One of the things I'm most nervous about when it comes to having a baby is how it will impact our marriage. I've heard many stories of feeling closer to your spouse - more grateful for who they are and all they do. But, I've also heard stories about how hard it can be to remember to care for one another. How difficult it can be to remember to make time to connect and cherish one another when life feels busy and hectic. And what a challenge sex can be when you're both exhausted and you've had a baby touching you all day.
The whole thing reminds me of how I felt going into our wedding. I was SO excited. I didn't have doubts about Chris. But I felt nervous about marriage as an institution. We'd heard the horror stories. We'd seen the stats. We wanted to prepare, but knew we could only learn by doing. For two major planners, the mantra "you don't know what you don't know" doesn't exactly provide a lot of reassurance.
Here we are years later, expecting our first baby just two weeks before our second anniversary and I'm reminded that you have to get in the pool to learn to swim. We can't begin to navigate our marriage post-baby until that little bundle of joy graces us with its presence. We must learn as we go.
That being said, I've taken to compiling some advice from friends regarding staying close after the babe arrives. Some will probably be game changers and others might not work for us. But, Chris always says good advice is worth trying once before you rule it out. So try we will!
- Take time to talk about non-baby things every day.
- Remind your spouse of these things daily: that you love him. That you love him as a parent. And you love him more than (or differently than) your baby.
- When you put the baby to bed, try to stay awake to hang out with each other. It can be hard when you're so exhausted, but time alone together is so important.
- Remember to touch each other. Hold hands, rub his back, make eye contact.
- Make a point to appreciate one another and compliment each other. It's nice to hear you're doing a great job because you rarely feel you are.
- Remember: you're both new at this and are trying to make decisions that are best for your family. Cut one another some slack and try to keep a team mentality. You're both feeling emotions you've never felt.
- Find time for the two of you to connect alone - without the baby, friends, phones or a TV. Talk, snuggle, listen to music - just be together. Mark certain topics as off limits (sleep schedules, finances, logistics, etc.) and make an effort to have real conversation.
- Invest in date nights. They are an investment financially, yes. But they're also an investment in your marriage.
- Remember that if you allow your relationship with your kids to trump your relationship with your spouse, it negatively impacts both your kids and your spouse. But if you put your spouse first, the healthy relationship and love trickles down to the whole family.
- Take mini vacations alone. Even if it is just one night (and feels hard to leave), it makes a big difference.
- Give one another time and space to practice self-care alone. Whether it be a workout, time with friends, listening to a podcast - anything that fills you up - make it a priority. Having solo time will rejuvenate you as individuals and as a couple.
- Remember to ask your spouse how he's doing.
- Don't take it so seriously. Laugh together when it feels like chaos and everything is falling apart.
- Lean heavily on the Lord for strength and direction. Try to remember you aren't in control.
- Talk about sex. Things change after a baby. Don't be afraid to have open conversation about it.
- Don't let people scare you. Things change a lot, but you can still go on dates and be adventurous and romantic.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from family members and friends. Your loved ones will be more than willing to take your babe for an hour or two so you and your husband can go on a walk, a date or even to the grocery store alone.
- Be extra sensitive to one another's needs. You're both going to feel a new type of pressure.
- Don't feel guilty if you need to schedule sex in order to make it happen.
- Think of one another. Surprise each other with small gestures. It could be a massage, a gift, or even something small - like cleaning the bathroom. Little gestures go a long way.
- Don't be afraid to admit that things feel hard. You're probably feeling tired, emotional and overwhelmed. Don't suffer silently.
- If you need to, see a therapist. There is no shame in needing to talk through the way your lives and relationship are changing.
- Remember, when it comes to sex, sometimes you just need to have a glass of wine (or coffee!), putting on some music and go for it.
- Recognize that you're both going to make mistakes. If you can remember that you're both trying your hardest and have the baby's best interests in mind, mistakes won't feel as frustrating.
- When you're feeling disconnected, it might be a small fix, like getting enough sleep or having some alone time, that could recenter you. Love and marriage and babies are about remembering to inhale and exhale. Recognize that something like rest or being in nature might be the inhale you need.
A huge thanks to my mom, sisters and friends, Jamie, Katie and Callie, for the great advice. They say it takes a village. Our baby hasn't even arrived yet and I'm already deploying mine! :)