by Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O'Neill and Julia Stone
It's been said that having a baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage. A hand grenade? Why the violent metaphor for such a precious, peaceful little thing? They're so beautiful. They're so lovable. How can anyone defame such a cutie? But it's true. Those babies just explode right into our hearts and our lives.
As we cross over the threshold of new parenthood together, we feel a tremendous bond with our partners. But most of us also feel afraid, confused and downright irritable with one other. Having a baby can put a strain on the strongest of relationships. The good news is that there are things you can do to make sure that becoming parents doesn't mean sacrificing being a couple. In fact, there are things you can do before the baby arrives to help make the transition from couple to family as easy as possible.
Figure Out a Nighttime Game Plan. (Or avoid playing Midnight Chicken!)
The sleep deprivation caused by caring for a baby can turn the sanest of women into bottle-wielding shrews, reduce grown men to tears, and cause both of you to turn marital molehills into mountains. Don't underestimate the impact sleep deprivation can have on your relationship! Talk to your husband now about how you're both going to avoid playing Midnight Chicken and survive the early months. For example, plan to split up the night, and occasionally, take turns doing all-night baby duty and give each other the ultimate gift - an entire uninterrupted 8 hours of shut-eye.
Accept the Great Mom/Dad Divide. Men and women respond differently to becoming parents and those differences can become apparent during pregnancy. For example, for women, the Mommy Chip kicks in.
We start to get compulsive about the impending arrival and can get upset with our husbands when they don't swoon over the adorable baby outfits or want to spend all afternoon picking out the paint for the nursery. Don't be disappointed because your partner isn't as excited as you are. He doesn't have the Mommy Chip. Most men bond with the baby on a very different table -- he'll catch up with you soon enough!
Also, it might be helpful to agree on a "feathering the nest" budget. Most pregnant women want to get everything ready for their little chick...the best stroller, the perfect crib, etc. It's that Mommy Chip! A lot of soon-to-be dads don't put as much value on these things and many of them start to suffer from Provider Panic, a fear that they won't be able to adequately provide for the family. That Panic can escalate when dad sees the bills piling up before the baby even arrives.
Avoid Coitus Non Existus. It's helpful to talk and, if at all possible, laugh about the looming sexual drought. Tell your partner that your interest in sex will likely go MIA after the baby arrives, and that it will remain MIA for quite some time. Your "supply" might not meet his "demand."
Finally make a commitment now that neither of you will forget about the SGIs, the small gestures of intimacy, like hugging, kissing and handholding. Just because one of you is not up for sex, that doesn't mean that all physical affection should stop.