep-deprived person and a tiny baby who needs lots of attention, and you've got a recipe for relationship disaster.
Solution: There's not a good one, unfortunately, other than really sleeping when the baby sleeps. I used to roll my eyes when I heard this but it helps. A lot.
2. Lack of support
I'm pretty sure we were never meant to have babies without the help of friends, family, even our community, but too often that happens, especially in this country. Without support, you and your partner are doing most, if not all of it, on your own, and that's physically, mentally, and emotionally draining.
Solution: Accept help when it's offered and reach out to friends, family, even your community when you need it. I know so many people who were willing to chip in, whether it was laundry, cooking, or holding the baby so you could get a cat nap in.
3. Differing parenting opinions
You want to cloth-diaper, your partner says "are you crazy?" -- and thus begins a long road of battles from small things to bigger parenting issues. We all know what fights can do to a relationship. And oftentimes, this can be the biggest battle of them all.
Solution: Talk to each other before you make a decision, even if you think it's a small one. I was so adamant about some really small, and quite frankly stupid, things that would have saved us both some heartache had we just discussed them before I took the reins and left him out.
4. Lack of partner involvement
Well, nothing will cause problems in a relationship more than a partner not doing his/her fair share. Sure, it's mostly the mom show early on in a newborn's life, but there's plenty for partners to do. When a partner is just sitting around or, worse, out gallivanting when you're stuck at home caring for the baby, that can harbor a lot of resentment.
Solution: In my situation, my husband wanted to be involved but was extremely intimidated by the screaming, fragile-looking baby. What I should have done was give him simple, non-baby-related tasks at first, then eased him into the baby baths, diaper changes, and that sort of thing.
5. Hormones and postpartum depression
I'm the first to admit that hormones kicked my butt after each pregnancy, and while I had read about PPD symptoms, I saw what I was experiencing so I just wrote it off as "the baby blues." Turns out, I probably had undiagnosed PPD after each baby, which for me manifested as anxiety and control issues. When you're unhappy, it can seep over into your relationship, which is when you need your partner the most.
Solution: Even if you think your experience might be typical, if it's hindering your ability to function in any way, see a doctor. I'm a fan of Postpartum Progress, a fantastic resource for new moms.
Why do you think couples fight after they have a baby?
Image via AntwerpenR/Flickr