My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is eight, our second son is four, and our baby is ten months old. Our marriage has hit a minor rough patch soon after the birth of each one of them. Heck, we are in the midst of the post-third-baby rough patch right now. We aren’t having serious arguments, sleeping in separate rooms out of anger, or wondering what the hell we were thinking marrying each other. But we are arguing about dumb shit like toothpaste brands and how to load the dishwasher. Our patience for one another is not at an all-time high. We are on each other’s last nerve.
This time, I’m not freaking out. We both knew we should anticipate feeling out-of-sorts for a while this time. It’s still annoying, but it’s less stressful to both of us because we know it will pass.
The first time, it totally threw me for a loop. When our oldest baby was born, we started out on a cloud. My loving, devoted husband was, unsurprisingly, the partner of my dreams. Those first two months were marital bliss.
But right around week eight, my delightful partner started getting on my damn nerves.
I started getting on his, too. For the next few months, we just couldn’t seem to get it together. We both adored our new baby, and we loved each other, too. But things didn’t feel normal. We had the stupidest arguments, annoyed each other, and just generally didn’t feel like ourselves. It was frustrating and confusing. Somehow, by our baby’s first birthday, things were back to normal. We hit our stride without really noticing. Turns out, our marriage was fine. Babies are just stressful AF.
Three years later, after our second baby, the same thing happened. When he was little, we made a pact to get through it. We still argued a little more than usual and annoyed each other, but it was a tiny bit easier than the first time because we knew what was coming.
We are on our third (last!) kid now. She’s ten months old, but she is way more intense than either of the first two. She requires constant attention, she sleeps like crap, and she nurses like a newborn, every 7 minutes around the clock. But this tough season has taken less of a toll on our marriage than I expected because we are champs now. We can see these rough patches coming a mile away, and we hunker down and make it through together.
This is normal. Lots of marriages feel the strain when a baby comes in and shakes up everything. I mean, there are bunch of totally understandable reasons that a new baby might make your marriage a little extra challenging for a while. Think about it.
You’re both exhausted.
In addition to the fact that you still have to work, cook, maintain relationships, keep your house in some semblance of order and parent your other children, you’ll be getting a lot less sleep. Most babies wake up to eat overnight for at least the first six months. That means you never get to sleep the entire night. Ever. Adjusting to that is a bitch.
My husband would happily wake to change a diaper or keep me company in the early weeks when I was trying to get the hang of breastfeeding. Once the whole thing was established, there wasn’t really much he could do to help, but he was still tired. The baby woke up every two hours, and I had to get up to feed him, which woke my husband, too.
(Sure, he went right back to sleep, and I had to sit there awake for a half hour, just watching him on his back, snoring—while his useless nipples taunted me in the moonlight. Then again, he had to get up early for work and I could nap with the baby, so I guess it evened out.)
You have, like, zero alone time.
When your baby is tiny, there’s not as much time to just sit together and chat, catch up on each other’s day, pay bills, and do your usual activities. At least one of you is working to fund this tiny human’s life, and you’re both keeping your life running. You’re still as busy as ever with non-baby stuff, and now your baby is just kind of always there needing something, too. I don’t know about you, but I totally took for granted how easy it was to feel close and connected to my partner before we had kids. We were alone together a lot, and that one-on-one time allowed us to stay on the same page. When a new baby is around, time is a precious commodity.
Frequent sex isn’t always on the agenda.
I don’t know about you, but knowing my tiny, helpless baby is nearby and might need something at any minute makes it really hard for me to feel remotely sexy. Some couples are able to jump right back into a robust sex life, but that hasn’t been my experience. Needy babies mean less time for nookie. It takes me a few months to get my babies on a schedule that allows our sex life to ramp back up.
Older kids still need you, even when there’s a new baby.
Every time you add another kid, the whole dynamic of the house changes, and of course the other relationships are going to feel it. That includes your marriage, but it also includes the older children. Their needs don’t change when a little one enters the picture, so if your baby isn’t your first baby, you’re stretched really thin. Helping the sibling transition run smoothly and meeting your kids’ usual needs while also tending to the million demands of a brand-new baby consumes time and energy that you would usually be able to dedicate to your spouse. It will even out eventually, but there’s just less of each of you to go around for a while.
Your partner’s quirks seem way more annoying when you’re stressed and tired.
Maybe on a normal day, your spouse’s little idiosyncrasies don’t bother you. You might even find them endearing. But when there’s a tiny infant screaming in your ear and pooping 70 times a day, suddenly it’s not so cute that your spouse can sleep through a brass band, or is incapable of putting their dirty socks in the hamper. Babies are loud, clingy, and needy, and it just depletes you. You fuse is shorter, and that makes the normal annoyances of everyday life feel like a rough patch.
It’s just totally normal and really common for marriages to hit a few bumps in the road when there’s a baby in the house. If things feel a little rocky after baby, don’t panic. If your marriage was solid before the baby, it’s not likely that it’s in peril. You’re just feeling that post-baby stress, and a little rough patch is to be expected.
I wish someone had told me about the post-baby rough patch. It’s kind of a mini-rough patch. I like to call it a “scratchy patch.” For a few months, you’re just annoyed, tired, stressed out and out-of-sync. You’ve added an entire new human into your routine, and that changes the dynamic of the whole house. If your otherwise healthy, happy, solid marriage gets a little topsy-turvy after you have a baby, don’t panic. Babies grow up. You’ll totally figure it out.