Having a baby has been called a blessing and the toughest job in the world. The sleepless nights, never-ending diaper changes, and the changes that occur in a woman’s body and psyche are well-documented. However, there also changes that occur in the parents’ relationship.
Buhle* (19) knows how having a new baby can change the dynamics of a relationship.
Buhle and her 21-one-year-old partner had been together for almost two years before she had a baby 10 days ago. Initially they were like any other typical young couple who were joined at the hip.
“Everything was going smoothly, we would see each other everyday, we would call and text each other everyday,” she says. However, now that the baby is here, things have become different and the father of her child has disengaged from their lives and seems bitter that he has to take on a new role, Buhle says.
“Things have changed, there is no communication whatsoever. Sometimes he will tell me that he forgets to call me or something came up. We would set dates and say, ‘OK, today I really want to see you.’ Now things have changed and he wouldn’t even show up,” she says.
Psychology Today says the transition into parenthood is stressful and can take its toll on even the happiest couples as they battle to establish their new roles.
“[The] First few months are especially confusing and disappointing,” Psychology Today says.
Relationships with extended family:
There are often difficulties with partners’ families, particularly if they interfere with your way of doing things. Some couples struggle with interference or criticism from their own parents, and difficult relationships may become even more strained, says relationship website Couple Connect.
Chloe Lim (30), now a mother of two, says things changed dramatically when she had her first child.
Lim met her now husband in university when she was a bright-eyed 19-year-old. They dated for eight years before they got married and had a baby when she turned 27 years old. Their relationship was turned upside-down by the bustling bundle of joy.
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“It changed quite a bit in a negative way in the sense that it was my first child and I was missing home [South Korea]. My mom couldn’t come, so my mother-in-law came and I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like he [husband] understood how I was feeling because it is his mother,” she says.
Lim says having your mother-in-law to assist you is not a bad idea, however there can be conflicts about how to raise your child. This might create strain on your relationship with your partner who won’t understand why you are disagreeing with their mother.
“Its different [to] having your own mother. You can argue with your mother, you can debate with your mom, you can fight with your mom and at the end of the day you are OK, whereas with your mother-in-law, you always have to behave,” she says.
Lim and her husband are also very different. She is Korean while he is Zimbabwean. They also have different religious beliefs. He is Muslim and she is Christian, so they have the added anxiety about how to raise their kids with all their differences.
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According to NTC, an online platform in the UK that supports women in the first 1 000 days of motherhood, another thing that couples may struggle with is the change in intimacy.
Couples may not be able to have much sex due to fatigue and dealing with changes in the body and the emotional impact of having given birth. All these things mean that it may take some time before things get back to normal. It can take time to feel like having sex again after birth.
Lim says that is something she and her partner had differences over.
“He was always available intimacy-wise, but then because of the body changing I wasn’t available for him. He was glorifying my body, he was always telling me how beautiful I am, but after the baby all you want is rest. Your downstairs is always dry, you [are] never in the mood, so I think he was struggling quite a bit,” she says.
NTC suggests that the couple take a positive approach to the changes and deal with them with humour, understanding and other ways of expressing their love for each other in the interim.
Couple Connect says it’s important to talk with your partner and remember your priorities. If possible, getting an extra hand in the form of a child-minder can also ease the pressure on both of you.
Buhle says she has hope that things will settle down and things between her and her partner will improve.
“He just needs to open up and tell me what really is going on and what is bothering him so I am on the same page as him. I’m [hopeful] that things will work out and I am hoping for the best,” she ends.
Additional reporting: Couple Connect, Phycology Today, NTC