And Baby Makes Three

by Ann Douglas

Image: VEER/Andy Dean

Image: VEER/Andy Dean

It’s the summer when I first become a mother. I’m nursing my newborn on the couch, savoring each whisper of air that pass over the two of us. That’s what passes for a breeze during this summer of record-breaking high temperatures.

My husband settles down on the couch beside us with a glass of something frosty and refreshing in his hand. He’s puzzled by the glare I shoot his way as he takes his first gulp.

“You didn’t think to bring me one.”

“You didn’t ask for one.”

He sighs and heads to the kitchen.

I sigh as I wait for him to return with my drink.

I’m praying for patience and rain.

* * *

Having a baby changes everything about your life. The impact on your relationship with your partner can be far-reaching and unexpected.

Because neither of you entered into your relationship by signing off on a detailed job description for the position of partner, the behind-the-scenes give-and-take that is required to make your relationship work may have gone unnoticed and unacknowledged over the years.

Introducing a tiny human being who requires a lot of care and attention into the household requires a total revamping of that unwritten job description. Reallocating responsibilities can lead to stress and hard feelings if you and your partner don’t have compatible ideas about how you are going to work together to ensure that the baby’s needs are met, the household keeps functioning, the bills get paid, and you still manage to stay connected as a couple.

Part of the problem is that no one can fully anticipate ahead of time just how much work is associated with caring for a baby—how exhausting the early weeks and months of parenting actually are. It’s not until you have actually experienced new parenthood for yourself that you can fully appreciate the magnitude of the challenges (and the depths of the joys) you’ve taken on.

The way to make things work—as a couple and as parents—is to be frank and honest with one another about how you are feeling about the challenges you’re facing; and to take a problem-solving approach to dealing with the situation. Rather than attacking your partner for any perceived short-comings or expecting your partner to be able to read your mind, ask for what you need and listen to your partner as he or she spells out his or her needs as well.

Don’t be surprised if your partner is feeling overloaded and overwhelmed, too. Parenthood rocks everyone’s world. If you can be realistic about your expectations of one another and ask for (or pay for) outside help in order to ensure that everyone’s needs are met at least in part, you’ll find it easier to enjoy this very special time in your lives and to emerge from the postpartum haze with a sense that you both belong to the same team.

That’s the best possible way to embark on this adventure called parenting—feeling supported and strong and united by a shared purpose: the desire to thrive as partners and as parents.