Sure, people can (and do) give you all of the advice when you’re expecting, but nothing quite prepares you for a baby like having the nurse place that beautiful little human in your arms. Everything changes in that moment. As you learn to maneuver life with baby, there’s plenty of smooth road and bumps, alike. Some days are filled with sweet baby snuggles and laughs and others are filled with exhaustion and tears. Sometimes you experience the full spectrum of emotions in one day. And sometimes relationships can be put on the back burner.
Eleven spouses share how a baby affects their marriages, from the loss of energy and sense of self to keeping the lines of communication open and scheduling nights for sex. See what they had to say below.
1. “Having children is the ultimate test in marriage, you either sink or swim.”
Our daughter was born in 2011, I was 24 and my husband was 29. We thought having a baby would be a breeze and as naive as it might sound, we didn’t think our lives would change that much. We intended to have my retired mother-in-law as an on-call babysitter for whenever we wanted to go out, have fun and live up the rest of our twenties. About a month after I gave birth, my MIL moved over 60 miles away and the reality set in that we wouldn’t be able to have “date nights” and go out with our friends at the drop of a dime. It was difficult — we would argue over who had the most sleep, whose turn it was to feed and change the baby at the wee hours of the night, and who in general was making the most sacrifices. Having children is the ultimate test in marriage, you either sink or swim. The birth of our daughter forced us to have more family time and focus on creating memories with her. Now that I’m 31, my husband and I both get the most fulfillment out of spending time with our daughter rather than just having nights to ourselves. – Danae, 6-year-old daughter
2. “There is a sense of loss of identity.”
There are so many things happening to your body from conception until months after birth that catches all first-time moms off-guard. There is a sense of loss of identity. Not only are you now home all the time with a little human dependent on your boobs to feed, but you lose your sexy, your confidence, and even possibly kinky self. After finally getting breastfeeding down and a schedule in place, I found myself without energy and uncomfortable with my body. The idea of using my birthing tools (boobs and vagina) for something else other than my child, was a major passion killer. My husband was patient and understood what was going on. He helped bring sexy back by complementing my efforts of getting back to pre-baby shape, surprising me with massages (with no expectation, ha!), holding and cuddling me, which made me feel that I was still his girl. It’s tough, but we make time for each other and remind ourselves that marriage is first, then comes our daughter (as hard as that sounds to my mom heart). She’s now 8 months old and just as I pencil in her doctor appointments, I pencil in a couple days for sex — it may not be romantic, but it keeps us honest and flirty. – Denisse, 8-month-old daughter
3. “I feel like half of my brain is always occupied.”
I would say that when my daughter is near me, I feel like half of my brain is always occupied and focused on her. It can be hard to have conversations with other adults (my husband included) and be fully present when she is awake and nearby. We have great talks on our nightly walk, though. Our daughter is usually content to observe the world go by, and it gives us some time to chat about our day. These walks have become more of a priority since she was been born. -Olivia, 6-month-old daughter
4. “You are sleep deprived and your schedules don’t coincide.”
When you first have a baby your world becomes that little soul and as the days progress you may begin to work on self-care. However, the relationship with your spouse can sometimes fall off the map. You are sleep deprived, your schedules don’t coincide, and if you do sit down, ALL you talk about is baby. I have struggled to make sure that my relationship stays a priority. Some simple things I do to show my appreciation and help keep the spark include thanking my husband for all he does for our family when he heads off to work, allowing me to stay home or putting the baby down just a little earlier, putting on some makeup, and making a bomb dish. We sit with a bottle of wine and talk about anything but baby. Self-care is truly important, but don’t forget about your relationship. – Laura, 14-month-old daughter
5. “With each child comes new challenges.”
Having a baby causes such a shift in marriage. While I believe your spouse should remain number one, kids become a very close second and when they are babies, they consume so much of your time and energy. With each child, comes new challenges. With our first, it was hard learning how to take care of a baby, but we were in it and learning this new thing together. We’d bathe him, feed him, and play with him all together as a family of three. Once our second was born, there was yet another shift. Now it is more of a divide and conquer attitude to accomplish tasks — ‘You take the baby, I’ve got the toddler. Meet back here in 30 minutes with a clean kid in pajamas’ has become our nightly routine. While finding a quiet moment together is now harder, when we do get that time it is more special and thought out. With each baby, though, also comes more love. Watching our family grow together is a beautiful thing and well worth the chaotic moments. – Jaclyn, 7-month and almost 3-year-old sons
6. “All of the sudden, our priorities shifted.”
The old saying ‘don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes‘ took on an entirely new meaning these past few months as my husband and I became parents for the first time. I always said that no matter what, our relationship had to be a priority — we would need to continue date nights, trips, things that would allow us to not lose sight of why we fell in love with each other in the first place. Then we actually had a tiny little human that literally relied on us entirely to survive and everything I always said to myself seemingly slipped away. All of the sudden, our priorities shifted and getting to bed as soon as our daughter falls asleep seems to supersede a glass of wine and conversation to end the evening. Waking up early to get a shower in trumps snuggling for those few extra minutes. I realize that it will be conscious, hard work to get us back in focus with each other. In my core I know it can and should be done. Our relationship needs just as much nurturing as this tiny little human we have come to love more than life and with that comes just as much work — a lesson we are still learning. – Bridget, 4-month-old daughter
7. “It is definitely a balancing act.”
After almost 8 years of marriage, it is definitely a balancing act. Kids require a lot of attention and your spouse will often take the back burner. What’s so important is to continue dating your husband. Schedule date nights, respect each other, and keep the lines of communication open. -Trarina, 5-year-old daughter
8. “There have been some changes, but they are not drastic.”
I know that there have been some changes to our relationship, but they are not drastic changes. When we decided to get married, after 14 years of being committed to one another, we were ready and excited for the next step in our lives, which was kids. Having our two daughters has made me appreciate my husband on a new level and has reinforced our loving relationship. True, we have so much less time alone together, but we are both of the mindset that it is the tradeoff for having this wonderful family and it is temporary. We know that this precious time will eventually pass, which ultimately increases the value of the time we spend together. – Joy, 19-month and 3 1/2-year-old daughters
9. “We now are deliberate in setting aside time for each other.”
Before having children my husband and I took the freedom of random and spontaneous dates for granted. We honestly didn’t even classify some of our outings as “dates.” It was just what we did all the time without having to think about it. Now, having three young children, we realize how essential one-on-one time is together. Initially we were completely consumed with parental duties and our personal time became secondary to our children’s needs. We quickly realized that this was unhealthy for our marriage and the tone we set for our family. We now are deliberate in setting aside time for each other at the end of our work days. We also make it a point to secure a babysitter and have time to strictly focus on each other — this can be on an actual date or just time alone at home. We love our children, however, preserving our friendship and bond with each other as husband and wife is extremely important to both of us. A strong bond between us makes us better parents to our children! – Desirae, 4-month-old twins and 2 ½-year-old daughter
10. “You’ve got to put your oxygen masks on first before helping others.”
Having a second baby in the house has challenged me in many new ways. Of course there are the traditional hurdles to overcome like sleep deprivation, never having a moment to yourself, etc., but caring for two small children has definitely caused me to put my husband’s needs after theirs a lot more this time around. The first few months of this journey have been anything but glamorous, but it has forced us to get back to our roots and focus on communicating. We’ve realized the more we take a few moments to talk (and not about kids) the more we avoid the dreaded arguments. It’s kind of like the airplane analogy, you’ve got to put your oxygen masks on first before helping others. It’s the same with your marriage and kids. The more I keep that thought in mind, the less I find myself putting our relationship on the back burner. – Jackie, 5-month and 2-year-old sons
11. “While we don’t always have date nights, we do have family time.”
We have to take time for each other and remember that we’re a couple — to be conscious of the fact that our children are only with us for 18 years, then they’re off to college. There are days when we’re both so tired that we end up falling asleep separately putting the kids down in their respective beds. Becoming parents has made us even closer, though. While we don’t always have date nights, we do have family time. For example, at one of our children’s sporting events. As we sit there watching our son or daughter, we’re also talking and laughing…enjoying being together. We’re a unit and if we’re happy, they’re happy. We’re both committed to being with each other, and that means remembering why we got married and that we are friends. Also, communication is key. – Tracie, 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son
Ravelle Worthington is a wife, momma of three, and the founder of Mommy Brain.
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