Updated: May 5, 2020
Episode 3 is all about how that new bundle of joy changes your relationship with your partner!
Having a baby is bat shit crazy....yup, I said it & it is absolutely true! There are so many unknowns and SO many things no one tells you about. In this episode, I dive into
1. How having a baby changes your relationship with your partner.
2. How the birth of Esmé impacted Emmanuel and my relationship.
3. How we got through it.
4. Two things I've learned since having Esmé.
5. Real strategies to get through this stressful time!
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The reason I really wanted to dive deeper into this topic is because to be quite honest, I was unpleasantly surprised at how rough Emmanuel and my relationship became when Esmé came along...and I know I am not alone.
I've heard people say it was the roughest time in their relationship, they don’t know if they could do it again, the arguments lasted upwards of a year and marriages ended because they couldn’t get through this time.
And yet this was a total surprise to me prior to Esmé being born!
I had it in my head that when Esmé arrived, Emmanuel and I were going to band together like a mini army and it would show us just how strong we were as a couple. I knew there would be an adjustment period but I really thought we would lean on each other. But that’s not what happened at all...we were shown just how strong we were as a couple but in a very different way.
Our Relationship Before Esmé
So, pre-Esmé, Emmanuel and I had a very great relationship. We communicated very well. We were the type of couple if something was bothering us, we talked about it immediately. There were no harbouring feelings and bringing them up at a later date. There were no explosions. There were no trying to throw past circumstances back at each other.
We also made a point of laying everything out on the table, discussing, fighting, arguing, yelling, whatever, right then and there. Get it all out and then talk about how we were going to move forward.
We never once went to bed mad at each other.
I actually remember this one time when we first started dating and we weren’t living together yet. We had come back to my place from a night out and got into an argument and Emmanuel left my place to walk back to his. I ran after him and told him he wasn’t leaving, not like this. He wasn’t leaving until we at least talked about what was going on. I made him come back inside and we discussed everything and he told me he loved me for the first time...and yes, he said it first.
So obviously I was doing something right!
And that’s what worked for us. But things changed a lot when Esmé came along.
I was so tired all the time. Tired from sleep deprivation, tired of not knowing if what we were doing was right, tired of doing the same things day in and day out.
I was annoyed and jealous that Emmanuel got to continue living his old life while I felt stuck at home all day. I was annoyed that he got to go to work, talk to people, got to workout when he wanted, go for haircuts. I was jealous of him. I was seriously jealous of him.
And I started to push the boundaries of our relationship, demanding more and more from him. I wanted to make things 50/50 equal when it came to Esmé, despite the fact that he was still working 2 jobs at the time. I would pick fights with him over anything and everything. If I thought he was gone too long at the gym or wherever he was, I would sit at home just waiting for him to coming home...You know what I mean...Sitting there thinking of 1,000 different scenarios in my head.
Playing out a bunch of conversations.
Prepping what I was going to say when he got home.
We were arguing almost daily.
And for the first time in over 4 years, we left an argument unresolved and went to bed mad at each other. In fact, I think I actually slept on the couch that night but of course I didn’t sleep at all though.
But for many weeks I felt justified in my feelings. I felt like Esmé was equally as much his baby as she is mine. Doesn’t that mean things should be equal?
I was so annoyed and mad that Emmanuel couldn’t see what I needed from him. How did he not know that when we were leaving the house, I wanted him to help get Esmé ready? Or how did he not know that it may be helpful for him to feed her in the middle of the night so I could pump at the same time...instead of me being awake for an hour, it could be half that time.
How could he not see what I needed.
It seemed SO obvious to me and that drove me nuts.
I would sit there and just be soooo angry, waiting for him to come out of the room so he could take one look at my face and know I was pissed. We would argue while I was holding Esmé in my arms, which I absolutely hated but I couldn’t control myself. I would cry so much with her right there.
As the weeks went on and we continued fighting, Emmanuel told me very openly that I needed to check myself. He told me that he was trying his best but he wasn’t a mind reader and if I needed something, I had to voice that...not assume.
He also told me that he felt like I wasn’t appreciating what he was doing and all I could point out was what he wasn’t doing.
And he was right. I was being a shithead.
And yah I can sit here and blame it on the lack of sleep and hormones...because that no doubt does play a part, but that isn’t the only thing to blame...
I'm to blame.
I was literally picking fights with him for no reason. I just wanted to be mad. I wanted to feel like I was right and I wanted him to know it.
And I'm not saying Emmanuel is blameless in this situation either because he had his times where he was the reason we were fighting but it became very obvious that I was the driving force in a large part of our fights.
And the ironic part of it all is...Emmanuel is incredible. He is like the dad of dads. He changes diapers, does feedings, gets up at night, straps Esmé to him when we go on walks, proudly pushes the stroller, plays with her, gives her endless kisses, gives her baths, has been with her alone for several weekends while I've been gone. He's amazing. He's literally everything I would ever want as the father of my child.
And I lost sight of that.
And if I had continued down the road I was going, theres no telling where our relationship would have went but it wouldn’t have been good.
So I had to check myself. I had to reevaluate what I thought our family dynamic should look like. I had to really understand that being a team doesn’t mean splitting everything 50/50, it means working together to live the best life possible.
I apologized to Emmanuel for the way I was acting. I knew I was wrong and I had to fix it.
It was such a relief too because being wrong actually meant that our relationship was great and it meant that he really was the partner I always wanted and the incredible dad I always wished for my baby. A weight was lifted off my shoulder and off our relationship.
And don’t get wrong, I still have moments where those old feelings creep back up. Where I get annoyed or angry. And I ask myself if I am justified in my feelings. The majority of the time I'm not, so I chose to let my feelings go and move on.
Sometimes I am justified in how I am feeling but instead of bringing back old Jessica who would sit on the couch preparing my monologue of why I'm right and he's wrong, I keep an open mind and have a conversation about how I'm feeling, what I need, and also try to understand his side.
Now Emmanuel and I are back to our old selves and thank goodness! I am much happier, he is much happier, and Esmé is her usual bubbly self.
I want to share 2 very important lessons I have learned since having Esmé:
1. Do not have a baby unless you're 100% sure. Like honestly. Being a parent is so incredibly hard and it’s a forever job. There is no checking out when you realize you don’t like this anymore. And if you do check out, then that child suffers greatly and it's not fair to them. I don’t think a lot of people really take having a baby seriously and just do it willy nilly (no pun intended on the willy part haha).
And I do want to say that if you’ve been following my social media for a while, then you probably already know that It's no secret that Emmanuel and I didn’t fully plan to have Esmé when I got pregnant but we were already certain we wanted at least one child and I had gone off birth control, so we were well aware of how that may play out. But if you're not 100% on having kids, or having kids with the person you are sexually active with, be very careful. Having a baby changes your life and unfortunately, for a lot of people, those changes aren't positive, and as I said before, the kid is the one who suffers and it's not fair to them.
2. The other thing I learned is a baby tests your relationship majorly. It shows you where your cracks are, what things you need to work on, and where you need to improve. This is where a lot of people struggle because it's not easy and it requires work. Hard work.
And I've heard people say things like “maybe having a baby will fix my relationship” or “if I get pregnant then he’ll have to stay with me”
Both of these statements suck majorly. A baby does not fix a relationship at all. Not in the slightest. And secondly, trapping someone in a relationship by having a baby is horrible for both the person trapped and the child. And at the end of the day, we all deserve to be with someone who wants to be with us...not feels like they have to be.
But if you have a baby and your relationship is being tested, as it most likely will, over and over again, there are ways to get through it and come out in a positive manner.
The first and main thing and this suggestion wont come as a surprise
Communication is obviously key in every single relationship in your life and its even more important when you're in a situation that in itself causes stress.
How can you work on your communication?
So firstly, understand that communicating and talking are two different things. Communicating is about connecting with your partner, understanding where they are coming from and their point of view and offering support.
So how do we communicate instead of just talk?
Listen. This is such an important part and one we really suck at. How many times do you catch yourself in a conversation thinking in your head how you’re going to respond to the other person before they have even finished talking? Probably a lot. We’re often more concerned with getting our response out than actually listening to the other person. So take the time to listen, make eye contact, don’t be distracted on your phone or tv or whatever, and pause for a few seconds before you respond so you can digest what your partner says and decide how you're going to respond.
When you are the one talking, be honest and open. Say exactly what you mean and how it makes you feel. Bring up concrete examples.
Be prepared with solutions to remedy the situation. An argument doesn’t get resolved by just talking about the situation, something needs to be done to avoid the situation in the future. Have a few things in your mind about how you want to move forward and be open to what your partner may suggest as well.
Try to respond to your partner in love. This is hard in an argument but we all know that being defensive, rude and saying hurtful things does not make any progress. If you can’t respond in love, consider taking a time out for a little bit and coming back later when the big emotions have cooled off.
Hear them out & try to put yourself in their shoes. Don't interrupt them. Let them speak and really try to understand where they are coming from.
Apologize when necessary. This is hard for people because it means accepting that we were wrong. But if you were wrong, you owe it to your partner and to yourself to apologize.
Try to talk about things before they become huge problems. If something is bothering you, bring it up as soon as you can. It's much easier to talk about something when it’s small and put systems in place to get past it then rather then waiting for it to become a huge problem where everyone feels hurt.
Don’t bring up past issues that have been resolved. It never does any good to throw something from the past in your partners face if it’s been resolved.
Other things to consider are:
Before baby even arrives, sit down and talk about expectations. What do you expect your partner will do? What do they expect of you? What will day to day life look like? Things will most likely change as you find your rhythm with baby but its much better to have a plan of action ahead of time then doing it the way Emmanuel and I did.
Men – understand that your partner just went to hell and back. Pregnancy is bat shit crazy. Labour and delivery is bat shit crazy. Recovering from all of that is bat shit crazy. Your lady needs you to be present. She needs you to pick up on chores she normally did before because she needs to rest and recover. She needs you to understand that her hormones are all out of whack and this may make her more emotional than normal. She needs you to step up at this point.
Women – understand that this is also an adjustment for men. Men tend to get left behind in a lot of these areas because so much focus is on the woman. Give your man the space and grace to figure things out too. Don’t expect him to know shit. Like honestly. Obviously every man is different but generally men aren't mind readers. And what we may think is obvious, they may not even see. If you need a break, tell him. If you need him to help change diapers, tell him. If you need him to pack the diaper bag, tell him. Just tell him what you need. Men generally appreciate being told exactly what to do rather than it be a guessing game.
Understand that being a partner does not mean splitting everything equally. It just won’t work that way. Someone is most likely going to do more with the baby. And women, it's probably you. Especially if you breast feed. But that doesn’t mean your partner isn't helping in other ways. If he's working, that’s helping you and the baby. If he picks up more household chores, that’s helping you and the baby. If he does more errands, that’s helping you and the baby.
Say thank you and show your appreciation. Even for things that your partner is supposed to be doing. I see this soooooo much on my mommy facebook groups where a mom says “i don’t get why I should say thank you to my husband for doing the dishes.” you're right, you don’t have to BUT don’t we all love being appreciated? Even if it's for doing the shit we always do or doing the shit we're supposed to do. UMMM yes! It makes us feel seen. Heard. That our hard work isn't going unnoticed. Who cares if your partners task is to take the garbage out and he did it. Say thanks! I betcha hell be more inclined to do it without you asking when you say thanks.
The reality is, having a baby puts stress on your relationship. And that’s ok! It's just a part of having a baby. But being aware of that and even having the strategies I mentioned above in your back pocket, you can work through the stress and come out on top.
Just remember that you're both in a whole new world with this tiny bundle of crying, shitting, sleeping human. And its turned your world upside down.
But you and your partner need to try to really come together and work as a team to make things as good as possible.
And my best piece of advice is to just hang on. It really does get easier. Or we just get better. Or both.
But you get into the groove. You find your zone. And things fall into place