I so appreciate the honesty of this week’s My Mountain guest writer – Samara Kamenecka – as she candidly discusses the pressure a new baby can put on your relationship.
I’ve always been a glass-is-half-full kind of gal. I see silver linings everywhere; I feel lucky on a daily basis. It never occurred to me that my life would be anything but smooth sailing. Nothing could disrupt my perfect family, right?
Here’s a truth: bad things happen to everyone, even the luckiest of us. To avoid my fate, take my warning and never assume you know all of the subtleties of a situation. Trust me when I say that even when it comes to your soul mate, you can’t know what another person is thinking. So even if it feels silly, ask questions of each other and express your feelings on a regular basis. Speak up!
My boyfriend and I couldn’t wait to be parents. We baby-proofed our apartment to the max, set up a pristine nursery, and filled a closet with tiny clothes. From the entire nine months we talked about our daughter to anyone who would listen. The night we brought her home we lay awake for hours with her little body nestled between us, awestruck by her impossible beauty and perfection. Every few minutes we’d look at each other and smile. There were even tears of joy.
Six months later, baby is sleeping and I’m curled at her side. She’s still as stunning as ever, and tears are coursing down my face. But this time, they’re tears of frustration, confusion and sadness because my boyfriend doesn’t think I love him enough. He’s threatening to pack his bags and move out. I’m a mess.
It took me a while to realize that all of the attention I give to my boyfriend and all of the effort I put into the mundane stuff of our relationship was now funnelled into the care of my daughter. Between my exhaustion and raging hormones, I didn’t clue into my boyfriend’s feelings. It never even occurred to me to ask him how he was doing.
Like me, he wasn’t prepared for such a dramatic shift in our home life. Just like me, he had no idea how to fold this magnificent baby girl into our established routines. He blamed me for being an emotional rollercoaster and said I was impossible to connect with. And the thing is, he was right. I didn’t know that the hormones that work overtime when you’re pregnant hang around and bounce about willy-nilly and can wreak havoc with your post-partum body and mind. My craziness scared us both, so we focused on other things. We didn’t talk about what was so obvious. And that was our biggest mistake.
In retrospect, the importance of communicating with your partner, especially when there’s a newborn at home, seems painfully obvious. You have to express yourself and admit you need help. Demand a nap or a shower before you sink to your knees with exhaustion. On the flip side, regularly ask your partner how he’s holding up and find ways to laugh about your over-tiredness and the laundry piled all over the place. Don’t do what I did and assume that you know each other well enough to gauge what the other’s thinking. No matter how tight of a bond you have with your partner, a baby changes everything.
There isn’t any rulebook for proper parenting. Moments of tremendous joy will be matched with bouts of fear and frustration. The only way to navigate all of these emotions, whether they’re hormone-fuelled or not, is to recognize them and talk about them. And talk about them some more. Bringing a new baby into a family is life changing. But this is an amazing opportunity if your eyes are wide open and you’re ready to admit what you don’t know. It’s the chance for you and your partner to learn more about each other and support each other during the sleepless nights and restless days. Let your voices be heard; parenthood is a rocky road that’s better navigated together.
Samara Kamenecka is a New York-born freelance writer and translator living in Madrid. When she’s not busy trying to mold her two kids into functional, contributing members of society, she can usually be found enjoying a glass of wine (or three), or eating ice cream straight out of the container. You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry, and you can also connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.
Do you have a parenting challenge you’d like to share? If you’re interested in contributing to the My Mountain series please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.