Bringing your baby home can be such an exciting and wonderful time in life! Life is fresh. Everything is brand new. It all seems so wonderful and bliss! Yet as fears and unrealistic expectations creep in the new sense of responsibility can be a little overwhelming. How do you fit the role of a parent? The titles, “Mom and Dad” are fitting for your parents, but what happens when those titles are meant for you and your spouse? As new parents, Chad and I astatically shopped and prepared to bring home each of our little men. We did have fun, but bringing a baby home does not mean that parents’ marriage is prepared for all the changes one wee little baby can make.
What can be done now to protect your marriage and make smooth sailing for this giant transition? Being parents does mean you will have new shoes to fill — new roles. Take time now to plan how you and your spouse will adjust to the new roles of parenthood. How will a child affect your marriage? There are lots of answers to this question, but let’s look at five:
Focus Change You will no longer be able to give your spouse all your personal attention. Both you and your spouse must commit to not take this reality personally. You are not neglecting your partner, just taking some time that you would have spent with each other to devote to your new baby. However, it’s important to continue to make time together a top priority. Infants take around-the-clock care, so what happens to your marriage relationship during this time? Ask God to give you a realistic glimpse of what your current priority list looks like and if any adjustments should be made before the baby arrives.
Less Time Together Making time for just the two of you (without your baby) may become your new creative project. It was so easy before to be together. There were no distractions, but soon things will be different. It will take more effort from you and your spouse to make sure that you are continuing to nurture your relationship. Consider regular date nights or spending time together when your child is asleep. Remember, you can’t have a growing relationship with someone if you neglect to spend time nurturing that relationship.
Oneness How in tune you feel with your spouse has the potential to decrease after having a child. But this doesn’t need to be the case! Remember that technically you are one. Genesis 2:24 says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Both you and your spouse MUST make the effort to continue nurturing your marriage relationship. Your oneness will affect the life of your child. It really will. Think about your own parents. Did they enjoy one another? What did that look like to you? What does enjoying each other look like in your own relationship? How do you know when your spouse is enjoying you?
Hobbies Now that you have a child, you may not find time to train for a mini-marathon, or your husband may not find time to rebuild the engine on his ’66 Mustang convertible. Both of you may discover that your hobbies and interests change to include your child. Consider using free time as family time or take small family outings, such as trips to the zoo, picnics in the park, or shopping trips to the store. Yes, even your shopping trips will change. Although you may increase in shared interests, continue to hold on to some essential individual interests too. Try to create a healthy balance between both.
Freedoms Both you and your spouse will have less time to do your own thing. You may even reminisce about the days before you had kids, days when you could visit your friends without packing up a minivan. Freedom changes do not have to mean life sentences for either of you. New beginnings will fall in place. This can be a difficult transition for some men (and some women too). Pray that you and your spouse will be able to release individual freedoms in order to gain new family devotion together. Your spouse plays an important role in how you will parent. We know that within marriage we “become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NIV) with our spouses, and we also know that “a house divided against itself will fall” (Luke 11:17, NIV). So if we are one we must act as one and parent as one. The only other option is to fail based on division. Without God, it isn’t possible to create the oneness He intends. But with Him and with pursuit, we “can do all things” (Philippians 4:13).
Parenthood hopefully brings along the gift of joy, but when it does not many are left feeling unprepared. Countless hours are spent during pregnancy examining every how-to book from childbirth to child rearing. Little to no time remains to reflect upon the emotional changes life brings with having a child and the impact one child can have upon your marriage. In most cases, the child is not the problem. Rather, the problem is often embedded in life with a child and the sudden changes that a child brings. Life is no longer left to us as individuals.
So what is Postpartum Depression (PPD), and how can it impact me or my spouse? Postpartum Depression is a mood disorder largely due to the hormonal changes occurring within the body. This disorder has three varying degrees: baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis (major depression). Persistent low mood for two weeks or more, inadequacy, feelings of failure, hopelessness or helplessness, exhaustion, emptiness, sadness or tearfulness, guilt, shame, anxiety or panic, withdraw for normal activities, lack of interest in pleasurable things, fear of harming baby or being alone or going out, etc.
Postpartum baby blues can affect as many as 50-80% of all women. 1 in 5 of those women go on to experience Postpartum depression, while leading research currently suggests that 10% of all dads experience some form of depression during the postpartum period . With both parents having potential to acquire Postpartum depression, what can be done to protect your new family and marriage?
Are there ways to prevent and ward off postpartum depression? Start with these preventive methods:
Talk about your fears and expectations with your spouse.
Discuss the framework of your childhoods together. Take turns answering questions like: How were you raised? What was common at home? How were you disciplined? Did you feel a sense of love and acceptance? What did you like? What didn’t you like? Together compose a plan that you both agree on and that works for you.
Let your weaknesses make you strong. Be aware and identify your weaknesses early on. We all have them. Admitting we are unable is often the starting block towards real emotional healing.
Create a support network now. Identify all the individuals in your life that are able to help you once the baby arrives. Talking to them may not be necessary at this point, but knowing you have support before it is needed can be vital.
Acquire mentor support — Ask an older, wiser person to take you under their wing. This person will hopefully feed into your life possibly being a lifeline in your time of need. Every one of us can learn more from those who have journeyed before us.
Do it your way — Parent your way. Do what works for you as a couple! Take suggestions and ask for advice, but ultimately you are the parents. You know what you need. Do what’s best for you and your family.
Remember your freedom. We are free in Christ (Gal. 5:1). It truly helps when we know who we really are in Christ, but even if you don’t know yet, remind yourself daily that you are called to His freedom! What happens if you or your spouse find you struggle with postpartum depression? Exhaust every preparation tool available, but remember in some cases depression may not be avoided. If one of you finds yourself within these shoes, keep in mind changing hormones and chemicals within the postpartum body are the focus of most leading theories for women. For men, leading theories suggest sleep deprivations, stress in the parents’ relationship and isolation from friends as possible causes. Notify your doctor immediately. Make decisions based on medical recommendations and also:
Know you are not alone. Many women and men have felt a similar way.
Ask for help. Get a support network around both of you and your child. Fear and pride can be used to keep you from a lot, but now is not the time to entertain either. If you find you need help, ask family, friends, church groups, doctors, nurses, postpartum support groups, counsellors, and even the neighbour kid next door. Get help, and get as much as you can!
Pray. Prayer is one of the most powerful tools available to us. Pray and ask others to pray for you and with you. If you find yourself unsure how to help another suffering from PPD (especially if it’s your spouse), try starting with:
Encouragement — Ask what are the best ways you can help?
Encourage them to seek a medical evaluation.
Pray and remind them there is hope for each new day. All new families have to start somewhere. Start with what you know, and continue to grow together in your marriage and in your lives! Remember God will never leave alone on your parenthood journey. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11, ESV).
Excerpts used with permission from Rebecca Dawson’s new book titled, Help! I’m a Mom To Be!, Blue Room Publications and Production, LLC.
Rebecca Dawson is a Master Level therapist, former adjunct Graduate Professor for the Grace College Counseling Department, and the mother of three wonderful little boys. Her heart’s desire is to make the Christian message understandable and accessible to all, especially her young boys.
Help! I’m a Mom To Be! is designed to pick up where childbirth classes left off; to thoroughly prepare moms (and dads) for the changes that will be occurring in their family, their marriage, their friendships, their careers, and most importantly within themselves. Help! I’m a Mom To Be! is a one-of-a-kind manuscript created to identify, tackle, and address present day pregnancy issues within the Christian world. Broken down into nine chapters to travel alongside the expecting parents, it offers each parent the opportunity for their own personal-reflection, scriptures to study, prayers to ponder, and true stories to read that will guide their nine months of preparation for parenthood. A tenth chapter was created after Rebecca and her husband experienced a miscarriage and felt that God would also use those broken pieces.This book also exposes taboos associated with Postpartum Depression in the Christian realm, and the appearance that Christian women have it all together. Get your copy from Blue Room Publications at www.blueroompublications.com