Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Having a Baby Changed Our Marriage

We could not have been better prepared for having a baby. After two years of marriage, Bobby and I were closer than ever, and very much "on the same page" about the next step in our lives. It was time to add another member to our family. Financially, emotionally, spiritually...we were as prepared as we could have been. 

And yet, our marriage changed when Emerson was born. Perhaps because we were each individually transformed by parenthood. Perhaps it was the natural result of a third person entering what had long-been just the two of us. Either way, we changed...and, we had known that we would! But, knowing how, exactly, was impossible to predict.

In some ways, we changed in ways I'm not proud of. Parenthood showed us our relational flaws, and highlighted the growing that we still have to do, personally, and as a couple. 
  • Bobby and I experienced jealousy of each other. He was jealous of my connection with Emerson (largely the result of my nursing Emerson, and spending all day, every day with her), and I was jealous of his ability to spend time away from home. The grass was greener on the other side....
  • Our jealousy led to resentment. We were both, at times, resentful of the other. There were occasions when, although Bobby wanted to help, he couldn't. Emerson needed her mom (usually, more specifically, her mom's milk), and Bobby felt largely unnecessary in whole scheme of things. He resented my bond with Emerson; I resented his lack of help (due to his inability to feed, not due to unwillingness). Because Bobby didn't have the responsibilities at home with Emerson that I did, he was also able to leave the house and spent time playing football with his friends regularly. I (unfairly) resented that.
  • We weren't always sympathetic with each other. That, I believe, was simply due our own selfishness. We often each felt that we'd had the rougher day: me, at home...Bobby, at the office. Our work was very different, and our selfish attitudes didn't permit us to sympathize with each other. We were each exhausted, and didn't choose to selflessly give one another the understanding and sympathy that we both so desired from each other.
  • We were competitive. This was usually in the form of "who saw Emerson do (fill in the blank) first?" For whatever reason, we took on a competitive nature about our separate interactions with Emerson, and often didn't act as though we were both on the same parenting team.
  • We had far less energy for each other. My thoughts were centered on Emerson, and I didn't have an excess of mental energy to spend on nurturing Bobby. By day's end (and often before), I was worn-out from picking-up and carrying Emerson all day long. Emotionally, physically...I was entirely spent every day...and there was little left of me to share.

In other ways, we changed for the better, and we grew together. 

  • Bobby and I have developed quite a rhythm to getting things done around here. From our after-dinner routine (I clear the table, he entertains Emerson while she finishes her meal; he rinses the tray, I wash Emerson's hands...and face...and legs), to our former bath-time ritual (I nursed Emerson, he started the bath water, then cleaned up afterward while I put on Emerson's pajamas)...it's very much a dance that we do together to keep our world turning. We each have our roles, and they fit together perfectly to make things work smoothly. We're a team, and in many ways, our teamwork has never been better. 
  • We're getting to see new sides of each other! I imagined that Bobby would be an amazing father, and I wasn't wrong. Fatherhood suits him, and seeing that side of him makes me love the man all the more.

And, in other ways still, it was just...change.
  • In many ways, we love each other differently now. We are getting to know how we each act and respond and relate as parents, and we act and relate to each other a bit differently, too. 
  • Sleeplessness or hormones or changed perspective or whatever has meant that I'm more sensitive than I used to be, and the jokes and good-natured criticism that used to be painless, can sting in an instant now. So, our interactions have changed...and we're still learning.
  • The way we spell "love" is different. There isn't time...or energy...for many grand gestures these days...but when Bobby brings in a hot cup of a coffee to the bathroom every morning, waiting for me as I get out of the shower, I feel deeply loved.


There were times in the past twelve months when I felt very much "alone". Not because of anything Bobby intentionally did or didn't do...but because he couldn't help in given circumstances, or simply couldn't understand my needs or emotions. (I often didn't understand them, myself.) Emerson needed me. And I felt alone in my responsibilities and as though no one understood. It was hard. That's all there is to it.

Our marriage needed attention that at times during the past year, I'm sorry to say, we couldn't give it. After months of celebrating and anticipating our baby's arrival together, enjoying a connection and closeness unlike ever before...to experience a significant distance between ourselves in the months after her birth was...hard.

The happy news is that all of the troublesome elements we experienced were very much "fixable". And, the happier news is that, for us, the six-month mark was a turning point. We were figuring things out...about parenthood, about being married during parenthood, and how to give our marriage the effort it so very much deserves.

We've learned a great deal in the past year. And, lots of things have changed. But, what hasn't is our desire to have a large family with several children! Lord willing, Emerson won't be our last precious little one.

More importantly, our commitment to each other & to our marriage hasn't changed, either.

As we approach our four-year wedding anniversary later this week, Bobby and I are so very happy with our world right now. We are deeply in love, deeply blessed by this life we're building together, and by the little girl who has made our family more complete.

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