May 7th, 2007

Your Turn: New Baby Adjustments

A reader writes:
I am 25 years old and about to become a mother for the first time! My husband and I were high school sweethearts, so it has been just the two of us for 9 years now. I worry about how he will cope when the baby comes along. It sounds silly, as I know he’ll adore our baby, but I’m thinking more of the little things that I may not be able to do for him anymore … at least for a while. Like the back massages, or going to a lot of effort for dinner, packing him a wholesome lunch etc. The housework is obviously going to take a tumble, but I wondered if there is any advice you could share, as I don’t want my husband to feel ‘replaced’ by the baby, or that he’s lost his best friend. I’m due in 4 weeks now and I would love to make this a wonderful, positive experience for both of us.

First of all, can I just gush over you a bit? Your words have me smiling all over. Do you know how sweet you are? I suppose you can’t fully appreciate it while you are living it, but take it from me: You are incredibly sweet. What a darling wife and mother you are already.

Second of all, let me reassure you that your feelings are quite natural, loving concerns. It’s hard to see exactly how love multiplies instead of dividing before you’ve quite experienced it. But it does. I can distinctly recall my own sweet husband standing over the crib of our firstborn and announcing that he could never love another child as much as he loved her. Well, guess what? He now loves seven other children every bit as much. And I do too.

Have you talked to your husband about your concerns? If not, do so. He’ll be touched by your worries about his adjustment. He might give you some insight into which things you do that matter most to him so that you can focus your attention and let the rest go as needed. And you should also share the kinds of things you value about your relationship so that he can prioritize as well. That might get you through some rough spots.

Did I say rough spots? Yes, I did. Because no matter how thoroughly and lovingly you both prepare for your baby’s arrival, some rough spots surely lie ahead. Life altering experiences, sleepless nights, and hormonal fluctuations will challenge even the happiest of couples on occasion. But talking now about the stresses you anticipate will go a long way toward giving you some perspective in the heat of the moment.

After talking with your husband and physically preparing for your baby’s arrival as much as possible, try to relax and put the rest into God’s loving hands. He has wonderful plans for you in the coming weeks. And years. May he bless your family always!

32 comments to Your Turn: New Baby Adjustments

  • I must gush too. You, dear writer-inner, are a sweet person!

    That little bundle will bring sleepless nights, yes, but also joy that you can’t fathom yet (yeah, that’s cliche-y, isn’t it, but it’s so, so true). That little babycakes will change your husband, transform him into a better person right before your eyes, will make him capable of more than you could have ever had a right to expect from him, and will turn him into a hero in his own right. As for the changes in you, he will only cherish you more. When he sees how strong you have to be, and how much you need to lean back on him, he will only embrace you more strongly in his arms, just as God will do when the two of you most need it (because you will, at some point!).

    Keeping you in my prayers, and smiling as I tear up at the thought of your new birth,
    Sarah

  • I don’t think anyone can read this without smiling.

    My situation was exactly opposite, as God blessed my DH and I with a honeymoon baby! The one piece of advice I have for the writer is: let him help. I was a little more comfortable around babies in general, so often I would just whisk the baby away for changings and baths and so on (and I was nursing, so he couldn’t help in that area either). Looking back, I’d say I had the mixed-up idea that it would be more pleasant for him if he didn’t have to do as much of the work, but luckily that didn’t last, and I found out what a terrific dad he is by watching how naturally he’d pitch in and change a diaper or offer to take our baby when she was fussy and colicky so I could have a break.

    It may not seem like a fair trade to substitute back rubs for a session with a drooly baby and a cloth diaper over his shoulder, but I never had any complaints!

  • I think that pregnancy in many ways is a good preparation for what it’s going to be like after the baby comes — not in all ways, of course, because some things you won’t be prepared for — but some. If you had morning sickness or any other pregnancy-related slowdown in chores, normal things you did around the house, things you did for your husband, etc, then he has already gotten a bit of an idea what it’s going to be like.

    And, if he’s anywhere near as concerned about you as you are about him, he’s going to be making sure you rest, eat, drink, and take care of the baby and not worry too much about the other stuff.

    There will be lots of time to talk to your husband while your baby sleeps — to reconnect and build your relationship. It’s quite nice to hold a sleeping bundle — or watch your husband hold a sleeping bundle — and chat about your hopes, fears, disappointments, joys, and the mundane things like who’s going to go grocery shopping this week.

    And remember that it’s so important for you to rest and take care of yourself and the baby. He or she will be walking around soon, and you’ll have more time to take care of all the other "stuff" of being a wife and mother. God bless you!

  • Bibi Barberi

    This is such a wonderful time for you! Congratulations. I know that this is not a comment on your blog, but on the question that someone else asked. But, here goes. And thanks for letting me write.

    There are so many ways to cope with your problem. But, first of all, try to relax. Let the new dad get to know his child by helping to care for her/him. That will free you to rest, take a shower or get a little extra work done. That is, after you have gotten your eyes filled with watching dad and baby fall in love with each other. What a joyous site! God bless you.

  • Joan

    It is scary, isn’t it? The unknown always is. You will go through rough spots like Danielle mentioned, but with open communication and neverending love, God will pull you through . When you take your first look at that little one, your heart will be full of more love than you ever thought possible. Take care of yourself, ask for lots of help, and let the housework go. Prepare bedding, clothing etc. before the baby comes. And, most of all, enjoy that new bundle of joy when it comes!

  • J.

    One thing you can do to prepare (both for your husband and for yourself) is to prepare meals ahead of time – right now is a good time to start, and freeze them. You may want to freeze some in serving size so that when you are on your own you can have a quick lunch on those harried days when te baby is particularly fussy.

    Your sweetheart will apreciate that you took time to cook his favorite meal that he can have a few weeks after the baby’s born, when you are still learning things on the fly. You’ll apreciate knowing that there is supper ready in the freezer so that all is needed is to throw something in the oven for 30-60 minutes at 350F… As a famous british cook says… Easy peasy!

  • Well, first I would say that in these last weeks of pregnancy and in the few weeks after the baby is born, let him take care of you! 🙂 If you have the stamina to prepare some freezer meals, that’s a big help. A crockpot and a good crockpot cookbook are also great to have. Most new babies are kind of high-maintenance in the evening. And I would talk to your dh and find out, for example, what are the three things you do for him that mean the most? Maybe you putting a bunch of effort and time into fixing dinner isn’t that big of a deal, but having lunch packed for him in the morning really means something…that kind of thing. Then you can concentrate on the biggies once you are ready to get back to a new normal after baby is born. You do have less time for each other, and I don’t think your concerns are unfounded. I do think this is something to get used to for many men. Things will change…but what wonderful change!!!

  • Jennifer

    The biggest adjustment my dh & I faced when having our first, was believe it or not, the dog!!! All of a sudden I couldn’t walk the dog 3x per day and spend any time with him. It really caused a lot of stress. My advice is, if you have a pet, please try and work something out before the baby comes so that you and the baby aren’t hysterical crying while walking the dog.

    Also, relax and enjoy. It really does go by quickly and someday you’ll look back fondly on it and think "why did I think this was soooo hard?".

  • Tina

    It’s a good idea to think ahead and prepare some freezer meals, but remember that if you’re nursing, the baby might not be able to tolerate you eating certain foods. I made a lasagna and a chicken lasagna for the freezer — cheese, onions and all that — before our first was born, only to realize that all those things were making her gassy and fussy! Might want to find some bland things to make.

    Also, ask your hubby now what are some things that make him feel most loved (kind of ala the "five love languages") and try to make a point to do one thing, if possible, after the baby comes. For example, my guy just loves to have his back rubbed and scratched each night. That’s a pretty simple request! I could even do it while nursing.

    Also, while having more than one child gives you more perspective, trust those of us with more than one — "this, too, shall pass." Meaning, as each month goes by, things really do get easier and easier. Even after three or four months, you might actually find yourself able to do those things for your husband that you used to.

    Congratulations and God bless your family!

  • Tricia

    Danielle’s suggestion about telling all of these things to your husband is the best thing you could do. We had our first child 18 months ago. A few nights before the baby was born, we had a very special date together. We just sat on the couch and mourned the "loss" of ourselves to parenthood. We thanked God for all of the uninterrupted times we had had together while falling in love, and shared those memories. We spoke about the things we may or may not be able to do for each other during the years while our children are small. We apologized in advance for the difficult times that could come between us. Finally, we spoke about the future and, God-willing, the years we would have together after the children are grown. We spoke about how we would have to fall in love again, while mourning the "loss" of our young children to adulthood.

    To be honest, it went on for hours and I think we cried ourselves to sleep. But, you know what? Since our baby was born, there has been no "loss" and we’re convinced there never will be. We’ve had two unexpected surprises… one, raising this child is much harder than we thought it would be, and two, the harder it is, the more we fall in love!

    "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa of Calcutta

  • How sweet is she! After the ladies I met who cared nothing about their husbands I’m inspired!
    How about making a trip to load up on supplies so he doesn’t make 10 grocery store runs for you?
    How about buying a stack of Thank you cards? Hide them and write him notes those first weeks.
    Also make him a list of phone numbers of people willing to help you. LaLeche leader, neighbor, sister, mom etc. When I had a nursing problem for the first one it was hard. For baby number six DH knew just who to call who could yell at me to get back to bed.

    God Bless you all!

  • just a few....

    ….ideas
    1) Let him learn/do it his way too. (which is sometimes hard to do when they have the diaper on backwards) Let him "do".
    2) A baby (espcially infant) can go places. I stayed home for almost a year with our first born. I wouldn’t go on dates with my husband. No movies…no out to dinner…nothing. Do you know how easy it is to nurse a baby in a movie theatre? Go!
    3) enjoy in God’s creation and love for you! Just breath it in and let your heart swell with love….HIS love! "Allow" yourself to just STOP and do this

    Congratulations!

  • I can only say to keep thinking about the "magic six week mark". After both my babies I was full of post pregnancy emotions, exhaustion from no sleep, and a mix of other things. My mom told me to wait until I hit the six week mark – that I would notice a world of a difference…and it’s true! By six weeks your pregnancy hormones are gone (or mostly), you have settled into a routine, the baby is used to the routine and you are used to your babies needs, and it is SO much easier!!! Tell your husband that things may be a lot different for the first six weeks or so but that you, as a family, can build a whole new routine and get back into a normal life. It does change, but for the better!

  • Donna

    I felt this way before our first baby! (She’ll be 10 tomorrow) I was concerned that my sweet husband was feeling a little left out by family and friends as our due date was near. I wrote or called to the male family members and friends and asked them to give "Fatherly advice" and some humor for my honey. Then I wrote down, or copied their words and put it together into a book for him.
    Then I took him out to our favorite restaurant and gave it to him during dessert. He still has that book—and I think it helped him feel that he was changing too, and becoming parents together was HARD and BEAUTIFUL!

  • I think this has already been said, more or less, but I’m going to say it too. Tell him how you are feeling now and give him a chance to say what he is feeling. Keep doing this as you prepare for baby and in the days and weeks following. I had a very hard time adjusting to being a mom, and it was very difficult to admit how overwhelmed I felt, but when I finally did, I felt so much better and so did my husband. Know that it is okay to feel all of the things you will feel, and that you can and should share that with your husband. He needs to know he can do the same. It is important to realize that you both will be tired and scared and confused sometimes and that is fine. I think if you are both honest about things as they happen, you will realize that some things might change for a time, but the big picture stays the same.

  • Anne

    I’m certainly no expert (I’m due with my 2nd in about 8 weeks), but some things I’ve learned are (and I know that these will be repeats from previous comments):

    – Talk to him beforehand about your feelings so when you’re in the middle of a hormonal breakdown, he’ll be more likely to understand how you’re feeling (somewhat!)

    – Allow your husband to help…with the household chores, with baby care, etc. One thing you might do if you decide to nurse is when the baby and you have gotten the hang of nursing, around one month to six weeks, start pumping some milk and allowing Dad to give the baby a bottle once a day (maybe in the evening when he comes home from work while you’re preparing dinner). This will serve two purposes: 1. It allows Dad to take part in caring for the baby and 2. When things settle down and you two are ready to go out on your own for a date, you can leave the baby for a little while without worrying that he/she is going to go hungry.

    – While/If you have the energy, prepare some simple meals before the baby comes and freeze them and/or invest in a crockpot. Both will come in handy!

    – Accept help from other people! Older ladies especially love to help new mothers and care for babies. I wish I had done more of this and am determined to do it this time!

    – Most of all, things will get better and easier with the baby every day! Just take it one day at a time.

  • Maryann

    Congratulations!!!!! My first child is turning 10 this year and I still look at him and remember like it was yesterday the many wonderful, special times we shared. I think my favorite was actually the night time feedings and changings. Sometimes, after the "official changing, feeding and burping, I would just continue to hold him in my arms and smell that baby skin and pray for him to grow up and be God’s child. I prayed that God would look upon my son and bless him and always keep him safe and in his grace. Those times still bring back so many very precious memories. Enjoy this time! I found that night time feedings were going to happen whether you liked it or not–if you don’t stress over it, but instead use it as a time of quiet (which will also become rare from now on) and a time of loving that miracle in your arms, the night feedings become a time to look forward to! God bless you and your family! (Sorry didn’t talk about the hubby much, but you being happy and peaceful will make him feel the same way)

  • I think there is a lot of literature that warns expectant moms that some men will feel pushed aside after the baby comes. I have a hard time imagining that the conscientious young wife who wrote this letter would "forget" her husband enough to cause such feelings, nor can I imagine that such a giving wife would have such a self-absorbed husband who would unreasonably demand the same level of attention as he received prior to the baby’s arrival.

    Adjustments are a part of life’s milestones, and I won’t say that it is easy to accept the constant demand and interruptions that children bring. Every so often my husband and I remind ourselves of the lazy romantic Saturdays we spent in bed that first year of marriage. Instead, our bed becomes a mass of wriggling giggling children who wake the slumbering dragon and our afternoons are filled with baseball games and birthday parties and bike rides and trips to the ice cream shop.

    Enjoy becoming a family and watch the love grow, mature and deepen.

  • Jen

    My advice is similar to others, let him help. I had a hard time with this for our 1st child, he will be 5 in June. I had this idea that I was the only one who could do the things he needed correctly. What I soon noticed was that my husband was wonderful with him. He made up little songs when he rocked him that were SO creative! I always felt a little silly singing to him. Your husband will be super good at some things, and you should allow him to do those things. It will give you wonderful memories to share with your child as they grow.

  • Jen

    I too married my high school sweetheart and at age 26 we had our first child. I remember worrying about how my husband would handle less attention from me, but ironically it was me who became jealous. I had never seen MY lover give such deep affection to anyone else. After 10 years of receiving ALL his attention I had a hard time sharing him with my daughter. I felt like it was my responsibility to catre for her(and boy was she fussy!) and his respnsibility to care for me. Needless to say, I’ve learned to share and 8 years and three more babies later we are deeper in love than I ever dreamed we would be. Our marriage prep course(engaged encounter) gave me the BEST advice about marriage and I think it applies here. Love is cyclical–there are times of deep joy, romantic love and disillusionment. During tough times i think it really helps to remember this and to really have faith that your relationship will experience romance and joy again in the future. As a young bride I mourned the loss of the feelings we shared while dating and thought they were gone for good. But those feelings are still there and as parents you will find new reasons and new ways to love one another. Enjoy the discovery. Have patience, faith, and keep a sense of humor. May God continue to bless your growing family.

  • Melissa Z

    Don’t forget – most guys love a challenge and they love to be the hero. They will gladly live without the extras from you for a few weeks if it means they are the family hero, more needed now than ever. Graciously accept your limits and his help, and show your husband your appreciation in kind words and tender touches — the simple things.

  • SandyK

    I agree with Danielle! You are sweet.I would like to suggest that a good way to help prepare is to freeze some dinners ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Just double your potions each night for the next month and you will have dinners taken care of.
    When my children were babies the washer was always on. If there was a load I did it (and still do) to keep on top of things.You may be surprised at all your husband will do to help including packing his own lunch. You can sneak things into his lunch kit to surprise him–including love notes!If any family want to help show them where the vacuum is–yo shouldn’t stress yourself physically while your body heals.All the best for you and your family.

  • Sarah L

    I, too, married my high school sweetheart and we had our first child when I was 26. Congratulations! My advice for you has to do with intimacy. There are, of course, the immediate postpartum weeks when you are under doctor’s orders to abstain. Even after that, though, there are the hormone fluctuations, lack of sleep, and the craving of your own personal space after holding a baby all day (and/or night!) that can leave you feeling "out of the mood," so to speak. What was really important for my husband during those times was for me to be honest with him about how I was feeling, but to also let him know how much I loved him and still desired him. It can be tempting to shy away from all physical touch because you are afraid of "what he will expect," but I found that little things like extra hugs, kisses, and a squeeze of the hand plus lots of communication on my part helped my husband feel that I still desired him. Those of us who have used NFP to postpone a pregnancy know about this.

  • Allison

    I havn’t read all the comments. . .but I would reccomend "Parenting with Grace" by Gregory Popcak. It has a great chapter for new fathers, and great info on parenting newborns up to teens.

    My husband and I talked about his possible feelings of being left out before our first was born–we did have tough times, but the pre-birht talk did help a lot.

    God Bless You!

  • We had our first child last July and her little brother is due in September. We had dated for four years and were married for three when Shelby was born. I would come right out and say to my husband before the baby was born that when the baby came, she would be number one (in a joking fashion), especially when he was asking me to do something I knew would get put to the side once she was born. My husband would always reply by saying it was okay to be number 2. Now, he doesn’t actually play second fiddle (I got pregnant while breastfeeding a six-month-old remember), but I’ve found that even the most "spoiled" of husbands do have a tendency to know already that their role and your relationship will change. As everyone has said, keep the lines of communication open. You will be surprised by how much he already expects things to change.

    In fact, my husband had never changed a diaper before our daughter was born and after my c-section, the first time the nursing assistant took me out to walk, she had her first big poopy diaper and he managed to take care of it all by himself and the diaper was on correctly!!! I’d say let your husband and the baby spend time getting to know each other, it will allow him to bond and give you a chance to rest if you really need it at that point or to pack his lunch or leave him a little note of appreciation or whatever needs to be done.

    I also second what everyone else has said about freezing meals. Luckily I married a chef, so I didn’t have to worry too much, but on days when he was worn out from work and knew I needed him to relieve me with the baby, it was a God-send to pull out something from the freezer and reheat it! We both enjoyed a nutritious, home-cooked meal and neither of us was worse off for taking time and energy we didn’t have to prepare it.

    If your baby gives you a quiet time in the evening (and some find their fussy time then, but some will give you a few moments of peace) even if your meal is not extravagent or home-cooked (we did McDonald’s a few times for lack of sleep and creativity) you can light a couple of candles, put on some soft music and just talk over your meal. My husband says that doing this every now and again is a great date night even when the baby was nursing through it or was awake and playing in her playpen in the room and gives you a sense of a break in all the chaos.

    It sounds to me like your marriage already has a strong foundation and if you both start your baby’s life off with realistic expectations of your roles as spouses and parents (remember what we all said about talking) you will find parenthood to be a beautiful part of your marriage that you share. When I was sleep deprived with a four-week-old and had leaky breasts and pain healing from major surgery, I couldn’t believe how much I loved my husband when he took our daughter while she was fussing and told me I never looked more beautiful. I hope you will have an experience just as rewarding.

  • Angie J.

    This is my first time responding on Danielle’s site despite the fact that I visit it almost daily. I am just so impressed that your husband is on your list of concerns as you await the arrival of your baby. You’ve got me thinking as I’m getting ready to have our fifth. 🙂 (See- we’re always learning.) In today’s society, most women get very self-absorbed during their pregnancy and don’t give their husbands a second thought, so you are way ahead of the game already.

    A couple thoughts I had are:

    Take naps during the day while your baby sleeps so that you have some energy in the evening to spend quality time with your husband. Avoid that temptation to do housework- it’s not going anywhere, and you can catch up once the baby is sleeping more at night. And as some of the other ladies mentioned, your husband can give you the extra help you need in the early days of mothering.

    There is a great website done by Leanne Ely called http://www.savingdinner.com. Her book Saving Dinner is really good- it has menus for every week of the year with shopping lists. Some of the recipes sounded kind of strange to me, but I went ahead and tried them, and I have been pleasantly surprised. They make enough for six people, so you’d have plenty to pack leftovers for your husband’s lunch. The thing I really like about this cookbook is most of the recipes come together very quickly.

    One other tip I would pass along is to make sure that when your husband comes home from work, take a break from what you are doing, and give him a hug and a kiss to welcome him home.

    Congratulations to you- this is such a special time.

  • marion

    the best advice i was ever given and which i pass on gladly!- trust your instincts, its your baby its your family you will know what is right,God sends us his help that way!!

  • Mary

    I guarantee that you will never feel more loved and adored by your husband than after he watches you endure labor and delivery, not to mention those first six weeks after you bring your little one home. He will see you in a new light and vice versa. The look on my husband’s face watching me breast feed for the first time — I’ll never forget it! Total awe and wonder.

    Yes, your relationship will change and be more challenging — and that’s a good thing! It’s a different kind of "in love" that my husband and I experienced after the birth of our now two and a half year old. But I can tell you that it’s a better "in love" than when we were first married, that’s for sure! And who doesn’t want to be more "in love" with their spouse?

  • mandamum

    Along with frozen meals–make something fun that will freeze well! When my second was born, my poor husband was on the brink of his dissertation defense (!!) and I made a cheesecake, but packed it into 6 or 8 of the little foil pie pans instead. That way, we could have cheesecake as a treat several times after baby was born–each was just the right amount for a decadently-large slice for both of us for dessert.

    Another thought–make sure to leave room for your husband to talk about his experiences, if he wants to. Before our first baby was born, we had a miscarriage, and I still vividly remember my husband comforting me as I cried, and cried…and then finally being able to stop being my rock and cry himself. I try to remember to give him that space sooner now, both for joy and for sorrow–as someone else pointed out, you are both changing.

    Congratulations and good luck!!

  • StephC

    I decided to ask my own sweet husband what he thought. (For some background: He’s an ex-Navy officer & has a wonderfully practical way of distilling issues down to their essentials.)

    In a nutshell, he said, "The husband’s going to take a hit–it’s unavoidable. Just hope that he’s grown up enough to deal with it." Another gem, "Things are what they are. They’re not what you want them to be." He was (and is) an absolute prince of a husband and father when our son arrived 2.5 years ago. (Our second’s due in October.)

    My own comments are that sometimes you just have to enjoy the ride as it comes. This is simply the next chapter in your life together. You can’t micro-manage or totally prepare for everything. Just hold each other’s hand, be honest, be kind and rely on God.

  • Carolyn

    Danielle’s comment on communication couldn’t be better. I’m 28 and happily expecting my third (my oldest is 3). My husband and I are thriving in our relationship because we are in constant open dialogue and we carve out time for just the two of us. We laugh all the time together because we’ve learned to parent our own way and it’s been the most joyful yet humbling experience of our lives. I got soooo much advice and read sooo many books before my first was born. I wish someone had simply told me "Throw out the books and advice. Trust the Holy Spirit and your own instincts."

  • Hayley

    Wow, thank you everybody so much for your advice and encouragement! To be honest, I thought that my request for advice was a little basic for so many of the obviously experienced mothers on this site, but I am humbled by the willingness of you all to help me with suggestions and hints and just share your own experiences with the same thing!

    Thank you for making me feel like my concerns are important and do have a basis. To the young mothers who have recently adapted to family life and the more experienced mothers who recollected their own feelings and life changes, thank you. In a world where women largely scorn the concern for one’s husband as old-fashioned, it is so refreshing to be able to find somewhere that I can get wholesome advice and reflections and encouragement!!

    And Danielle… for you to be calling me sweet… I can only say I marvel at your family life, its warmth and goodness. Your strength as a mother, in the making of decisions for the good of your family, and in the raising of your family for the glory of God, are beyond me. You must be a credit to your mother, as I can only think that she in turn instilled within you the understanding of the faith, while Our Lord has given you the grace to do such an outstanding job.

    I only hope that we are blessed with more children down the track, and that my husband and I can make of family life the positive, life-affirming experience that all of you mothers have made with your own families. God bless each of you for responding to me so gently and sincerely!