When a couple plans and achieves a pregnancy, they usually feel a mixture of shock and excitement during their first few weeks. Then they begin visiting doctors, getting ultrasounds and sharing their good news with others. Their 40 week journey is filled with full-on preparation for the baby. But who prepares them for the strain that parenting can put on a relationship?
Soon-to-be parents cannot know the experience of pregnancy, birth and parenthood until they are in it. However, during the prenatal period, it can benefit them to express their anticipatory concerns, wishes and desires for their couplehood post birth. Usually, couples only focus on the baby and they overlook their own, very important relationship.
We work with many seasoned parents on their couplehood. Often, these committed parents (an admirable quality) place their mate low on the priority list. At least one of the partners feels some sense of neglect, anger, rejection, loneliness and sadness. They often come to us years after the birth of their child(ren). However, this is not when their problems started. Couples usually plant the seeds for disconnection during the first 3 years of parenthood. They come in years later after they’ve lost their ability to connect at all.
Prenatal Relationship Prep can help lay the groundwork for a healthy couple reunion after baby. No, couples are not technically separated during the postpartum phase. Often, caring for their little one brings them together as parents but not necessarily as lovers, as romantics, as two whole adults with identities beyond parenting.
What does Prenatal Relationship Prep look like? Take a moment to think about what a baby needs to grow healthy. What comes to mind? You may have come up with feedings, love, closeness, warmth, clothing, connection, diaper changes, touch, eye gazing, kisses, affection, attention. Guess what? Your relationship is your other baby! It needs many of these acts to flourish.
To prep, sit down with your partner and talk about how you can bring these qualities to your relationship after the baby is born. Ask each other:
- What do you fear about our relationship after the baby?
- What can we do to feel close as a couple after the baby is born?
- What can we do if one of us feels unattended to?
- How can we make time for us?
- How can we feed our relationship when we are tired?
- What do we value about how we spend our time together now?
- How can we make sure we honor what we value after the birth?
- List our top 5 concerns and solutions
- When can we schedule regular couple check-ins post birth?
Write down your responses. Once you’ve laid this groundwork, let it rest and focus on your baby. During your first postpartum year, you will experience a host of emotions related to your baby, yourself and each other. Ride out the waves of emotions as they come. There will be many. Give yourselves time to adjust.
The key is to come back to this work that you started. If you find yourselves lost in the world of parenting, pull out your notes and remind yourselves of your plan. Implement it.
For seasoned parents: if you know your relationship took a back seat to parenting, simply answer these questions now. It’s never too late to create joy and deep connection with your partner.