You’ve probably heard some variation of the idea that a first child’s arrival marks the end of marital bliss. But does this have to be true?
I don’t think so.
Three years ago, my marriage was in trouble. My husband was adjusting to a career change and I was getting used to a new role at my workplace. We were tired and stressed. Then, my grandmother died.
We couldn’t seem to have a conversation without one of us exploding out of anger or getting our feelings hurt.
And then I got pregnant.
I knew that our marriage wouldn’t survive if we didn’t find a way to work together before our daughter was born. My husband agreed. We made it our goal to create a safe, peaceful home-filled with the love of God-that we were proud of, a welcoming place for our soon-to-be-born baby. To do this, we implemented three practices that, gratefully, helped unite us for the birth of our daughter:
When I was three months pregnant, my husband looked at me and said, totally seriously, “You’ve been a lot nicer since you’ve gotten pregnant.” His statement puzzled me for days until I realized that between the nausea and fatigue, I didn’t have the energy to argue, complain, or nag like I had before.
Obviously, I wanted to keep being nice and since I wasn’t much help around the house (due to the aforementioned nausea and fatigue), I looked for easy ways to encourage my husband. I gave him big hugs before he left for work, pushed him to get together with his friends at least once a week, and thanked him for everything he did to take care of me.
My pregnancy also revealed a softer, more caring side of my husband. He cooked or picked up take-out in accordance to my cravings and/or aversions. He researched remedies for my nighttime heartburn and brought home electrolyte drinks to help me stay hydrated. And sometimes at night he went out with his friends, but usually he let me watch TV with my head in his lap when none of the heartburn remedies worked.
Give each other quality time (but don’t be afraid to spend time apart).
We knew that life would become considerably busier once our baby was born, so we put down our phones and spent as much quality time together as we could. For us there was no “babymoon,” but we took a few day trips and enjoyed eating at all of our favorite restaurants one final time, sans baby. We reminisced on how we fell in love and daydreamed about where we’d like to take our daughter on vacation for the first time.
But time apart strengthened us, too. When I was five months pregnant, I went on a trip with my sister while my husband traveled to the beach with a friend. We arrived home feeling individually refreshed and with countless stories and pictures to exchange.
Make decisions together.
Pregnancy demands decision-making.
My husband and I had to agree on whether to have our baby in northern Mexico, where we lived, or in central Texas, where I’m from. Though he ultimately let me make the final decision, discussing the pros and cons together empowered him.
Additionally, searching online to find the items to add to my baby registry overwhelmed me. The first time I expressed my feelings to my husband, I expected him to be dismissive.
He surprised me by pulling out his phone and reading reviews of product after product. Together, we chose the car seat and stroller combo while also deciding that the baby wipe warmer wasn’t necessary.
This encouraged me to include my husband in decisions-both big and small-throughout my pregnancy. Even though he wasn’t physically carrying our baby, he wanted to be involved in making decisions because he wanted to be a good father.
Being kind, making decisions together, and giving each other quality time don’t have to end after your baby is born, either. But they will likely be harder to execute when you are both sleep-deprived and trying to bathe a tiny human that feels more like a slippery fish, so practicing them now, during pregnancy, is crucial.
These days, my favorite part of the day is 6:30 PM. My husband has just gotten home from work and I hear my daughter squealing as he chases her around the house. I think that our daughter feels the safety and tranquility that we wanted to create for our home. Parenthood can be hard, but I’m happy that my husband and I are navigating it together.