How to Prepare your Marriage for a Baby
Your marriage will weather a lot of storms, financial woes, illness, conflicts with extended family and while those are all survivable, having them all hit at once can feel overwhelming. Having a new baby can bring all of those things crashing down at the same time, and even the strongest marriage may feel the pressure.
Preparing your marriage for a baby is often about mitigating stress. The first year of a new baby is an adjustment on every front, from sleeping to eating, from working to resting, everything will be flipped upside down and back.
Doing what you can to avoid stress points is very important. Before the baby arrives discuss what life will look like after. What’s your budget like? Do you have a plan for emergencies? Are you going to take shifts during those sleepless nights? Discussing these things before problems arise can help get the groundwork done and put you on a path to success. Prepare what you can in the months before whether that’s putting more money into savings, learning to freezer cook so you’ll have meals ready on stressful days, or putting some projects aside for a while.
During the weeks before the baby arrives, you will already be feeling physical and emotional changes, and that goes for your partner as well. Get in a habit of checking in, listening without judgment and affirming feelings. Ask your partner to work on listening first and countering with intention.
The last thing you need is misunderstandings and resentments because poor assumptions were made. Try to take things at face value and don’t engage in passive-aggressive behaviors. Make your home a safe place to be grumpy and figure out early on what helps and what doesn’t.
Even little things can set off stress responses in the early days of sleepless nights and recovery from delivery, so put systems into place early to communicate needed information consistently, whether it’s installing a dry erase board on the fridge to keep a running grocery list or printing out a log to store information about feedings, any kind of systematic way share information and keep everyone up to date is going to make things easier.
Make the time
Setting yourself up for success should include making time to spend with your significant other. A date night may be asking a bit much in the early days postpartum, so before the baby arrives settle into low-key routines that you can continue after you bring the baby home. Learning to make little moments for each other is going to be your best bet. Do you have a show you like to watch together or a game you like to play? Taking time to reconnect and value each other is going to help set up a framework for viewing yourselves more as a team than two separate individuals and that can build intimacy and deep love that will help you through all kinds of stress.
Take some time
Don’t make any huge relationship decisions during the last trimester and the first 3 months of your baby’s life. Everything is up in the air, you’re tired, your partner is tired, adjusting to a new baby is hard, and adding in pain and hormones just makes the whole mess a powder keg. It will get better, just wait it out.
Reaching out to others for support may give you more stability and time to appreciate your partner. Remember that as babies grow, things will change, so don’t feel like you’re stuck at the moment forever. Just like the changing of the seasons, your summer will come with the baby you will need your partner’s support while you’re in the storm of postpartum and you should prepare them for that.
In the days and weeks after having a baby, your body will change and your patience will be stretched thin, but remember that your partner is having to adjust too. A new baby is a wonderful experience, but the highest highs can come with the lowest lows. Postpartum depression doesn’t just hit mothers, dads can experience depression and trouble adjusting too.
Practice active listening, try not to take things personally and expect the same of your partner. Support each other, and realize your feelings and their feelings are valid and important. It can be easy to discount what is going on in another’s life if your life feels unstable, but remember until you’ve walked in their shoes you really don’t know, and the only way to find out is to listen carefully to what they are saying with their words and actions.
The best advice just might be “never attribute to malice what can be easily explained by sleep deprivation”, you and your partner may not be trying to cause issues, you’re probably just both exhausted, take a nap together and wake up renewed and ready to team up again.
Figure out early on what life might look like after a baby, and pick your battles. Extended family may cause extra drama so be sure to discuss where the line is and make sure you present a united front regarding it. Stick to the plan. If his mother is causing a problem it’s infinitely better for him to address that with her than for you to try. Same if it’s your family, you have to talk to them. Don’t let a wedge get driven between you by someone else, make a pact to stick together in public even if you’re going to have room for disagreement at home behind closed doors.
Keeping a strong marriage going is a lot of work but putting in the time will be worth it. Remember that it’s not wrong to ask for help if you need it and that you really do love each other even when things go sideways.