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Relationship earthquake: the birth of your first child

Introduction

Whether we are prepared for it or not (and let’s face it most of us have little experience of the realities) the arrival of a baby is a massive shock.
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Supernanny Expert
03/03/2009
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Times change...

Even after a text-book pregnancy and straightforward delivery, the arrival of a first, much-wanted baby is an earthquake in any relationship.

Whether we are prepared for it or not (and let’s face it most of us have little experience of the realities) the arrival of a baby is a massive shock. Amid the cards, the congratulations and high levels of excitement there are many fears and worries that lurk unvoiced.

Three’s a crowd

First, and foremost, what was a couple is now a trio – and for many, three certainly is a crowd! Whereas the couple may have been able to nurture and care for each other without interruption, the new visitor will certainly be at the top of the pecking order.

Baby's demands for food or comfort takes priority and usually dad’s nose is pushed out. He is not allowed to complain either and must bury his grievance away from the cooing public.

Sadly many affairs start around about this time (for men) as a search for the lost admiration and care takes place. The betrayal experienced by the partner will be doubly hard as she feels less valued by her partner, and the extended family becomes involved.

...what can we do about it?

The important thing to remember is that it is essential to find some way to reconnect as a couple and to be able to voice the darker, more worrying aspects of being parents. 

  •  Address your partner’s issues. If you think he’s feeling left out, don’t belittle him but talk about it, taking time to recognise how he feels (even if in practise there’s not much you can change). 
  •  Get your partner more involved. From mobilising the troops to just changing a nappy, working as a team wherever possible will help you feel less stressed and him feel wanted and needed. 
  •  Organise a babysitter to and – no matter what – invest time into your relationship at least once a month, so you remember the joys of being together. 
  •  If the going gets difficult it may mean talking with an experienced person about some of the more worrying aspects of the new role.

Sleep deprivation + hormonal changes = anxiety

Mum may feel tired and hormonal changes can increase the tension leaving her feeling alienated from her partner; sometimes disloyal as she attempts to pacify the new stranger who is less than appreciative.

The anxieties of being a new parent can arouse disappointment or rejection. It is often difficult to share these feelings and the chasm can widen. Often the urge to right all the wrongs of our own upbringing can bring overwhelming feelings of despair.

For some, childbirth can bring up more haunting worries. Responsibilities can trigger off real panic. Long forgotten jealousy of a sibling can resurface as the feeling of being unloved or excluded returns. Often, these more deep-rooted anxieties are unconscious and cannot be expressed to each other and a couple can feel they have disconnected and even become hostile.

...what can we do about it? 

  •  Renegotiate your relationship: who does what and when is now subject to more pressure than ever before and for the couple who have never sat down to consider their roles and expectations the pressure can be truly daunting. The Step Up Step Back technique is a great tool to balance your new duties inside and outside your home.
  •  Stay calm: resentment can escalate and tiredness can add to the problems, and might cause unnecessary outburst you later regret. Take time out before you explode. 

Good preparation is the secret to success

It is important to look at the expectations you have of each other now baby has arrived. Are they shared, are they realistic?

...what can we do about it?

Things you can look at, preferably before the birth are:

  •  The practical changes in your daily routine; who does what
  • The impact of tiredness or health worries 
  •  The loss of one wage 
  •  Change in status from worker outside the home to parent at home 
  •  Loss of special time together – including sex

Be patient and don’t be too hard on yourselves. Babies grow and relationships can deepen, but you must trust your feelings: if you feel you are at a critical point in your relationship, it may help to meet up with a certificated Couple Counsellor who will have a wider perspective on these issues and help you tackle any personal worries.

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Denise Pickup
Supernanny Expert

Related Links

Search for a counsellor using the Counselling Directory.

Share the household chores with the Step Up, Step Back technique

Make sure you know each other's worries and expectations, with theSame Page technique

Even your toddler can start to help around the house: win the chore wars!

A good Family Routine is another great building block towards a more harmonious household.

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