by Bruce Linton, Ph.D.
Having a baby and making the transition to parenthood is a very complicated process. I say this from both my professional perspective as a family counselor, and my own experience as a father of two children. With all the various pressures on young families, often there is not enough time or energy for parents to have the sexual contact one or both partners want.
During the fourth month you start to notice that their is a change in your intimate sexual relationship with your wife. It is very normal for this to happen, but why this happens is not well understood by dads. The reduced sexual desire experienced by new mothers is linked to a natural hormonal process. For the survival of young babies the mother's attention and emotional energies are totally focused on the infant. This "preoccupation" with the baby is part of our biological heritage for the survival of the species! In fact, biologically, new mothers secrete a hormone that reduces their sexual desire. So, if your wife feels sexually withdrawn but too concerned about your baby...things are going well!
It is normal for new dads in the early months of fatherhood to feel jealous of their new babies. Perhaps it is really not jealousy of their babies, but from the loss of attention they feel from their wife. This is probably a normal response to the wife's feeling of "preoccupation" with the baby.
The period of the pregnancy is usually an emotionally close time for a couple. The intensity of the pregnancy and early months of parenting now give way to the daily needs of the baby being the center of the relationship. As a new dad you begin to wonder when your "couple" relationship will get back to the way it use to be. There is good news and bad news at this point. The bad news is the relationship can never go back to the way it "use to be." The good news is with time and patience your relationships as a "couple" can become more intimate and satisfying.
A natural maturing of the sexuality and intimacy occurs as you make the adjustments and changes as partners and parents. A mutual respect and appreciation can develop within the couple for each other as individuals. It is difficult for us as men if our experience of intimacy is only linked to our sexuality. For many new dads the early months of fatherhood provide a challenge to expand their feelings about intimacy. Many new dads find it difficult to talk about sexuality with their wives. I encourage you to talk about the sexuality in your relationship with your wife. As you go through life as a parent and adult there may be many conversations you have with your wife about the changing sexuality in your relationship.
Here are a few practical tips that new dads have shared with me to get the most out of your 4th month of fatherhood.
For your baby:
- Your baby may discover that they can begin to make sounds. You can make sounds with your baby and see which one they respond too.
- Your baby is enjoying trying to hold things. See which toys he likes to hold most. Over the next few months he may try to pass the object from one hand to the other.
For your wife/partner:
- Discuss the changes you are experiencing in your sexuality with your wife.
- Respect how much your life has changed in the last four months! Talk about how parenthood is an opportunity to develop a deeper feeling of closeness, although life seems so stressful at times.
- Take time to get a message and sauna.
- Take a walk with a friend and let him know what you have discovered about being a father.
Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood. Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.
Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.