While having children can be a blessing, it can also turn into the biggest test for relationships. Established routines are turned upside-down, old issues resurface and new problems spring up like mushrooms. It’s a trying time and one that not every couple is able to survive but as it’s a new phase of life, it can be helpful to read the stories of moms who have been through it all before.
At the end of the day, you find out exactly who you really married (or are with) when you have a child.
People don’t necessarily change when they have a baby but the lack of sleep, increased responsibilities and inexistent “me time” can make certain issues surface. Whereas these wouldn’t have been a big deal before, they are now as both parents begin to feel resentment. For women especially, it can be easy to fall into the habit of doing everything but communication really is key.
The importance of showing appreciation for one another also can’t be ignored. We all do things our own way, which isn’t necessarily the way our partner might do it. But that’s totally alright! With that being said, let’s have a look at how 20 couples survived the newborn stage and the reasons for which five couples just couldn’t.
The newborn stage is certainly a trying time and filled with emotions we don’t always expect to have. Emily shared:
“Nothing prepared me for the anger I felt after giving birth and it wasn’t even towards the baby! I was mad at my husband for not being more involved during the pregnancy, which only made it worse once the baby finally came. He had told me he didn’t know if he could love the baby as much as I already did but everything finally got better after a few months.”
Looking back on her relationship now, Ellen understands why her marriage didn’t survive. She told us:
“My marriage didn’t last through the newborn stage. My husband simply wasn’t ready to be a parent (admittedly, it was a surprise pregnancy and we were 18). There was a lot of resentment and a definite lack of communication. He shrugged off his responsibilities, preferring to stay out all night with his friends. He even found another woman. Five years later, they have a kid together and he’s the best dad while he never sees our child.”
Once couples start name-calling and expressing criticism and negativity to each other, it can be a hard habit to break. This is why Lyndsay was very surprised with herself when she told her husband three words she never thought she would say to him:
“After number four was born, I told my husband I hated him because he could leave and go to work. I was miserable and at that moment believed what I had said. He was very good to me through it all, we're over it now, I adore him and always have. It's a hard season, sleep deprived and hormonal. We can laugh about it now, but I still feel bad for saying/feeling that way.”
For others, the change can be greater than anticipated once the newborn arrives. Adrianna told us,
“It was rough. We went from cuddling every night and being physical whenever we wanted to all of a sudden, spending all our nights in mom and dad mode. Baby took up all our time and we didn’t have any time to do anything for ourselves. At the five month mark, we went on our first date in a long time and things definitely got better after that.”
Kasey shared with us how her situation was after giving birth and it’s one that most women can only dream of! Sometimes, all it takes is the right guy.
“With my first husband, I really should have taken a hint and left before even getting pregnant. Once we had a child, our already-crumbling relationship just broke completely, mostly because he expected me to do everything. But my current husband was wonderful when the babies were born. I didn’t lift a finger to do anything!”
When it comes to having a baby, the good times can be as plentiful as the disagreements. Mom of two Savanna had some insightful advice:
“Our second was born when the first was 23 months old. Between caring for both (and changing both of their diapers!) it’s hard, we were both tired and frustrated. But I learned that we needed to pick our battles with one another. We realized that this time is hard for both of us and we needed each other's support.”
With picking your battles also comes the importance of open and honest communication.
Kaila told us, “At some point during the newborn stage, we had a bit of an ah-ha moment. We were both so scared of starting a fight that we just wouldn’t talk to each much about what needed to get done with the baby. But no one’s a mind reader, so now, I’m not afraid to ask him for help with the baby anymore and neither is he. We finally learned to just speak our minds, which helped our relationship tremendously as well.”
Sometimes, our parents can be very helpful in helping us deal with the various stages of life. Bobby Jo shared:
“I'm lucky-- my husband understood from the get-go that if I was taking care of the baby, he had to take care of ME. I think his mom talked to him about it. It really preempted any fights...I felt some resentment with our second because he had to go back to work as soon as I was cleared to drive, so I was doing all the night shifts with a colicky baby, but he was so attentive when he was home that it was easy to let go of."
The stereotype of having to take care of the kids while her husband went to work became too much for Kelli to handle.
“After a few months, I started resenting my husband too much for never being there for me. He worked a lot but even on his days off, all he wanted to do is ‘sit and relax’. I get that his job was exhausting but so is being a parent! Even when I would break down and cry about needing a break, he would just shrug and tell me that being a mom meant it was my job. He was actually surprised when he came back home and we weren’t there anymore,” she shared.
We all need a break sometimes but during the newborn stage, it can be particularly hard to get away. Still, that’s something Skylar decided to prioritize once she had a baby.
“We both took breaks when we needed them (he had a couple guys weekends away, I went away a couple times too) we made sure to have open and honest communication. Date nights have become extremely important for us. Your relationship grows and evolves a lot in that first year and if you don’t put in the effort it can go bad fast,” she explained.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fantasy of it all. We all have our ideals and when looking back on the situation, it can be easy to look at the way the newborn stage went with rose-colored glasses. However, Lenna was very real with us when she shared:
“Three babies later and we’re still married. Do I ever want to resort to physical action or just pack and leave? Absolutely! But that’s ok as long as the good times are more plentiful than the bad times.”
The stereotype of the husband going to work while the wife stays home to take care of the kids, cook, and clean is tough to avoid. However, Sarena made it work for her:
“I didn’t make my husband get up throughout the night for either baby. His job is much too dangerous for him to not get good sleep. I took the sacrifice. But he knew I did and he would make dinner, do laundry, and help clean in the evenings. Also on the weekends I still didn’t make him get up but he did a lot during the days. He didn’t take off work at all except while we were in the hospital (that’s just his work ethic),” she confided to us.
Everyone always shares how tough the newborn stage is but for Josée, having a newborn actually strengthened her relationship.
“The bond I have with my husband got stronger. It helped that he was up every night with the twins. He was very supportive, even when I needed to just go take an hour to browse alone at Wal-Mart. I don’t think we would have survived if he wouldn’t have been as involved as he was. I’m never letting him go.”
Although it can be hard for dads-to-be to connect with the arriving baby during the pregnancy, sometimes just doing things together can make a world of a difference.
“I think it helped our bond that my husband came to every doctor’s appointment, pre-natal class, shopping trip… you name it, he was there! We even planned the nursery room together and took a few days just enjoying getting it ready. I fell even more in love watching him be a dad once the baby came,” shared Sarah.
Mom of three Jamie shared with us how she grew tired of asking for help:
“My advice now that I’m a single mom? Don’t ask for help because, at the end of the day, you shouldn’t actually have to ASK. Having to ask so much for help turned out to be the breaking point in our marriage. He would just sit and play video games and I grew too tired of having to ask him. Now that I’m single, it’s great not to have the expectation that someone else should be helping.”
Speaking of expectations, that is another important-to-manage element when having a newborn, according to Shari.
“Having absolutely no expectations is SO important. It’s hard to avoid reading everywhere how the husband should help with the baby but for us, I did not expect him to get up with the baby because he still had to work. He helped whenever he could in other ways but looking back on it now, I can definitely say it helped that we took the newborn stage one day at a time.”
Before having babies, Netflix and Chill is exactly what we all think of it to be. After having babies, it takes on a whole other level. Tasha told us how she survived the newborn stage with her husband:
“We binge-watched Sons of Anarchy. Then we moved onto Netflix and are now looking forward to having another baby so we can catch up on all our favorite shows. Luckily our first is in daycare, so we’re going to have enough time to repeat our tried and tested process.”
All newborns do is sleep, eat and need diaper changes… in theory. It’s for this reason though, that the true relationship struggles don’t always start until after the newborn stage.
“The newborn stage was easy. We were in a bliss over adding a new family member. Then it got hard at around the four-month mark. Although he was very involved at first, he started to taper off and expected me to do everything alone. I got exhausted of it all and the fighting turned daily. We’re in counseling now and it’s all starting to get better again,” Jody told us.
But for others, the newborn stage can indeed be the toughest part. Lisa shared:
“We both shut down. We fought all the time, we yelled cried and I almost walked away multiple times.... but it was our love for each other that got us through because we couldn't imagine a day without each other. We needed to make time for ourselves as individuals and as a couple. We have our bumps but we are way stronger then we were before.”
Amy couldn’t be happier now that her relationship is no more. She told us:
“Before having a baby, I really should have taken a hint. My husband would spend countless hours on video games every day, often preferring to voice chat with his online buddies instead of spending time with me. When the baby came, he was unwilling to change his habits and the fighting became too much, so I had to leave. All he wanted to do was drink, sleep until noon and stay up all night playing video games.”
For some daddies, it can be hard to fit in baby-daddy time between working. Once the baby came and her husband went back to work, Debbie realized just how important it was that the two have some time together,
“She was a pretty easy baby, luckily. But after a little while of him not really picking her up much, we had a heart-to-heart and my husband admitted he didn’t want to ask to hold the baby. I, of course, told him he didn’t have to ask and since then, he’s been more involved.”
Whenever women are moody, everyone always blamed hormones. It’s a terrible association but one that actually rang true for Stefanie. Sometimes, it can actually be worth discussing mood swings with a doctor.
“Our first year after baby was born was definitely trying. I was super moody, hormonal, and possibly in denial of postpartum. After I consulted a doctor and started getting enough sleep, everything got better. I am surprised we made it through but we are now stronger than ever,” she told us.
Here at Moms.com, we often talk about the importance of “me-time”. Making time for ourselves as mom can mean the difference between feeling great and reaching our breaking points. Fortunately for Ashlee, her husband realized the importance of “me time” as well.
“My husband is amazing. Having him in my life has made me realize that having the right man can make a world of difference. Having a newborn shouldn’t cause a rift. For us what really works is that my husband respects my personal space. He gives me ‘me-time’ every night, often running a bath while he takes care of the kids,” she told us.
Kathy told us the way her relationship survived the newborn stage the second time around:
“For us, it was easy-breezy the first time around, which is exactly why we were so scared for the second baby. With the first, we both took turns taking care of her but with the second, we were scared of feeling in over our heads with both. So we agreed ahead of time that I would focus more on the newborn and he would take care more of our four-year-old. It worked out beautifully,” she said.
Although Shawna’s marriage didn’t survive having a baby, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Having a baby was the hardest time in my marriage. I didn’t know I was dealing with PPD (Postpartum Depression) and even though I eventually got help, it was too late. Looking back on it now, it was for the best. If he couldn’t get through the first year with me, I certainly didn’t want to spend my life with him,” she candidly told us.
Reference: Interviews with moms.