Having a baby can be one of the most exciting and challenging times of your life. I find though, so much of the literature and resources for pregnancy are around what to eat/not eat, what to do/ not do and the new relationship you will form with the baby. But very little of it is on the relationship you already share with your partner. This is the unit that existed before bub was in the picture and the one that will be there long after he/she has left home. Your relationship is one of the most impactful thing on your mental health and overall wellbeing over your lifetime yet it can be left in the peripheral during and post pregnancy. The idea that your kids come first and relationship second is a perspective that is not evidence-based and one that therapists everywhere are trying to change. So as I start my own journey into motherhood I wanted to share with you some of the things my partner and I have been doing to nurture our relationship now and plan on doing once the little bean arrives.
Create a bucket list for each of you individually and as a couple. I don’t believe that when your baby comes along you need to give up everything that makes you happy, individually or as a couple. But having a baby will definitely make it more challenging to achieve them. So when you have the time now whilst it is just the two of you, I suggest you think of things you want to do, places you want to eat and ways in which you want to enjoy your time that might not be as accessible soon. Make sure you do this not just for the relationship but I suggest you each write your own personal one too. Being alone without your partner is always important but but being kid and partner free might not be too common soon so make the most of that as well.
Prioritse intimacy. By intimacy I don’t mean just sex. When you’re pregnant your sex drive can be very different to what it was, both over and under active. But if you don’t feel comfortable having intercourse or sexual intimacy then ramp up the couch cuddles, kissing, hand holding, and massage giving.
Write down what makes you strong as a couple. What are the qualities you share as a couple and the ones you bring individually to the relationship. Having this conversation can be very connecting but it will also serve as a nice anchor to return back to during tougher times. There will be phases during the journey that take a toll on your relationship but the more you can come back to what is at the core of what the two of you share the easier it will be to manage those times.
And then finally, bub has arrived!
Once you get through the haze of the newborn stage I suggest couples bring back a regular date night. If you are going out for the date night, you can take the baby in the pram or have someone you feel comfortable with to babysit. But remember date night can be anything out of your ordinary routine, where you both give each other undivided attention. So ideas such as board games, ordering a new takeaway, cooking a new meal together, having an intimacy date etc.
Create space for your partner to have time to themselves. This is important for mum and dad. Having solo time to recharge should be prioritised just as much as couple and family time.
It can help to have a self care routine that can be accessible even if they other parent isn’t able to help give you the space. This is important for mental health and regulating your nervous system and means it should be achievable most days. For me this includes 5 minutes of deep belly breathing, meditation, cold showers, journaling, drinking a coffee or cup of tea with your phone in the other room, or having a stretch. This can be 5 minutes or 45 minutes (if you’re lucky!) But carving out that space for yourself to be just you, not partner or parent, is very important.
It wouldn’t be a blog about relationships unless I quoted my idol, Esther Perell.
“I have been in three different relationships, all with my one husband.”
We aren’t the same relationship we were before we had kids, or the same as when we have young kids at home, or when you have adult kids who move out of home. Our selves and our relationship will shift and change throughout each of those stages. I find working together to grow in those times and exploring what your relationship can look like now rather than getting it to be what it used to be, is a healthier approach.
Having a baby is a crazy rollercoaster of a journey. If managing this journey on your own gets too tough, reaching out to a couples therapist can be incredibly beneficial. So often when something goes wrong with our baby we will reach out quickly to the right help to make it better but if we are struggling in our relationship we don’t priorities it. Reach out to the team at Better Together if you want help with strengthening your relationship, whatever stage it might be at.
Sending anyone at any part of this journey lots of love and strength!