When her deep navy blue eyes meet yours, you feel overwhelmed with loving feelings.
Her tiny bottom is just soooo cute, and you simply can’t resist blowing raspberries on her tummy (the one without the stretchmarks!).
In fact, you are so devoted to her, you couldn’t possibly entertain a single thought for anybody else – even your partner.
And not so long ago, you promised each other solemnly, ‘a baby won’t change OUR relationship!’
The truth is, that once a baby comes to live at your house (that is, your very own baby), your relationship with your partner will never be the same again. Ever.
And there are things about losing those loving feelings that even your closest friends will probably never tell you (and you probably wouldn’t believe them if they did). For instance, foreplay can be reduced to, ‘are you awake?’ and sexual responsiveness can diminish to, ’I’m asleep, but feel free to help yourself.’
If you don’t yet have a baby, think of how tired you were in the first trimester of pregnancy and multiply it by any number from ten upwards. Exhaustion can have a ripple effect on your relationship, especially if you are taking most of the responsibility for baby care and your partner’s life has barely changed. Be kind to yourself. Recognise the high price to your family of a spotless house and relax about changing standards (or hire some help). Learn to rest when baby sleeps, say ‘no’ to invitations that will be tiring and discuss sharing the load with your partner.
#1: Spontaneity Will Not Happen Without Careful Planning
You won’t just have to make plans for ‘spontaneous’ lovemaking. Everything from a walk in the park to dinner for two or a dash to the bank will require forward planning. On the other hand, you could also be forced to learn the real meaning of spontaneity – seize the moments and make them special.
#2: You’ll Discover The True Meaning Of ‘Coitus Interuptus’
This is not just a family planning method for teenagers and optimists. When you do get around to making love, even if your baby is soundly sleeping, you can bet your boots he or she will yell just as you get to the moment of bliss. This waking seems to have little to do with hunger, noise or movement and more to do with primitive survival response. It is probably related to the same deep connection between mother and baby that has a mother waking from a deep sleep just before her baby stirs, or triggers a milk letdown as her baby cries – even if she’s up the street and her baby is at home. Try making love when baby is awake – you are less likely to be interrupted. Little babies can be easily amused by flickering candle-light (its flattering to ‘mummy tummies’ too). Later, the jolly jumper comes into its own (yes, the quickie was invented by resourceful parents).
#3: It’s Not Only Lovemaking That Will Be Interrupted…
… but your entire train of thought will seem to be permanently derailed by baby demands.
This can be a challenge, especially if you are having a deep and meaningful conversation with your partner, but with experience you will learn the valuable skill of maintaining your thread of conversation and pick up discussions exactly where they left off with the same emotional intensity.
#4: The Media Tells Us Trim And Taut Is Terrific (And Possible)
So where does that leave curvy, soft and droopy – or is that drippy?
Remember, your body took nine months to grow a baby. It won’t snap back into shape overnight (despite conflicting evidence on the magazine stands). If your body image is fragile, hire the video, Shirley Valentine and laugh together as her Greek lover kisses her stretchmarks. Stretchmarks do fade (eventually!) Meanwhile, make love by candlelight if negative body image is causing performance anxiety and try to think of your body changes as a reminder of something beautiful you have created together – your little bundle of joy!
#5: You May Feel Like Crossing Your Legs For A While
It may seem amazing that an eight pound baby has just passed safely through your vagina, yet the slightest nudge from a penis can have you crossing your legs in fear.
Actually, its all that poking and prodding during birth from fingers and speculums, not to mention forceps, scalpels or needles and thread, that are causing the pain in your most important sex organ – your brain. Your birth experience can affect both partners perceptions of lovemaking, but in time your partner can help you re-educate your body to experience pleasure.
He wants sex. He thinks that making love to you will reassure you his feelings for you haven’t changed. You feel all ‘touched out’ after giving to a baby all day. You see sex as one more demand. You want cuddles but you withdraw because you know cuddles will lead to sex. He withdraws because he doesn’t want to pressure you, or he feels rejected.
You both need to be nurtured and maintain your close connection with each other. Before a baby came, lovemaking was probably the main expression of your connection for each other, now you may need to find other ways to stay close. Try cuddles, a massage, and a meal together, without pressure to have sex. Understanding and respect for each others feelings will see passion return at a greater level than if resentment is left to simmer or you simply drift apart.
See also BellyBelly’s article for men: Why Doesn’t She Want Sex With Me Since Having The Baby?
#6: Jealous Feelings Are Not Just For Left Out Dads Or Usurped Toddlers
Most dads feel irrational when jealous feelings are aroused by their own helpless dependent offspring having their needs lovingly met, but at least guys feelings are acknowledged. You may have similar twinges of the green-eyed monster as your partner gives all his adoration to the baby and seems to hardly notice you, especially if he takes to calling you ‘Mummy’ (yes, honestly!). Feelings of jealousy (for either partner) can be due to a deep psychological awakening that could be echoes of early experiences of sibling rivalry or unsupported needs. Share your feelings with your partner and talk about what you need to feel supported (like reminding him you have a name). It is also important to be able to say, ’that’s not really supportive’, without your partner being offended.
#7: Resentment, A Cousin Of Jealousy, Can Be A Big Dampener On Relationships
You feel trapped as you see him driving off to work, joining the real world. He feels trapped as he drives off to work, “knowing” you have a free day to meet friends for coffee or lunch. In spite of rational role planning, emotions play havoc if you can’t empathise with each others adjustment to your new responsibilities. It is never too late to develop good communication skills. However, it would be best to practise BEFORE a baby comes along, because when we are under stress, it is all too easy to fall back on bad habits, like shouting and screaming, rather than listening and respecting each others feelings.
#8: Sometimes It Pays To Ask For Help
Most of us plan for practical and physical support when we are having a baby. We need to acknowledge that there will be profound changes to our relationships and see support for this as legitimate too. Talk during pregnancy about how infancy and childhood was for you and try to understand what feelings may arise. You can then discuss ‘how can we share these feelings?’ and ‘do we have friends we can have these conversations with?’
If you feel dissatisfied, distrustful, or can’t talk any more, these are symptoms outside help is called for. It may just take a couple of sessions with a counsellor to set you on the right track. It’s not a slur on your ability to cope but may save your relationship.