Navigating A Romantic Relationship In New Parenthood
All relationships take work but without a doubt navigating a relationship as new parents can feel like a very lonely battleground. As a child is born into the world there isn't just one birth but the birthing of two new beings, the parents - and these parents who were previously in a romantic relationship, who were life partners, love partners, fun partners are now work partners, survival partners, partners in parenthood charged with the very important task of raising, teaching, nurturing another human and not just any human - their human. Suddenly the relationship that revolves equally around the two solar systems of your selves becomes a relationship revolving solely around the third solar system of your baby - two individual people are now a pair of parents, expectant, loving, eager to learn but assuming their ability to work perfectly as a team at a job they haven't done yet.
I expect like many, when I found myself pregnant with Earth we were in a loving marriage but it was a wild, untamed marriage. We weren't actively trying to have children, it was something we dreamed of in a far distant future and our marriage was far from what we imagined was the "right" environment for babies . We would fight, fly out of control, make up and all the way back again. We lived from passion to passion, whim to whim, loving, fearing, selfishly pursuing our own feelings. This wild untamed marriage was far from perfect but it perfectly fulfilled our own limited needs. We had fire, excitement, faith in our future but the moment I became pregnant all this changed, suddenly the needs multiplied. We needed security, grounding, sanity, our own core values had to align because we now had the responsibility of a being. The grind started, the getting through the day to work towards a goal - a financial goal, a required goal, a building a home goal. I cried because of the needs that weren't being met, the anxiety turning our passionate relationship into a nagging zone. Things changed, they fell apart but in a whole different way - a way that didn't feel like love anymore or at least the love that we were used to. Don't get me wrong, we were happy, exceedingly happy - because we had a purpose - LIFE. Slowly we crawled our way out of our pit, we hustled putting in the work to make things happen. I went to therapy, researched my pregnancy, did everything I could to give our daughter a good start. My husband worked long hours, painted walls and put up shelves. We talked, we cried, we laughed and slowly chinks of light were popping through.
After I gave birth the week that followed was a haze of heady bliss. I was empowered in my womanhood, my husband in awe of my strength and we were so in love. We had my mama with us to mother us, no dinners to cook or washing to be done and this new experience of parenthood provided all the excitement and adventure we could ever need. We were on fire, radiant with new being ... but the tiredness set in, the tiredness that left my husband floored, literally, sleeping on the floor in the lounge. The tiredness that lead to tears as I realized he got to "check out" from parenthood, he could sleep whilst my baby frantically gnawed at my breast. Of course, these are the normal hurdles of new parenthood but the pressure of never having any time off built, the days became about surviving, we didn't talk about anything other than chores or practicalities, fun only revolved around our baby and sex sucked. I tried, I really did but I was so angry at his touch - I was touched out. I felt violated, fierce - god help anyone who wanted anything more from my body than it was already giving. This body was MINE.
Of course, we were still overjoyed in parenthood but our relationship had shifted so far from what it was - did we even recognize each other anymore? After the initial rose tinted glow of parenthood vanished we needed to find new tools to sustain our relationship and new ways of communicating. Grumpy tired jabs at each other weren't cutting it, so how could we communicate in a state of empathy?
Firstly we had to focus on our shared goals, raising our daughter was an obvious but what shared goals could we carry over from our life before? What shared visions were we not prepared to let go of? How could we make it work? We are both creative people who love adventure so we made a pact to weld creativity and exploration into our life as caregivers. Parenthood is an ebbing, flowing changing state - we had to find our cadence. Secondly we had to accept reality and find ways to make it work. I went through a phase of wanting to do more than is possible as a mother, I didn't want to slow down, instead I wanted to speed up. When my goals weren't met because I was looking after my baby I felt resentment towards my partner who was working and "achieving" all day. The days that I tried and failed to do too much were the worst so instead I decided to mindfully focus on the now. When I take pleasure in my role as a mother, in every little smile and giggle, when I enjoy watching my husband smile and giggle - the resentment fades away. Even so, we still had to find a new way of communicating when things weren't going so well. Honesty is the best policy and when we can be seen and heard the love happens. It is very easy to take our frustrations out on those closest to us but when we soul search to truly understand what needs we have that aren't being met it is much easier to communicate consciously with our loved ones. Taking responsibility for ones own needs is essential in any relationship but practices of self care have shifted for us in parenthood. Instead of reading I listen to podcasts, instead of going on long road trips I walk along the sand. From the outside it looks like compromise but internally it feels like metamorphosis. Our new identity isn't really a new identity, it's self growth and the people we look like now, may seem different but we are also the same just at different stages of our journey. Getting chores done is important and it isn't always fun but raising a child together is more rewarding than any before. When we step back and realize how far we have come and how much further we can go - that is beautiful.