When my husband and I decided to start trying to conceive, we’d been through a huge transformation in our lives. We had just gotten married, outgrew friendships, ended relationships with family members, and changed careers. Deciding to start a family felt like the right thing to do because we wanted a fresh start and to have a family of our own. This idea of having a baby together seemed idealistic, the perfect next step. We thought it was logical and the right time. After all, wasn’t having a baby with someone you love supposed to bring you closer together? It’s not like it would be an unexpected pregnancy or unplanned in anyway. Not that unplanned pregnancies are always difficult, but we’d heard time and time again how important it was to be ready both financially and emotionally, and we thought we both were. We discussed it over and over. The very thought of having a baby together seemed to make us both extremely happy.
“We were fumbling and stumbling our way through those first few months in ways we never could have imagined.”
Our journey to having a baby wasn’t an easy one. I struggled to conceive and had one miscarriage before finally becoming pregnant with our daughter. We were thrilled. Every time we spoke it was of our future together as parents–the things we’d do, places we’d go, how we thought our baby would look and act. After struggling to conceive and having some issues during my pregnancy, I thought the hardest part was behind us, it’s that first time mom ignorance at its finest. And then the day came and bam, our daughter was born and we were parents. We were fumbling and stumbling our way through those first few months in ways we never could have imagined.
I struggled to breastfeed and I was recovering from a c-section instead of a natural birth like I had wanted so badly. We didn’t prepare as much as we had thought we had and constantly needed to buy this and that, going crazy to find last minute items. We were constantly cleaning, washing and sterilizing bottles, trying to figure out exclusively pumping, and always doing laundry. We were bombarded by “enjoy it while they’re babies” and unsolicited advice. Taking a shower or sitting down to eat a meal needed a well orchestrated plan. Sleep deprivation was harder than it sounded when I was childless and binge watching Game of Thrones late into the night instead of getting some rest. Staying out all night and waking up early, though casually, wasn’t so bad before motherhood, so I imagined handling the lack of sleep better. I was wrong.
My husband and I no longer stayed up for hours after work watching our favorite shows and catching up about our day. We didn’t go out spontaneously to try a new restaurant that was trending on our friend’s Instagram feed. Instead, that summer we discussed ways to get our newborn to sleep, theories and techniques to get our daughter to burp faster, and talked about normal versus abnormal poop. Discussing poop in detail were some of our lengthiest conversations. Complaining about being tired was about all we could say to each other sometimes. I spent more time with my breast pump than my husband. We were together, but yet not really. Not like before. Parenthood was nothing like we’d imagined.
I didn’t realized how much we bonded over movies and television or how important those random trips to try new restaurants meant to our relationship. I didn’t realize those long car rides listening to music and spontaneous road trips were crucial to our relationship’s success. Here we were with the baby we begged and pleaded for and we were growing apart as a couple and falling apart as individuals. I had postpartum depression and anxiety and my husband seemed to share a similar experience as well.
No one says it, but you have to fight for your relationship postpartum. At first I held on to hope that things would get better with time, that eventually our daughter would just start sleeping more, pumping would get easier, and we’d figure out this whole parenting thing. Maybe in three months, I thought. Maybe in six months, I readjusted. And it went on like this for a while. We started to argue over dumb things. I felt like he didn’t understand me. I felt alone. I was overwhelmed, felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and trying to adjust to being a stay-at-home mom instead of a business owner.
There’s a reason why there are articles about the secret to bonding with your partner after having baby. There’s a reason why books titled “How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids” is an actual thing. Because postpartum is rough. Everyone says so, but no one said it would be rough on our relationship. Before becoming parents, of course we didn’t have the perfect relationship, but we always put each other first. We were always there for each other. I expected our bond to only grow not diminish. But things got really bad. There were times I almost thought we wouldn’t make it.
It took a lot of work, a lot. It took trail and error. A lot of forgiveness and difficult discussions. We had to grow in so many unexpected ways. If I could go back and do things differently, I’d ask visitors to come at 2AM when we really needed the help. I’d just ask for more help in general. I wouldn’t feel guilty for taking time for myself or my marriage. I think this is more common than we’d like to let on, and if I had known we were not the only ones to have gone through this, the shame wouldn’t have been there to stop me from seeking help, talking to my doctors sooner, and asking for support and advice.