In Part III of the Relationships After a Baby series, a couple describe the difficulties they experienced after having children: tiredness, snapping, changes to social life and less couple-time…
Charlotte, 36, and Matt, 36, have two children aged five and two. They discuss using meditation for stress, the damaging effects of sleep deprivation and the love that kept them together
“We were ecstatic to find out about the pregnancy. We attended NCT classes for about eight weeks, to prepare, and my husband was at both the births. My first labour was 18 hours and my second was three hours.
For the first one, my husband was very supportive of me but a little worried when I was having strong contractions at the hospital reception. I wanted to take my time and he wanted me to get into the birthing centre. There was never any awkwardness between us.
I got a little angry with him in the second birth, as we were driving to the hospital when I was about eight centimeters dilated (I like to wait at home for as long as possible) and he was going too fast over the bumps in the road. I made him slow down.
Before my first birth I did worry a little about what my partner would think if he saw me giving birth and if he watched me getting cut etc.
Every month brought new difficulties but if the baby was sleeping then everything always felt a lot better
Immediately after the birth, we were very happy and the baby did bring us together in a way we had not expected. I started to admire him as a father and as a supportive husband. The tiredness, however, was a killer.
The baby also separated us physically as we rarely slept in the same bed. When the babies were very young I always had a child in the bed or in the cot next to me and so Matt slept elsewhere as he wanted to get a good night’s sleep before work the next day.
I exclusively breastfed so I got up for every night feed which Matt also could not do. However, he was amazing at allowing me time to bond with my baby and never got jealous at our separation.
He emotionally and physically (getting me water and cooking my dinner etc) supported me in those early months. I did not and could not support him as much in these ways, as the baby was all consuming.
There were times when we had not managed to spend any time together just the two of us for a while and we became very snappy at each other. This led on to resentfulness and arguing over whom was the most tired or who was not pulling their weight enough.
Accept that your life and your career (for the woman) are going to drastically change and you can’t do it all
Usually we would have a big argument and then thrash out what was causing our underlying feelings. We then made an effort to spend more time together and tried to get more sleep by asking for help from friends and family.
There were days and weeks when the baby slept better and I felt happier in myself. Every month brought new difficulties but if the baby was sleeping then everything always felt a lot better.
Since having a baby we don’t get to spend as much time with each other. We argue more as we are more tired. We rely on each other more.
If you could go back, I would have waited a couple more years to have the baby as then more of my friends would be having them at the same time.
The baby has kept us together through the hard times. The thought of doing this baby thing alone is very scary. The baby is the reason we have so many arguments, too, though.
My advice to expectant parents would be: prepare lots of dinners and freeze them for those days when no one can be bothered to cook. Ask for help from friends and family. Don’t expect to be the perfect parent with the perfect house.
Don’t worry about cleaning up in those early weeks and ask friends/family to make their own cups of tea when they come over. Start doing meditation to prepare you for those stressful days. Remember to have time together as a couple.
Get a rocking cot for the baby. Accept that your life and your career (for the woman) are going to drastically change and you can’t do it all. The quicker you can give yourself over to this idea and to your baby; the less you’ll worry or resent what else you could be doing.”
“We were really happy to find out about the pregnancy and we attended NCT classes together for about eight weeks.
I felt very close and protective over Charlotte during both births, though it freaked me out a bit how long we stayed at home on the second one.
I thought it was amazing seeing them come out of her (especially into the pool) and I never thought that it would put me off her later.
One funny thing was that they were born in the same hospital, in the same room and using the same method (semi standing in a pool).
Immediately after the birth, I just did everything I could to help and protect Charlotte and the babies. For me it was dreamy happiness coupled with blurry tiredness. Later (weeks/months) tiredness made us snap and still does now. I defy anyone who says it doesn’t.
Our relationship has changed in the sense that we have less time together. Less time alone (just me). Less meals out. Less partying. Making time for sex. But if I had the chance to go back, I wouldn’t change anything
I found it very hard to keep the level of support up as I am a teacher in Year 6 (SATS year) and I have a very demanding job which often meant I wasn’t there as much as I wanted to be, but thankfully we timed the births to be quite close to summer so that helped a lot.
There were points where it felt impossible to get on and see the light but I think I always thought we’d stay together because I am determined to do that. It can be tough tough tough but I knew that it would be.
I had a baby brother in my teens so I think that prepared me, having seen how tired my parents were. I think it shocked Charlotte how big the change was more than me.
When things were difficult, I coped by talking to parents/friends. There wasn’t a point when I remember things clicking into place, or getting easier – I think it was gradual and up and down really.
Our relationship has changed in the sense that we have less time together. Less time alone (just me). Less meals out. Less partying. Making time for sex. But if I had the chance to go back, I wouldn’t change anything.
Love, humour and family support have kept us together. It is a time when you feel the most extreme emotions of love, frustration, ecstasy, happiness, sadness, anger, tiredness, resentment, admiration. You must be resilient.
I also think that too many people leave it too long. We were 30. I wouldn’t want to be any older than that. You need to be fit and have your wits about you. You need thick skin for when your family tell you to do something differently. You need to be forgiving. You need to not be too hard on yourself; you are a person as much as your child is.”