Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Bundles of Joy That Bind You

Spending time with my sister and her daughter last week brought back some memories of our newborn days. I can't say it brought back many memories because frankly I don't remember a lot - and that is probably for the best.

Having a newborn (or two or more) is hard on your marriage. I recall crying once about Penny (the first day she wouldn't eat - the beginning of that long and still unending road) but the other times I cried - which were not that often thankfully - it was about my husband. Husband and I have found a good groove now that I am back at work and things feel more equal. But those early days were all about what I had to do and how I wasn't feeling supported or appreciated or understood.

1. Roadmap. There is no roadmap for new moms - no matter how hard you know breastfeeding will be, how many classes on childcare you take or even if you have hired a baby nurse (as we did) it is The Mommy who is in charge. The Mommy is expected to know everything - how to change a diaper and sooth a cranky baby. How much and when to feed The Baby. When The Baby needs to sleep.

2. Mindreading. Husbands can't read minds. But The Mommy is expected to know everything so why can't The Husband be expected to read The Mommy's mind? Can't The Husband understand the nuances of when you are about to break-down because dammit you didn't want him just to swaddle The Baby you wanted him to hold The Baby and make The Baby STOP CRYING. Or just sit next to me while I breastfeed even if you hate the HGTV/SoapNet show I am watching. Communication is really hard when you are sleep deprived, when you are burning more calories breastfeeding then a marathon runner, when your mind is consumed by details of poop and last feeding times.

3. Changing Roles. The Mommy was just a Lawyer, Wife or some such person 10 mins before the baby(ies) popped out. Now The Mommy is supposed to be 100% about her kid(s). See #1 - where is the instruction manual? How come The Husband can complain about being sleep deprived when he is only getting up once a night (or not at all)? The Husband shouldn't be worrying about paying bills or opening mail or anything not 100% baby-related when he is home with you - that can wait until The Baby is asleep.

4. Worst Time of Day. I remember calling Husband every 10 mins after 4 pm asking when he was going to come home. Because the time from 4 pm to bedtime is a Soul Sucking couple of hours. And if you are pumping and breastfeeding (or trying to) it is even worse because you are so exhausted from the life being sucked out of you. If someone else tells me I should be sleeping when the babies do I am going to kill them.

5. Learning to Accept Help. Husband and I were rockstars in the hospital. The nurses told me that they never worried about us - I seemed so together and strong despite a C-Section. The kids roomed in and we did it all with a cheery waive to the nurses - "all under control, thanks!" My sister was smarter - she sent Cameron to the nursery because after all, Cameron wouldn't be rooming in when they brought her home. Damn, good call. Stacey though can't let go of the cleaning/picking up of the house. Husband had already trained me in that department. Sort of like #2 it took a while before I was willing to accept help - even from the baby nurse we were paying! You want to be in control and make all the right choices.

6. Nothing Stays the Same. The Husband always complains - why do you keep changing things? See #1 - The Mommy has no idea what she is doing. The baby changes every day. You need to try out a multitude of routines before you fixate on one that will last you for about 2 days. This was so hard on Husband. I think he loves that the kids have been on the same routine for more than 2 months now. Hmmm...that must mean it is time to shake things up.

This walk down memory lane hasn't dissipated my thoughts toward having another child but it does remind me how friggin' hard the first kid(s) are on a marriage. I would like to think I would handle things better the next time around but frankly I don't think I will remember enough so we'll be back at #1 reinventing the wheel.

What was the hardest thing in your relationship with your partner when you brought home your bundle(s) of joy?


Anonymous said...

Regarding the second time around? Everything I'd learned about The Baby I had to throw out the window and learn something totally new and different to appease The New Baby.
I think it made marital woes worse because my husband would fight my choices, saying, "That's not what we did for The First Baby."

LauraC said...

My hardest thing: Jon can do everything just as good as I can, even if it is different.

This stems from both of us being engineers. Engineers believe there is one logical, rational way to do something. Everything else is wrong and irrational. So if Jon and I disagree, someone is wrong or even worse... irrational!

I had to let go of that completely wrong notion and learn that we can do things differently and both be "correct."

(I'm still MORE correct 99% of the time according to my calculations, hee hee)

(Love love love this post and will be forwarding on)

Nicole S. said...

I gotta admit, I think my husband and I are hitting a bit of a rough patch. He seems really unhappy and I thought maybe something was physically wrong with him. He's tired ALL the time which gets me mad because hey, I have had about 4 full nights of sleep since we've had these babies and you get at least 3 a week!

I talked to my mom about it (4 kids, still married so maybe she knows a thing or two) and she said men are just needy and its hard for them to not be the center of your world anymore. I guess that's where we are and its hard but I know this too shall pass. Babies are just so demanding, there isn't room/time/energy for much else.

I think about baby #3 all the time and you're right - I'm sure I will forget everything that got us through this and have to start from scratch!

Lee Denis said...

Once I let go of the idea that my husband should just read my mind or volunteer to do things I felt much better. I decided that if I couldn't do something, or felt tired or whatever, I could ask for help, or in the case of housework or other stuff, it could wait. I also let go of counting the hours that I slept and comparing that to his. I just accept that I will no longer get as much sleep as I used to. For some reason not counting and comparing made me much less upset about it. Now that I'm finally able to get sleep for some time now, we are going to have a newborn in a few months.

Liz Jimenez said...

I do find it helps a bit when I step back and say to myself, "you're not allowed to be mad at him for not doing something, when you never asked him to do it." (Though I absolutely have the right to be mad when I've asked you 1548 times in the last eight years...)

Great post. The amount and type of stress that kids put on a marriage is not something anyone can understand until it happens. And I think it's doing a disservice to pretend it doesn't.

Shelley said...

Great, great post. About 2 1/2 weeks after the babies were born, Pete and I were discussing how hard things were and he said "I think I'm just burned out". I just about lost it! I had made it through a twin pregnancy, surgery, and virtually no sleep for months (beginning during pregnancy), and HE WAS BURNED OUT?!?!?!

The hardest thing is having to be "on" 24 hours a day. Even if my husband is home with me, I'm still in charge of the schedule, the food, what to pack for outings, etc.... There's just no mental down time.

Stacey said...

I completely agree that I expect DH to read my mind. I'm trying to let it go but it's hard. I think it would be easier if he volunteers to take her more often once he's done with work. But we're starting to get a routine down where he responds to her in the evening/early night ('til 12 or so) and I'm on call after that. Because DH works at home I think he also sees me watching TV (which I do, a lot) and think I'm just hanging out. Much harder than that! It's not going to be a 12 week vacation. So, I will say "Word, Mommy, Esq., word."

Rebecca said...

I think this reminder of those newborn days may have made MY thoughts of #3 seem like less of a good idea!

Seriously though, I'm a huge fan of assigning jobs. You all get in a routine and everyone knows what to expect the other person to do. Seth was the non-feeding night responder for so long that now in the middle of the night my guys---age 2---call for Dada. Haha. Go kiddos! Definitely a good deal for me post-weaning.

Anonymous said...

Such a great and thoughtful post. I was Amen!-ing throughout. I still go bananas internally when someone tells me to sleep when the girls sleep. Cuz you know, little elves come in and do the 10,000 things you need to get finished while the girls sleep. Snooze away!

Babies, and especially multiples, definitely test a marriage. I think it's because they take us so far out of our comfort zone. In the beginning, I think the hardest thing for me was to get my husband to go along with things he didn't necessarily think would work- like a napping schedule. I finally had to say- LISTEN, I know you have your doubts about this, but I need you fully on board. If ya don't feel it, FAKE IT.

Things went more smoothly after that ;)

Krissy said...

Mommy Esq, would you consider letting us use this for a guest post on HDYDI?

One thing that I wish I had known when the kids were newborns, was the mantra "My husband is not my enemy." Stress or no sleep or some other outside factor was the enemy, not my husband.

A lot of the time, I felt like a fraud, putting up a good front that I knew WHY the babies were crying, or I knew what they needed at any given time. It was exhausting!

Nice work on this one.

Anonymous said...

In my most sleep deprived early days, I was shocked at how quick I was to snap at my husband. He would get frustrated with something and I'd pile on about how he was doing something wrong. I quickly cut that out. It was not helping, and it would push him away from both of us. (not to mention that I would never stand for him doing that to me). Now I'm very careful about when/if/how I criticize his parenting and I think we're both happier for it. Afterall, I don't really know what I'm doing either, so I'm keeping an open mind on whether there's a better approach or one that works equally as well.

Nancy said...

Yep - when #3 comes along, everything you "learned" with these two is totally gone. Not only have you forgotten it, but the stuff you DO remember no longer applies ;)

And how sweet is it that you are a guest poster over at HDYDI?? *way* cool :) And much deserved - this is a great post!!

Just Kristen said...

I gotta give hubby credit: He took all I had to dish out and more in those early weeks/months. I can distinctly remember this one morning where I completely exhusted and had lost my cup of coffee (...again!) and I found his a took a big gulp and it had splenda in it...ICK! I was genuinely FURIOUS with him..."why couldn't he just take his coffee the same as mine so when mine wondered off into the bathroom or the freezer I could just drink his" It was about a minute later that I just started laughing at the INSANE new level I had reached. If there were two me's in this relationship we would be in some serious trouble! And, although I can keep track of my coffee these days, hubby still drinks his with no sweetner....:)