When life isn’t as romantic as the fantasy in our heads, we can still choose to be happy – even if that happiness comes with asking for help and a some hard work.
NOTE: This post is about postpartum effects on couples. Why? Because it is important to talk about these things. This will be Part 1 in a short series about how life is not as romantic as we perceive or how we have been led to believe it constantly should be.
I was recently talking with a dear friend and her realizations that have come after having her first baby. We were discussing the ups and downs of having that major change in our lives and how our society focuses so much on giving birth and so much less on the after effects.
Both of us now have experience with postpartum anxiety and one of the major “A-Ha!” moments we both got kicked in the head with was the fact that having a baby is not nearly as romantic as it may seem.
I know what you are thinking, “What!? No one said having a baby was romantic!” and I am going to stop you right there and tell you that YES, YES THEY DID.
Having a baby is not always a happy ending. Having a baby can be the beginning of learning how to live all over again.
We are constantly told about the rigors of giving birth and how traumatizing pushing out an object the size of a watermelon through a straw is, but no one tells us how afterward it isn’t like the movies. Pure bliss happens in tiny little snippets, not all day every day and not every moment is picture perfect or anywhere near it. Having a baby is so often perceived as being a romantic leap for a family. You have made this bundle of joy with pure love, but you had no idea what kind of anxiety came with it or how disconnected from your partner this can make you feel.
Having a baby is not always a happy ending. Having a baby can be the beginning of learning how to live all over again. After years of living for yourself, the time has come to exist for someone else.
Gone is the idea that having a baby will automatically bring you and your partner closer together – yes, you are forever linked by blood, but in order to thrive – but, you need to work on that relationship even more than before that babe was in your lives.
That takes patience, kindness, and learning. When we think of loving someone and being romantic, we never picture the work that goes into the process, we always imagine the end result.
For instance, we imagine cuddling with our partners in a swinging hammock for hours on end on a warm summer day, but what we don’t realize is the work it will take to get there. If you are going to be with someone that you know so deeply, and truly love, you will have to work hard at forgiving them for not being your ideal fantasy during times that you are struggling together. You have to understand that they too are setting aside any residual anger or hurt that may have been caused by a fight or a rough patch in your relationship – and they still continue to hold you.
Having a baby can be rough in a relationship because we aren’t taking the time to listen to our partners (with our ears, eyes, and hearts), we may have little patience during the mutual learning process and SO MANY OTHER FACTORS. We are trying to function on minimal sleep, going without self-care on some days, and dealing with anxiety or postpartum issues that are beyond our control. That doesn’t seem so romantic, does it?
This is the working time for couples. This is when we put the hard work into our relationships because we know the end goal is to be loved by this person for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately, sometimes that love is changed dramatically and sometimes we lose sight of the end goal and the relationship is lost.
The thing is, we can still choose to be happy during this process. No, it isn’t romantic, is it? But, shifting our minds into the zones of mutual respect, unconditional love and learning can change how we face the hurdles this life-changing time brings with it.
When you are at your last straw, feeling unappreciated, misunderstood or feeling like a failure here are some tips for getting out of the funk:
- Breathe. This seems so simple but yet may take some practice. When you feel like your first reaction is going to be to snap – take five, long, deep breaths all the way into the diaphragm. Let that belly rise, make sure those breaths are not just floating in your chest and they are nice and long. This will help calm yourself and give you a chance to think about the words you will choose to say. Your reactions to your partner’s advice, help, or their feelings are crucial in maintaining that mutual respect and adoration that your relationship is built upon.
- Let yourself feel. If we choose to ignore our feelings here and there, eventually we create a stock of feelings that are easily accessible for us to use as ammunition. It is almost like each feeling we choose to ignore or leave uncommunicated turns into a rubber band – each of these feelings get balled into each other and then they eventually snap. We need to let ourselves feel whatever emotions we have in the moment, but we also need to be mindful of the emotions of others. If you are walking around angry or feeling unappreciated, and not letting yourself fully feel that emotion – it is going to lead down a dark hole or resentment. Take a moment to feel through the emotions. Are they valid? Is this feeling going to affect the rest of your day or maybe even your relationship? If you need to talk to someone – refer to the breathing exercise above before lashing out.
- Practice your empathy. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. I know during my time of postpartum anxiety my husband was a mess. He once told me he felt like he had to tiptoe around me so much he didn’t look forward to coming home. He almost experienced anxiety because of my own. What I was failing to do was to picture how he felt. He was working incredibly hard to support us as a family, yet I was charging at him the minute he came in the door. I felt like he should have wanted to spend his extra time with us and yet all he wanted to do was to have a break and get away from the madness. Now that I have calmed down and taken time to reflect, I feel so ashamed. I feel like I failed him as his partner. I was trying to drag him into my darkness because I thought we had to experience everything together and it was only fair. Now I know that I truly would never want him to compromise his happiness. I want him to be happy, regardless of my own state.
- Ask for help. If the weight of any postpartum issues and it is taking a toll on your mental health or the health of your relationships, there’s always help available. We are lucky to live in a place that has so many resources for new parents. Things like: postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, sleep consultants, psychologists, couples therapy sessions are all incredibly valuable assets for so many new parents and couples. There is no shame in wanting to be and do better by your children, your partners, and your families. There is a ridiculous and misguided stigma that getting professional help or taking medication is something to be ashamed of or that it means you have failed. Failing is the result of doing nothing. If we want to talk about being romantic, there is nothing more romantic than trying your absolute best to make your partners life a happy one. But, firstly, you have to take care of yourself.
The romantic idea we have of some sort of idyllic, constant happiness is ridiculous. Romance is not constant. Romance is small moments of appreciation and being thankful.
There will come a time when your life is full of less worry and more romantical thoughts and moments, but it is OK when things don’t always turn out the way we expected them to. Having a baby is a major milestone and life-changing event. It is only to be expected that some of our emotions are going to be completely off track from where we thought they would be.
Also, we need to remember that the transition is quick, then the babies grow and we grow with them. It is an ever changing cycle of learning and trusting in ourselves and our partners to grow together. That’s romance.
What was your experience with your partner after welcoming a new addition to your family? I’d love to read your comments below.
If you like this post, you might want to check out this one: Mindfulness: Creating a New Beginning
If you need to check out some products that can help with your self-care, this post has my current favourites: Real Things Currently Getting Me Through Life
Don’t forget to subscribe so you can get updates from Waking Up Thirty sent right to your email – and remember to share this post!