(Family Magazine May 2012 4th Issue)
One day, a friend told me in tears that the quality of her relationship with her husband has deteriorated. She got pregnant less than a year after their wedding, and neither of them was prepared for the arrival of their baby. Perhaps it was because they had the baby too soon.
I smiled and comforted her: “Don’t worry. It is not an issue of timing. I had my baby 12 years after we were married. We still struggled with our relationship when the baby came.”
It is a blessing from God to be fruitful and multiply. To many women, nursing a tender baby is a privilege and a dream come true. Yet one’s beautiful offspring often inflicts undesirable damage to the marriage. We cannot but wonder how this sweet little angel can impose such strain on us.
According to studies, there is a universal drop in marital satisfaction when the first baby is three months old. The main reason for this decline is the deprivation of time and energy to nurture the relationship between husband and wife. In addition, differences from the family of origin and the subconsciously unmet needs are magnified due to the presence of a baby. Many new parents experience marital dissatisfaction due to exhaustion, lack of intimacy, and unexpected conflicts.
My husband and I enjoyed 12 years of marriage before we happily welcomed our newborn. My friend may think that we had a better start than they had. However, different conditions bring about different challenges. Our baby was born after we turned 40. We have less physical energy. Fatigue strains our emotional well-being. No matter how well we had lived in harmony as a couple, minor issues can now turn our world upside-down when the baby joins the family.
The worse part was that we found we had very different parenting expectations. Once we were allies, but after the baby, we sometimes became enemies. We were unintentionally hurting each other. I know we are not alone in our new parenthood struggles. Every new parent must have many similar stories to tell if they were asked.
For me, the most important lesson of new motherhood is knowing how to care for my husband. There are abundant resources on the care of newborns. But there is less teaching on how to take care of new fathers.
I am trained in the field of Marriage and Family Counseling. I thought it would be no problem for me to remember that my marital relationship is more important than my parent-child relationship. But my maternal instincts had me focus all my attention on the newborn without noticing my husband’s needs. Not only that, I expected my husband to help with the baby “my way”. Between endless bottles and diapers, it was not easy for me to see my husband’s unspoken needs. After months of battling and struggling, I realized that my husband is just like my baby. He needs my tender love and devoted attention to go through this big transition as a new father. When I humbled myself, changed my perspective, and made time for my husband, we became more intimate and happier.
Life with a baby is very different from before. Going through these challenges and adjustments, I deeply feel that our child is not only a blessing but also a driving force for us to grow. Our child’s most beautiful smiles will force us to overcome obstacles towards maturity. In the process, we will build a strong parental bond to strengthen the foundation of our family. Indeed, our child brings immeasurably more blessing than we can ask or imagine!