Bringing a newborn baby home may very well be the most meaningful moment that a husband and wife share. And then, the meaningful moment passes and a flurry of activity and excitement associated with welcoming baby home ensues. Shortly thereafter many husbands and wives are surprised to learn that they are ill prepared for the ways in which becoming parents influences and ultimately changes their marriage.
While over two thirds of couples experience profound marital disillusionment after the arrival of their first baby (Gottman & Gottman, 2007), it seems that marital distress is too taboo to talk about in most social circles. Two thirds of couples struggle in their marriages and next to no one talks about it. How did we get into this mess?
While society is guilty of romanticizing the arrival of a baby, those of us who have recently had newborns in our lives are intimately aware of the not-so-romantic realities of endless laundry; sleepless nights; shower-less days and so on. While many families are blessed with relatively stable mental health during the transition to parenthood, there are many families who have mental illnesses (post partum depression, anxiety, psychosis) to contend with during the postpartum period.
I feel like I hardly know you now! Who are you anyway? What has become of the person I married? Sound familiar? These are just a few examples of the statements that spouses may regrettably exchange during the challenging moments of the transition to parenthood. During the first few years after we grow from couple to family, we grapple with the usual suspects — sleep deprivation, fluctuating hormones, no time to ourselves, and minimal quality time together as husband and wife.
Parenting is fraught with challenging decisions from the moment the telltale line on the stick turns pink! We parents ponder: natural childbirth or medically assisted; bottle-feed or breastfeed; attachment parenting or ‘let cry’ sleep training; time-ins or time outs; private school or public school; to vaccinate or not; and don’t even get me started on childcare. Needless to say, the list of gut-wrenching decisions goes on and on! Coming to terms with any one of these decisions as an individual mom or a dad is difficult enough.