There's no doubt that having a baby impacts our relationships.
Going from 2 to 3 (or more) overnight can bring with it a huge shift in identity, a whole new list of domestic duties, along with extra pressure on finances and the infamous sleep deprivation.
Time spent together as a couple suddenly becomes time spent as a family. And time spent alone is even more elusive. All this happens during a period when we may be feeling vulnerable and low in confidence and energy levels.
It may therefore not surprise you to learn that one study at the University of Illinois by Dr John Gottman, found that 67% of couples reported a decrease in satisfaction with their relationship in the first 3 years of parethood (see www.gottman.com).
So what can you do to avoid some of the common issues that couples face, and smooth the transition from pregnancy to parenthood?
The key, of course, is communication. For communication to be effective, it needs to happen at a time when you are able to both articulate your needs and listen to those of your partner. This is unlikely to be the case when you are extremely tired or feeling 'all at sea' as your get to grips with your new role.
One of the main benefits of writing a Postnatal Plan, is that the planning process can spark discussion between expectant couples about what life with a newborn is really going to look like. Taking the time to plan how you will handle some of the most likely challenges is an excellent way to prepare for your new life as a family. It is also a great way to relieve stress in the run-up to the birth; knowing that you are prepared (as much as you can be), for what is to come.
Make a date and take time to 'brainstorm' ideas together around some of the key topics associated with the postpartum period, including for example; physical recovery from the birth, mental health, infant feeding, newborn sleep, the roles of friends and family, household and domestic duties, and of course; your relationship.
For example when discussing the topic of 'your relationship' you could ask yourselves:
- What are your expectations of each other?
- How do we avoid the 'who has it worse' game (sleep often being at the core of this one)?
- What sorts of things will we do to connect (this may look different to before)?
- Sex - what might change and what other things can we do to maintain intimacy?
- How well do we work as a team? What can be improved?
- Who can we turn to for support?
The early weeks with a new baby are certainly exciting and exhilarating, but also exhausting. By taking the time during pregnancy to visualise your future together with your baby in it, and by planning how to manage the transition; you will already be fulfilling your roles as parents in the most wonderfully proactive way.
If you would like to learn more about the postpartum period and writing a Postnatal Plan, my next online workshop; 'Planning a Positive Postpartum' will be held across two evenings on the 9th and 16th February 2022. You can purchase a ticket here or contact me for more information.