People tell you about the surge of love you will feel when you have a baby. They will tell you how your baby will become your whole world. The worries that come with it as you want to protect this precious little human. And that is all totally true. But what nobody seems to talk about, is that having a newborn can also cause a massive strain on your relationship.
This is something I experienced, and actually I think most people experience but don’t want to admit. When Lily was born I felt all those normal emotions: love, a lioness type protective instinct, I worried obsessively as all new parents do. I also had physical troubles such as breastfeeding, with constant bouts of mastitis. Chuck in sleepless nights, Lily’s first cold at just 2 weeks old, and Joe having to go away a lot with work on courses, it was hard.
However alongside all of that, I still had a relationship. Going on this ride with me was Joe, my partner, and who until Lily was born the person I gave my entire attention to. We would go on trips out, we would go for meals, we would sit around and just do nothing. I really can’t even think what we did with all that time we had on our hands before having a child!
Suddenly we had no time for each other at all.
What do most people do when they are tired, emotional and hormonal? They take it out on those they love. We all know we shouldn’t, but it is inevitable that sometimes you will snap just because you are feeling grumpy. When you are a new parent because of the level of stress it can end up happening all too often. Not only that but as emotions are so high things can seem a much bigger deal than they really are.
“You don’t have to speak to me with THAT tone of voice!”
This happened to me when Lily was a newborn. I would be up all night, then spend most the day on my own with her, and don’t get me wrong I would love it. But by the time Joe came home from work I was tired, I hadn’t spoken to anyone or seen anyone all day except the baby. I had washing to hang out, dinner to cook, and I just felt overwhelmed. So when I would say to Joe something like “Can you look after Lily whilst I have a shower?”and he would say “In a minute I just want to get changed and have a cup of tea first.” I would snap at him.
How can he ask me to wait when I’m feeling disgusting and really want a shower, and if I don’t shower now I won’t get the chance to later because Lily will need a feed and then it’s dinner and then it’s her bath time. How can he be so selfish?!
Now what I should have really said was, “Yes no problem of course get changed, and then if you could look after Lily whilst I have a shower we can have a cup of tea together afterwards.” Or something like that. But let’s be honest, when you’re tired and feeling emotional you just don’t have much patience, especially with your partner.
Being new parents is really hard, and it’s so easy to take things out on each other. I have also heard of men who feel extremely neglected. After having all that attention on them prior to the baby, their partner suddenly just seems to ignore them. It’s all about the baby now and no longer all about them. Well, “tough!” some might say, but if either party in the relationship is feeling unhappy it needs to be addressed somehow. Sometimes couples have been together 10 or so years before they have a baby and that sudden change can really cause a problem.
I’m sure when Joe had come home from that tough day at work he didn’t think asking to get changed and have a quick cup of tea was the worst thing in the world to suggest, and it wasn’t. But at the time it felt like a massive deal.
After a few weeks of this snapping and bickering, I started to hate myself. I knew I was being so difficult to live with. I felt so emotional that I struggled to control it. I would say to myself be more patient, but in the spur of the moment it would happen again. It took time but eventually I did manage to regain control of my emotions and my patience, or maybe my hormones calmed down. Joe and I got back on track, and things got a lot better.
However unfortunately sometimes the relationship doesn’t get out of that state, and that’s when it can start to be really destructive. We love our babies and are so happy to have them in our lives, but it really can be a tough time. The newborn phase was undoubtedly the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, but it was also the time I cried the most and questioned myself as a person the most. Was I being a good mum? A good partner? Who am I now that I’m not the girl I was before I had Lily, but I feel like I don’t know who I am yet as a mother either. I’m suddenly responsible for this little person and I just want to protect her and look after her, but am I doing it right? It’s exhausting.
Are you going through this stage? Or did you? I found all that helped was just time, for things to settle down including my hormones! That and trying to reflect more on how I was acting. Talking to someone other than Joe about how I was feeling, friends or family. Of course if things get really bad it’s best to tell the health visitor or the doctor. But I’m sure everyone experiences this on some level when they have a newborn. Behind all the Instagram photos and happy Facebook statuses.
According to the Office for National Statistics:
Around a fifth of marriages end within five years of the birth of the first child.
So this stress must be happening to a lot of us. Yet we don’t seem to talk about it.