Once your “laughter” and “choking” has subsided at the thought of this naïve yet well intentioned statement, we will get down to business. While having something mutually in common does cause people (most any two people) to bond, a child is NOT the glue, not by a long shot.
“Sharing” a baby is (generally) an incredible act of love however the prompts for having a baby vary. Some have babies because it’s the next stage of life, or because they’ve always wanted children and sometimes it’s a fortunate “oops”. No matter what the motivation is, no couple is fully prepared for the change and challenges that are about to occur.
Everyone warns “You have NO IDEA how much your life is about to change”. And arrogantly we dismiss them. I’m here to tell you, as prepared as we were, we were NOT prepared, not because we didn’t have diapers, or onesies, or a crib, bassinette AND play yard, but because our preparation, focused on the material needs of the baby, instead of on the most important factor…the “us”.
Did you know that you and your spouse have had different upbringings? Shocking I know. No matter how “similar” your childhoods were, there are differences in how YOUR parents vs. THEIR parents handled each and every step of their development. Once upon a time I thought it was enough that we both wanted children, we both wanted versatile children, and we both wanted well behaved children. But did you know that how you achieve each of those things can be very different, so different in fact that it may cause resistance and opposition within your union.
You thought you argued a bit BEFORE having kids? Add unleashed hormones and a parental protective instinct to the mix and you’ve never experienced arguments like this before. Each of you passionately devoted to the ways and methods you were raised by, and/or the ways you weren’t so you swore you wouldn’t “do that”. Your frustrations grow knowing, that you are each right and at the same time equally possible of being wrong. You both have your new child’s very best interests at heart, so why isn’t that enough? Because marriage + parenting = a team sport. Having children together is best experienced when the parents are strong, stable, love and most of all RESPECT each other. (Always remember…the two of you were a family FIRST, and while kids demand being first in all other aspects of your lives, you need to make a united front or else you’ll never come out intact on the other side.)
So what do you do? Strong union to start. Know yourself and each other, because that exact person is about to go “bye bye” and you will be needed to help retrieve them from time to time. You will also need to hold that mental picture of them in your heart during the times when it may be difficult to recognize them. Love each other yes, but LIKE each other. “Like” means respect, “like” means friendship, “like” means you want to be there.
After the baby is born…and I cannot stress this step ENOUGH:
#1 MAKE TIME FOR THE TWO OF YOU (without baby)
You may not want to, you may not recognize the need, but if you don’t, give it a few months and it will smack you across the face and you’ll realize how important it really is. Love can often allow us to take things for granted. “She knows I think she’s doing a great job” or “He knows I love him”. Chances are good, she’s not sure if she’s doing a great job, and when you just overulled, corrected or disregarded how she just did something, THAT sent the message you don’t think she’s doing great. And chances are equally good, that all the love, patience and understanding she is showering on the baby, used to be directed at him and he’s wondering where it went.
#2 Be a team. “Us against the world”
Take the time you need to allow the other to feel like “themselves”. Go on a date, go for a walk together, make the time to check in with the other and ask “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” “Are you as freaked out and tired as I am?” Avoid landmine comments that include “You used to always…” or “You never do this anymore…” Mommy needs time NOT covered in spitup to feel sexy and Daddy needs time NOT to feel wrong. (ha ha)
Successfully maintaining your “couple status” will allow you to fully enjoy the peaks and pitfalls of parenthood, and your baby will be happier and healthier for the loving family they’ve become a part of…group hug.