When Love Makes Three
by Michelle Holmes
As I leaned toward my husband to get a hug my enormous belly made it a completely difficult reach. I joked to my husband, “I’m sorry, I know I promised I wouldn’t let this baby come between us.” That baby, who turned out to be a 10+ pounder, was definitely coming between us physically. Not going to lie, it was an obstacle for sure. But emotionally I think we have done a pretty good job of making sure our babies didn’t actually come between us.
Marital issues are probably one of the biggest concerns after a new baby arrives, whether it’s the first or fifth. Mom has to recover physically and hormonally. She has to process a birth experience that may or may not have gone well. Dad is also tired. He is stressed financially about providing for his family and he wants to help his wife adjust, but might get a little stir-crazy being home more than normal so he heads back to work. This makes mom feel more lonely and abandoned, and then dad feels like he can’t do anything right and is on-edge. In times like this it can be really hard to connect to each other intimately and you might start to feel that the baby is very much coming between you.
Over the years, and through my own five births, coupled with my experiences as a birth and postpartum doula, I feel like I have learned a few things about keeping your marriage intact while still taking care of the rest of the family. Evaluate how you are doing in each of these areas and make adjustments where needed.
- Get support. I cannot express this enough. Get a postpartum doula, a housekeeper, a cooking service. Let your sister move in for a month (or make your mother-in-law move out). Let your neighbors come help. Whatever and whoever it takes, please get the support you need! Remember, when you let someone help you it makes them feel good too so there is no reason to feel guilt or shame in calling up your village! When you are supported and have the help you need to recover you can also give attention to your relationship with your spouse/partner.
- Get rest. Everything is overwhelming and stressful when you aren’t getting enough sleep. I get so short tempered and snappy and of course everyone around me will mimic my mood. If you can get a total of 8-10 hours a day, even if it’s broken up into multiple 2 hour chunks, you will feel more like bonding with your husband.
- Do a little something everyday to make each other smile whether it’s an extra long hello/goodbye kiss, a sweet note in a packed lunch, a check-in text to say, “I miss you,” or even just a snuggle on the couch. Small, daily efforts add up to bigger, deeper connections.
- Have a scheduled date night once a week. Ideally, it would be the same night each week to make it easier to remember, but if you need to adjust for scheduling conflicts then do it. I love taking turns with the planning so you always know that you can count on something happening and you won’t interrupt the other person’s plans or assume the other person is doing it and then nothing happens. So write down on your calendar whose turn it is each week and stick to it just like you would stick to a doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t have to be going out, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Even something as simple as writing a cheesy love poem, finding a new “our song,” looking through old pictures together, having a dessert in front of the fireplace, exchanging foot rubs, or asking each other questions. This is your time. No diaper talk, no other kids, no complaining, just connect.
- Communicate. You have to let each other know what is bothering you, what your needs are, what would be helpful, what would fill your cup. How many times have you resented your partner for not doing or getting something while you assumed they were reading your mind and knew what you wanted? Just be bold, tell them flat out!
- Be intimate! But, but, but….the doctor says not until 6 weeks postpartum! It seems like there are two very distinct extremes hormonally after birth. You’re either going to be on the, “never, ever touch me again” side or the “I want you right here, right now, I don’t care that it hasn’t been 6 weeks” side. A few important things to remember: your placenta left a giant internal wound that you can’t see so you forget it’s there. Your cervix does not close as quickly as it dilated. There is a risk of infection and injury while that heals. You are also often extremely fertile after birth. Give your body time to heal and take precautions. That said, intimacy isn’t just sex. There are plenty of intimate things you can do to and for each other without going all the way. I shouldn’t have to tell you this; obviously you got pregnant so you know how stuff works.
- LAUGH. This is probably the most important thing I could tell a postpartum family. You.Must.Laugh!!! Laughing is as valuable to your relationship as an orgasm is. Watch a comedy together, pull an unexpected prank, have a funny meme contest, whatever it takes to get the tears of laughter flowing. There are sooo many hilarious funny marriage talks on YouTube. Do something to bring on the giggles. Laughing is the best way to forget you’re tired, sad, ornery, lonely, moody, and feeling gross all around.
I hope these tips help you keep things going strong as you add a baby to your family. This is a really important time for you as parents, and as a couple, and making your relationship a priority will help you not only survive but become closer than ever!
Bio: Michelle is a certified advanced birth, postpartum, and bereavement doula based in Heber. She is also a childbirth educator as well as a homeschooling mother of five. She is an active member of her community and volunteers in several organizations including serving on the Utah Doula Association board.
Check out her website at Sage Doula