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Having a baby can be the single most transformative experience of a woman's life. If you are in a relationship, it can also mark a time of profound changes in your partner's life.
A baby is everything they ever told us it would be. The love hits you like a ton of bricks. You suddenly cannot stop staring at your little one's face and you become the annoying friend who won't stop sharing pictures online.
So here's the truth baby commercials and shows about families never really cover: Your newborn tests you and your relationship.
1. Utterly profound sleep deprivation
You don't know what you're made of until you've stayed up all night with a newborn. Sure, I had worked long hours, partied all night and hit the office the next morning more than once. But nothing could have prepared me for the exhaustion I felt after my son was born. Do you know what happens to your mood when you don't sleep? Some studies have found that new mothers are "dangerously exhausted for months."
Your partner is likely very sleep deprived, too, making for the perfect storm. Small incidents can flare into major disagreements. Or sometimes your partner isn't sleep deprived, because he's actually the one sleeping like a baby. If that's the case, you better go wake his ass up before you start harboring deep resentment.
What's that? You say he is working and he needs sleep? Mommy, please. That selflessness is overrated—you need to care of yourself too. If you aren't sleeping enough, everyone in the house will suffer. Including, your relationship.
2. Let's talk about sex, baby
My anecdotal evidence suggests that women's sex drive changes after the baby. How could it not? Our body just spent 10 months raging with pregnancy hormones. Once the baby arrives, nursing impacts hormone levels and our sex drives, too. Now, for some lucky women (and their partners!) birth actually increases her sex drive. But a diminished desire is more common. One study found that men's sex drive can also diminish after a newborn.
Mommy, please. That selflessness is overrated— you need to care of yourself too.
Whatever the case, this will be a new phase of your sex life. If you find yourself without a sex drive, then your partner might start to feel frustrated. You are probably both excited to get back at it (wink, wink) and might be disappointed if things don't go back to normal right away. You will both need some time to adjust to your "new normal," which means one of you could be more interested in napping than in other bedroom activities.
Just make sure you talk about it, whatever the case, and find new and exciting ways to keep the sparks flying.
3. Time becomes the enemy
Babies take up a lot of time. Not only are you feeding, burping, changing and cuddling, but you're also trying doing all those other things to ensure you keep them alive and healthy. You're constantly at the doctors' in the first few weeks and months (it seems) and after the baby gifts run out (and your good eater outgrows everything), you're back at Target purchasing cute onesies for them to spit on—and then washing those cute onesies. Constantly, too. Plus, there are the regular chores that pile up while you do all these other things. Wait, when is all this supposed to get done?
People told me newborns were easy, because they slept a lot. It seemed my son only slept for 30-minute intervals, which left no time for much else. So I wasn't bonding with my partner, having sex, eating out or nourishing our connection. I was, you know, up to my neck in onesies.
You have to fight for time—time for yourself and time with your partner. You should fight for it like your relationship depends on it (because it does). Make date night a habit as soon as possible. Yes, sometimes we don't want to be separated from the baby. So you have to get creative: Order in for a nice meal, set the table, create the ambiance and have some adult conversation.
4. Chores. So many chores!
You will start to wonder how a tiny little human creates so many chores. Then you'll wonder who is going to do all these chores. The answer is subject to a lot of scrutiny. Whatever the answer is in your house, just know that there will suddenly be so much more to do and the time to do all (or any) of the things you did before will seem finite.
Have honest conversations with your partner about what feels comfortable for you. I won't lie and tell you it will be 50/50 every day. But I will tell you that trying to do 100 percent of everything all the time will lead to burnout, resentment and relationship trouble.
We remained adaptable in those first few weeks and also now, as our son progresses through stages of toddlerhood.
5. Clashing parenting philosophies
Sure, you two get along great. But suddenly you both have dissenting philosophies on how to get the baby to sleep. Maybe you feel that you have the upper hand on this mothering thing because you birthed this little person. Maybe he wants to help, and you know that your swaddle is the perfect one. Maybe he feels that because you are the mother, he doesn't have a role—or a say—in any of this.
Either way, our notions about how to parent rear their ugly heads when the baby comes onto the scene. My issue was thinking I had to do it all myself. Otherwise, I would never get the hang of motherhood.
Here's a tip: You will never get the hang of parenthood; it is an evolving adventure. You will mess up, your partner will mess up.
One of the best things we did was have a conversation about this when we were expecting. We remained adaptable in those first few weeks and also now, as our son progresses through stages of toddlerhood.
Remember, the most important thing to know going into to this exciting new part of your lives is that you two are on the same team. Your relationship will change, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Now, more than ever, you need each other to survive and thrive. Once you get past this newborn phase, you might find yourself in love with your partner in whole news ways and even experience deeper levels of intimacy.