How a Baby Affects Our Marriage
They say "A baby changes everything." Well, whoever they are, they are right. It seems that even sneaking away to go to the bathroom these days is a challenge with a newborn. Kelsey and I are all about having an intentional marriage, and so when we found out we were pregnant we knew we would have to be very proactive if we wanted to keep our marriage in focus after Rooney arrived. This is proving to be more and more difficult on a daily basis.
Who knew babies were so needy?
At any given moment she takes up all the attention of at least one of us, not to mention when a crisis breaks out that necessitates "all hands on deck." With one of us always on call, it leaves virtually no time or energy for kindling the flame that was ignited years ago. While we love our little Rooney Bear to pieces, we must eventually get our priorities back in order. (First came love, then came marriage, then came the baby in the baby carriage.)
We tried to analyze our situation in order to understand what's going on so that we can help to meet each others' needs as well as the needs of our baby. This is no small task, but we've come up with four ways that our baby is affecting our marriage, and four ways we are coping with the change. Here it goes:
How a Baby Affects Our Marriage
- Sleep deprivation: In the first month, Kelsey and I would wake up repeatedly throughout the night thinking we were holding our daughter in our arms. This led to panic. Where is she? Kelsey must have her. Nope. Oh, she's in her cradle. Wow, try falling back asleep after that. Obviously, when we don't get adequate sleep, our minds are not sharp and it makes it hard to think logically. It also makes us irritable. We have snapped at each other for the smallest of things and after a minute we realize that we are simply sleep-deprived and tired.
- Loss of patience: Sleep deprivation leads to a loss of patience as well. Neither of us are mind readers, but when sleep deprived we seem to think that each of us should know exactly what the other is thinking all the time. When our fuses are shorter, explosions happen more frequently. This is frustrating, knowing that in our normal state we would offer a lot more grace to one another.
- Little time to connect: As stated above, it's an extreme rarity that we have alone time, just the two of us. And this strains our marriage in a bad way. It's such a completely new situation from what we have been used to the past five years. The hard decision comes when we put Rooney down for bed. Do we stay up for some "us" time, or go to bed to try to remedy issue No. 1 from above?
- Lack of routine: After reading Justin Wise's post on routine, it hit me how much I like/need routine. While Kelsey doesn't like to admit it, I think she misses the routine, too. Try as we might, a 5-week-old has its own routine and brings with it the element of surprise as soon as we think we have her figured out. We've become flexible, but have had to sacrifice some great routines that used to be paramount to our marriage (like weekly date night).
How We Are Coping With the Change
- Seek help: It took five weeks, but last weekend we were finally ready to be away for a few hours, just the two of us. We enlisted the help of Kelsey's parents to watch Rooney while we went on a date. We did some landscape shopping, enjoyed lunch on the patio of a restaurant and talked about adult things. It was awesome, like first date awesome! Unintentionally, we didn't talk "baby talk" too much. But in the future, I think we might make this a rule when we go on dates. Getting away as a couple is essential to keeping the batteries charged and being the best parents we can be. We simply get worn down over time.
- My spouse is not my enemy: This is hard when tempers flair and patience wears thin, but we learned this in Love and Respect. My spouse is not intending to hurt my feelings; he/she is a good-willed person. This really helps us come back down to reality, and one of us will often say something like, "I didn't mean that, you know I'm a good-willed person, will you please forgive me?" On the other end, forgiveness is essential and should be offered freely if sought after. Otherwise you end up on the crazy cycle which leads to disaster.
- Create alone time: We all need alone time, and some need more than others. We're figuring out that we each need something to get away to every once in a while that will help us relieve stress and clear our head. For me, my running schedule has helped keep me going. It's a time that I get to be alone with my thoughts. We're working on coming up with a plan for Kelsey to get away on a more regular basis. She's thinking more along the lines of "running" to the mall, though. ;)
- Hug it out: We've been making the most of the small window we have from the time Rooney goes to bed and the time we go to bed. We've been hugging it out a lot lately. The sense of accomplishment of finally getting Rooster to fall asleep makes us want to do a song and dance. Because we have no energy for that, we hug it out. Or we cuddle up on the couch. This is usually our catch-up time too. We use it to talk about our day and reconnect.
We want to thank you all for all of the support you have shown us through this transition. Those who have been here before have been a big encouragement to us. And to those who haven't, this post is for you. It's not meant to strike fear, but our hope is to paint a realistic picture of what life in the early stages of parenthood is like. Every day gets a little better, and we keep pressing forward.
How has having a baby affected your marriage? If you don't have kids, does this post help? Leave a comment below.