My daughter has changed me; she’s opened up my soul and made life more beautiful, messy, and complex. A mama was born the night she was welcomed into this world, as was a papa, and our family was transformed. Having a baby is an opportunity for a new beginning: new relationships are built, new goals set, and new dreams created. Just as your baby’s first three years are a period of milestones and rapid development, so will it be for your parenting and life. Some of the changes seem minor and others rock you to the core.
As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have a strong clinical background in the transition to parenting; however, living these changes has been its own experience. It has been everything from putting up our first Christmas tree to finding new ways to connect as a couple. We’ve had to shift household roles and chores, our sex life, sleep schedules, vacation plans, and career goals. Breastfeeding, body changes, lack of energy, and less time change family life, as well as a couple’s intimacy.
According to the Gottman Institute, mamas three years postpartum reported sexual feelings for their partners about once a week, while their partners reported daily thoughts. Why the changes? The reasons varied for couples, but included altered body image from pregnancy and childbirth, physical discomfort, fear of pain, hormone fluctuations due to breastfeeding, fatigue, and sleep deprivation. Also, leaky breasts can make a mama feel anything but sexy.
During this time, partners can feel left out, neglected, and/or unappreciated. Many new fathers report feeling unprepared and inadequate. One common shift for dad is to take on more financial responsibilities. He may withdraw into work, and you may feel he isn’t as involved with baby, creating further disconnection. What can you do?
• Become more of a WE than two MEs. This philosophical shift helps you become a stronger parenting team.
• Tune into your partner’s emotional life — knowing his or her stressors, goals, and dreams will allow you to support each other.
• Despite the stressors, allow time for humor, laughter, and play.
• Enjoy your baby! Your relationship may be changing, but you and your partner share a special bond. You both love the same little person, your child.
If you want to learn more about how to manage these changes. I will be teaching a Bringing Baby Home Workshop in May. This research based 2-day workshop is designed for expectant and new parents to develop skills and techniques that will ease the transitions that come with the addition of a baby to the family. If you would like more information go to www.annvanpatten.net.
Image Credit: Happy Bandits