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I cannot believe I’m saying this, but…today is Olivia’s 6 month-iversary. SIX MONTHS. I mean, just yesterday she was born and I was having a catheter put up my vagina (whoops) and then we spent 73 days in the NICU. And here we are. What a whirlwind. I’m stoked for today’s post since it came straight from a reader request: how our marriage has evolved with a baby. What a great Q. Because holy moly, a baby changes everything. You hear that 32 times before getting pregnant, and then 32 more times before giving birth, but it’s true – babies are movers and shakers. Even the most solid of relationships can be (and are) put through the fire a few times once an infant human being becomes a cohabitant.
We’ve had growing pains (like any marriage does/will).
Perpetual exhaustion, medical complications, financial hardships – the list is long and the sleep is short. Things were not (slash are not) always coming up roses for us – which might be obvious if you’re sitting there like, Of course they aren’t, E, they’re not for anyone! But social media plays tricks on our brains sometimes, so I felt it was worth repeating, just in case any of you are also guilty of sometimes honing in on the highlights that people curate to their social media (I definitely am). 😉
We’ve had quite a few periods that felt like chunks of adjustment time. The whole being-born-two-months-early thing and our first NICU stay was a chunk. The transfer to another NICU for the next month and then some was another chunk. Eventually coming home was a chunk. And now, as we hit “milestones” like sleep regressions, teething, and learning to sit – all with an NG tube – we’re in another chunk.
Each chunk has had its own needs when it came to our marriage, I’d say.
The first NICU wasn’t as bad, because it was five minutes from our house with what we thought was a short end in sight. We were lucky enough to have long evenings with Liv, and even some mornings before work – and I was fortunate enough to get to stay even longer during days, sometimes all day long, since I was so close to home and had the freedom to do so.
The second NICU hit harder – it was nearly two hours away and things got complicated quickly. Our life became a blur of driving; J would get home from work, and we’d immediately hop in the car, head into rush hour traffic to get into the city, and spend as much time as possible with Olivia before heading back home – sometimes getting home past midnight. Our life at that point seemed to be summarized by driving, crying, and Schitt’s Creek. (That’s when we discovered that show on Netflix, and the short 21 minute episodes were funny enough to make us LOL, even after a totally long, otherwise upsetting day. So they became our comedic relief to make it through!)
Now, being home for four months, it’s got its new range of challenges – although we’d take these ANY day compared to NICU life. We’ve had to adjust quite a bit from our old routines + roles, as every set of new parents does, so here’s a bit of our evolution and what now works for us!
Days feel longer but time feels shorter. With a little person and two working parents, we don’t find ourselves with idle time to kill anymore. So we end up making the most of every minute together, making sure that when we’re having a conversation, we’re both in it to win it. Active listening. Eye contact. No phones. Maybe it seems silly, but it makes a HUGE difference in connecting and feeling heard and understood by your person!
Dedicated date nights.
Another biggy that I’d say most married folks swear by? I mean, who doesn’t lovelovelove date night?! We had been told this SO much before even getting married, and it’s all the more important now with a baby – although obviously it’s approximately ten thousands times harder to coordinate with a kid. Ha! We’re blessed to have my parents close enough to come hang out with Olivia on a Friday night if we want to get away for a movie or dinner (or both! What!). And we’re completely aware of how lucky we are in that department, seeing as some folks’ folks live so far away or aren’t in the picture, and babysitters ain’t cheap, yo! But that being said, even if “date night” means sharing a bottle of wine on the couch after the kids are asleep, that’s A-OK. Just set aside some dedicated time for each other where you focus on you and not on the offspring. Ha!
We’re not mindreaders. And this would often bite us in the butts before having Olivia, because J or I would sometimes just assume the other knew what we meant or what we wanted, and act (or not act) accordingly. Now…that’s just not possible. And it’s stupid. Ha! We’re both sleep deprived and muddling our way through keeping a baby alive and well – heck, I can’t even keep plants alive and well. So ain’t nobody got time for guessing games! We’ve needed to both adjust to being clear with our expectations and asks of the other person. We’ve also needed to both clarify our calendars big time, and get on the same page (apps help with this!). If something comes up in an inbox OR brain, it has to be communicated. We’ve both had to overshare a bit as we continue transitioning through stages, to make sure we’re both taking care of the other AND being cared for ourselves.
If there is one thing I am NOT, it is patient. I have the patience of a kindergartener waiting for Santa. And when I haven’t slept…I’m REALLY not patient. For me, it’s been quite the test. Not just in practicing patience regularly, but in constantly reminding myself of all of the GOOD that Jamie is and does everyday to overshadow any little annoyance that might pop up from everyday life (and same for him with me). Which brings us to…
Seeing the good first.
Maybe we’re all guilty of this sometimes? Jumping to the negative. Leading with the bad. Seeing the not-so-good before (or instead of) the good. No bueno, yo! This just corrodes relationships entirely and leads to resentment + bitterness. It’s defintiely not always easy, especially when you’re throwing a pity party of one and just CANNOT UNDERSTAND FOR THE LIFE OF YOU why there are clothes on the bedroom floor AGAIN (and this is what J says to me, like, every Tuesday – ha!). Instead of zeroing in on any pain-in-the-butt “shortcomings” of your partner, choose to see + focus on the positives first. Everyone has off days, and everyone needs adjustment time – especially with a new baby under the roof. See the good – and acknowledge it out loud!
J chimed in about this one this morning – he said, “When you have a wife, your wife comes first. When you have a kid, your wife still comes first. Your marriage is the base of a cake, or the foundation of anything.” We both agreed it’s also hard AF to prioritize like that sometimes, since your more natural instinct might be to put your kid above all else. And obviously this doesn’t mean to forego your child in their need to make your partner a sandwich – ha! But beyond being yielding yourself sometimes to your marriage, your kid should be yielded sometimes to your marriage, too. We saw friends of ours do that years ago, where their children knew that mommy came first for daddy and daddy came first for mommy. It really worked to teach the essence of love in marriage, too, in being a total exhibit of selfless love and valuing your life partner as your life partner instead of your children as your life partner.
This was a lot harder for me to adjust to, honestly. Which surprised me, since I’ve never been one to think that folks needed to abide by their gender roles, especially in the house. But it’s been an ADJUSTMENT with the baby and with me being a work-at-home mom now, which I’m convinced is a harder gig than brain surgery. Like HOW DO PEOPLE DO IT?! I mean, without help, I don’t think I COULD. Being a stay-at-home parent is hard enough, and then try adding another job to your plate on top of that – it’s like having two full-time jobs while never sleeping and being yelled at all the time. Ha! 😉 J is an actual saint and always had no problem cooking a meal (he’s a better cook than me, completely) or helping cleaning. And for awhile, that really bothered me. Because it made me feel insecure that my husband was doing any “domestic” things around the house while I was at my laptop to plug away at work. But yannno what?? That’s cray! I’m learning (slowly) to just continually thank God for the blessing that that is and to let people help out where they can when they offer. Beyond that, since I’m with Olivia all day, we’re intentional about J’s time with her at night. I try to not interfere in any daddy-daughter playtime. And then while we both help with tubby time, J puts her to sleep – he’s also the one, then, to get up during the night to turn on/off her NG tube, or hold her if she gets fussy, to sortof counterbalance my “day shift.”
This is a biggy and definitely a work in progress, which it’ll likely continue to be the older + more active she gets. We’re pickier with time, and pickier with people. Time is SACRED. We’re short on “free time” the way it is – the second we have a free night on the calendar, there are #options. Do we enjoy a peaceful night in just the two of us (and maybe our other two friends, Ben and Jerry?)? Get someone to watch Olivia so that we can try a new restaurant or see a new release? Have friends over at our house for cocktails and games? Since Olivia’s birth, really, we’ve had so many eye-opener situations where folks that we didn’t necessarily expect to show up showed up BIG TIME (in both the literal and figurative sense), and then folks that we would’ve expected to be there that just…weren’t. It’s been a process, but we’re both trying to shift our prioties to account for the people + activities that serve us with the same sorta all-out-nature that we try to put into what WE’RE serving. Not always easy, but always important.
Allowance for adaptation.
It’s not a “normal” thing to suddenly have a tiny screaming human in your house that you’re fully responsible for developing and nurturing. I mean, it’s “normal” in the sense that yes, people procreate. But it’s not normal to YOU (yet), so it’s not fair to expect yourself (or your partner) to have it all together as soon as you bring the babe home. Heck, we had 73 days in the NICU to “prepare,” but we still needed (slash need) adaptation time in transitioning roles. Give yourself grace, give your partner grace, and lean on each for support as you both transition to your new role as parent. Everyone transitions + adapts differently!
Do you have thoughts/experience on marriage with a baby? How did yours evolve? Is it still?
Would lovelovelove to have you join the conversation – leave a comment below!