No one warned me about how much of a rollercoaster ride marriage can be after having a kid. Or maybe not everyone experiences what we went through. I don’t know. Either way, I was taken very much by surprise when my marriage, which was like a well oiled machine pre-baby, became hard work every day.
To be fair, we didn’t have the idyllic start we thought we would. Don’t get me wrong, the first week was pure bliss. Sure, she was up every 2.5 hours like most babies and we experienced an exhaustion we didn’t think was possible, but we were so happy. Tired, but happy.
Then she got sick. Days and nights were consumed with worry. Was she sleeping too much? Was she eating enough? Why doesn’t she cry more? Are her diapers normal? Did she vomit in her sleep again? We found out later that the answers to these questions were: Yes, no, she’s sick, nope, and yea, that’s not normal.
“She could have an allergy, sepsis, or maybe her esophagus didn’t form correctly in utero.”
I’ll preface this by letting you know she’s fine now, but for almost a month we weren’t sure if she would be. It was scary. I remember when I was about to go on our first ambulance ride to Iowa City, a doctor told me, “We aren’t sure what’s going on with her. She could have an allergy, sepsis, or maybe her esophagus didn’t form correctly in utero.”
I absorbed her words on the 40 minute drive as a medic tried to calm my nerves, telling me it was probably nothing major. My nerves were not calmed, but I’m still grateful for that medic’s encouraging words.
After we figured out she had a severe dairy allergy and her G.I. system was basically screaming, “Don’t hurt me anymore!”, she had a feeding tube in for a month. If you’ve never put a feeding tube into a one month old’s nose while being coached how not to place it into their lungs (because this could kill them), I hope you never have to do so.
Long story short, our first few months with our daughter were tough. Not as tough as some people’s, but they were still tough. I had lingering feelings of fear and worry for months afterwards, and my husband and I still have to quell our worst case scenario fears when she comes down with a cold or stomach bug.
We soon started to relax and enjoy our time with our daughter more. But the less we worried about her health, the less I enjoyed anything. My daughter, my work, my husband, running or doing yoga, spending time with my dogs–it all felt meaningless and joyless. I knew something was really wrong with me when my husband stopped making me laugh. He hadn’t stopped trying to make me laugh. I just found nothing funny anymore.
I think the breakdown in our communication was the hardest thing on our relationship.
Our marriage quickly went from something that took virtually no effort (and one that was filled with fun and carefree moments), to one that required daily effort from both of us. I’m not too proud to admit that my Postpartum Depression (PPD) was a big factor in this shift, but we also had this third human that was in the mix. Sometimes we’d give so much energy to her, and we’d have nothing left for each other.
Or sometimes work or other life obligations would take every bit of energy we had, leaving us with no time or energy to spend time with each other. And other times, we would have unspoken expectations of each other and be so very disappointed when those expectations weren’t met. I think the breakdown in our communication was the hardest thing on our relationship.
When you go from being such a great team to feeling like you’re constantly competing or trying to prove that you’re a good parent or spouse (that you’re helpful, you’re not too depressed or anxious to contribute, and you’re still in love, you swear!), it can feel devastating. Part of me wonders if every relationship goes through this tough time after a child is born and that’s why the advice, “Don’t make any major decisions in the first year” is given so often.
I don’t think we’re alone in having had a hard time, but no one likes to talk about how hard adding a baby to your family can be. It’s sad because I think people might not feel so blindsided by it if we were more open about our experiences.
Maybe I wouldn’t have felt like such a shit partner if I had known that the first year is filled with ups and downs. That we’d have moments of bliss and of sorrow, and that we’d eventually reach a point where waking up didn’t feel so hard. Where we’d look at each other and say, “Oh hey, there you are. I’ve missed you!” And that we’d find happy mediums with communication, expectations, and balancing work, family life, dogs, and all our other adult life responsibilities.
“Oh hey, there you are. I’ve missed you!”
I eventually got into therapy for my PPD and we worked our asses off to get back to where we were pre-baby. Spoiler alert: we’re still not back to where we were. We never will be.
We had to realize this along the way, which was a hard pill to swallow at first. We’ll never be the same Tyler and Elizabeth we were before we had a kid, but that’s ok. I really like who we are now, too. We make genuine and loving effort every day, and some days look worse than others, but we’re trying, and we’re supporting each other through our growing/changing pains.
This isn’t easy, but we’ve never really chosen the easy route in life, so why start now?