After two years of marriage and nearly forty-two weeks (yes, you read that right) of patient waiting, our family of two became a family of three. We read the books, exasperated our Google searches, and we were SO. READY. (insert eye-roll from all seasoned parents here.)
But this blog post is not about babies. It’s about marriage.
This is a cautionary tale.
As most parents will tell you, the first year of a baby’s life is a total blur. It was so easy to get caught up in the craziness of this new life and forget about what got me there in the first place: a loving marriage.
It wasn’t long before I started resenting my husband because I felt like I had to give so much more than him. I was the one in pain from the birth. I was the one carrying an extra 30lbs. I was the one getting up every two hours to nurse. I would look at him during those early hours of the morning and mouth “WHY DO YOU GET TO SLEEP?!” My husband didn’t know I felt that way.
The sleep deprivation made us both cranky and we were so, so tired. My cheerful greetings upon my husband’s return home from work were replaced with fragmented phrases like “need new burp cloth,” “hold baby,” and “another blowout.” We would exchange baby-related conversations, cycle out of clothes and diapers, have a night of interrupted sleep, then start it all over again the next day.
The days without proper communication turned into weeks, then months. We fell into a routine that didn’t include any “us” time. But we said nothing.
Once, during one of those early hazy days, I was mindlessly surfing the web on the family laptop. That’s when I saw it. The turning point in our marriage as new parents: the words “signs of a depressed new dad” in the search history. I had no idea.
I looked down at my sleeping child and realized that while we were doing the best we could at parenting, we had not baby-proofed our marriage.
Like I said, this is a cautionary tale. But now that you know the warning signs, here is a short list of tips to baby-proof your own marriage:
1. Talk it out — It’s simple, but I was surprised how many times I told myself “we didn’t have time” or “we’re too tired” to talk. I needed to remember that nothing would improve if we didn’t now how the other felt. Use “I am” phrases to explain how you feel. Example: I am frustrated because…
2. Spend time together — This one may be tough for couples that don’t have access to childcare, but even if it’s a car ride, a walk in the park with the stroller, a few minutes during naptime—check in with each other. Really listen and offer insight. You want to make sure that all the work you put into the marriage will keep your relationship strong, and stay strong when the kids are gone and building their own lives.
3. Teamwork — Many husbands don’t know how to contribute in the early days of babyhood. At the same time, mothers tend to be very protective and insist everything be done her way. Marriage is about trust in everything, including parenting. Dads may not do it the “right” way, but they develop their own system and get their turn to bond with the baby. Remember, you’re a team, so don’t keep score!
4. God is on your team too — One thing that I love about my husband is that he remembers God. Whenever we’re faced with a problem, he says, “Let’s ask God for help.” Whenever we feel joyful, he says, “Let’s thank God for that.”
Since that day I discovered the Google search history, my husband and I have savored lunch dates, car rides, and nap times as our designated “us” time to talk, laugh, and catch up. We have family devotional prayer that actually started out as a desperate plea for our son to sleep better through the night (but that’s another blog entirely, ha ha), but over the months has changed to a prayer of thanks and love for each other, and our son. We know parenthood won’t get any easier, but we also know that we will develop and adapt so that we will be a stronger, better team.
It’s the eve of our son’s second birthday and looking back, my husband and I have grown so much as a married couple. We realized that strong parents don’t come from focusing on the kids, they come from a strong marriage.
Denise Alignay is a staff writer at incmedia.org, has been married for 5 years. Denise is a wife to an intelligent tech guy and newish mom to a talkative 2-year-old who memorizes catchy pop songs and feels most comfortable talking to old people about different shapes and the weather.