Experiencing relationship changes after having a baby is very common. Surprisingly, this reality is rarely talked about, fuelling long term relationship issues and sometimes being the cause of separation. Therefore it's necessary to talk about this process, making it part of the postpartum narrative, care and preparation.
Something that doesn’t get talked about near enough is how relationships change when a baby arrives, and the crucial role of our partners especially during postpartum.
"Overnight, I had given birth to our baby, we were suddenly three and I was going through a very chaotic moment as a new mum, not really understanding my process and being completely unaware of the emotional impact motherhood would have for me. On top of that, all my energy and my love were directed to our baby, this tiny human who was completely dependent on us. In less than a day we drifted apart, our configuration changed, we were different people but we didn’t know that. We stepped into this new identity and our old selves (the people we were the night before) vanished, abruptly. We had to find ourselves again in order to reconnect with each other. We couldn’t meet otherwise. I found this impossible at the time, and for some months ahead. I needed to be taken care of in order to be present for our baby."
The emotional impact of motherhood is vastly ignored in our society, leaving women isolated through this rite of passage when we most need the support. The result of that is a detrimental impact on our physical and mental health. Partners face the same difficulties, adding a layer of silence, mostly completely blanked as they feel they are not allowed to struggle because they are not the ones giving birth. How will they dare say they are struggling/ finding it different than expected when they haven’t biologically experienced pregnancy and birth?
How to prepare for the relationship changes: - Open the conversation during pregnancy. - What are the things you value from each other? how do you support one another before the baby’s arrival? what are your strengths as a couple and individually- what do each of you contribute to the relationship? - Imagine the first month postpartum, what are the difficulties you might face? make a list, followed by different ways to support each other with them. - Write down a few things each of you do to unwind, ground yourselves. Pick the ones that are doable during postpartum and hang it somewhere accessible. - Remind yourselves to be kind to one another and verbally appreciate the small gestures you have with each other. So many times we appreciate something as a thought but forget to share it. - Find some time alone to come back to yourself. Maybe going for a walk, a long bath, listening to music or reading a book. To prepare for parenthood is as important as preparing for birth, I am running groups for expectant parents in preparation for the emotional impact of parenthood. One of the modules is dedicated to the relationship changes and how to prepare for them. I also offer individual and couples therapy if you already had your baby and find you need extra support to navigate parenthood.
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