Last month, my husband and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. Our first two years of marriage have been full of sleepless nights, fears, tears, and poop.
It was also full of laughter, dancing, adventures, new milestones and most importantly, love — new and old. We’ve had two years of intense ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
Anyone who says having their first baby didn’t change their relationship is lying.
Before parenthood, my husband and I had the unrealistic expectation that our baby would snuggly fit into our lives. But our little bundle of joy turned that plan upside down.
Most new parents struggle in the first year. A German study shows that for many couples having a first child leads to a drop in happiness even greater than getting divorced, being unemployed or even the death of a partner.
This might seem a tad bit dramatic for some. And I wouldn’t compare having a baby with a death or a breakup. I absolutely adore being a mother. Nevertheless, becoming a parent is hard. Extremely hard.
The study found “the larger the loss in well-being, the smaller the probability of a second baby.” The impact of a new baby on parents’ lives is so severe, it can make families think twice about having another child, especially among highly-educated and older parents.
In our two years of marriage, I’ve been pregnant for more than half the time. I never experienced married life without being pregnant or without a baby. A week after arriving home from our honeymoon we found out we were expecting. Slightly surprised and very much excited, we had no idea what was ahead of us.
My pregnancy wasn’t easy. I spent the first four months throwing up, waking up with strange rashes, an aching back, emotionally and physically exhausted. I was a mess.
My husband would come home from work to find me crying on the bathroom floor after throwing up all day. He would pick me up, put me on the couch, tell me how strong and beautiful I was and make me a grilled cheese.
Then we would excitedly talk about what life would be like with a baby and how it would all be worth it. We talked about how we would raise our child — no screen time, breastfed, organic foods only. We planned to have a strict routine to ensure a good nights’ sleep and weekly date nights. None of this actually happened.
During those pregnancy months, though constantly sick and uncomfortable, I felt cared for and loved like never before.
When my baby arrived, I looked at my new family and thought how could anyone ever get a divorce after going through such an amazing and terrifying experience as child birth. Our little team felt closer than ever. Forever bonded.
The other half of my marriage was spent taking care of our new baby. It wasn’t long until our prefect baby dream bubble popped.
Somewhere in between no sleep, breastfeeding struggles, endless diaper changes and trying to adapt to life as new parents, we stopped caring about each others needs. Baby took over. Our expectations of parenthood definitely did not meet up with the realities.
There were the obvious hurdles — sleep deprivation, zero free time and lack of romance. But there were also struggles with differing parenting styles.
For the first few months I also had to adjust to life at home. After spending years traveling the world I was now home on a farm alone with a baby. I felt jealous of my husband who went to work every day and saw new faces.
Little things started to bother and frustrated me too. I remember how angry I would feel each morning after a sleepless night. My husband, who can sleep through anything apparently, would wake up and exclaim what a good night the baby had. I could have strangled him.
The majority of couples, 67 percent, say they feel very unhappy after their first baby is born. According to the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle, “Within three years of the birth of a child, approximately two-thirds of couples find that the quality of their relationship declines and within five years of the birth of a first child, 13 percent of marriages end in divorce for couples who were married at the time of the time of the child’s birth. The five-year dissolution rate rises to 39 percent for couples who were living together at the time of the first child’s birth.”
Not only do you have to adapt to life as a parent, with a tiny human depending on you for their every need, you have to rework your relationship.
We’ve survived our first year of parenthood and recently managed to put our marriage first again. It was tough, but I can say we both are very happy parents.
A few changes have made a world of difference. Baby has moved out of our bed, and my husband has taken over nights. Extra sleep is the greatest gift a partner can give a new mother.
Date night has become a weekly occurrence, even if it means sitting by the fire in the backyard and having a glass of wine. And the most helpful change has been simple old fashion talking; being honest about each other’s needs, wants, worries, hopes and frustrations.
And just as things are turning back to lovey-dovey normalcy, we are waiting for “round two” to arrive.