When working with couples who are welcoming a new baby into their home, I am often contracted for full spectrum care. This means support through pregnancy, labor and birth, and the first days, weeks, and months postpartum. During this time, I am honored to witness them grow or expand their parenting skills and new kind of partnership that doesn’t usually happen in relationships until there are children in the home. That’s why I LOVED getting
today’s community question from Noelle Olmstead, who was looking for “tips for transition with partner/spouse. In my personal experience, it’s the first time where my husband and I have gone through something huge together and had completely different roles/processes of it. It’s hard to navigate the transition.” Exactly, Noelle! This transition is HUGE and there are lots of ways to prepare prenatally and continue to develop throughout the rest of our lives.
Most transitions in life require support from people we can turn to for unconditional love and practical help. For many families, a new baby requires more support then they have ever sought out and accepted before. This support usually starts in the home, with a partner, spouse, or significant other, the person whom we often have our most intimate relationship with, and who is also going through this transition in their own way. Because of this, Love and Trust are the number one resources for adjusting to this new life together. Luckily, the hormone of connection, Oxytocin, is present in high quantities during the childbearing year, and allows us to fall more deeply in love with the person who we have chosen to bring this child into the world with.
Riding on the tail of Oxytocin, are the essential tools of communication that allow us to learn and grow together while honoring each other’s individual path: compassion, empathy, transparency, and authenticity allow us to speak to our needs in an honest and open way, and to listen to our partner’s needs with love and support. This is all exponentially harder when we are coping with newborn sleep patterns and the normal stress of adjustment. Tempers may flair and we might snap at each other. Resentment can arise and we don’t think our partner will ever understand what we are experiencing, or truly give us what we need. We may have forgotten about their own challenges and joys from welcoming a new baby into their lives. One of the best practices at this time can be making room to acknowledge the many different ways we as individuals find to care for ourselves and each other, honoring that each of us will have different strengths and triggers. A good practice is to listen more, and ask for the help we need in clear, direct ways. If we need a nap, we can’t skirt around it by saying how tired we are or how we haven’t had any sleep in days, hoping our partner will read between the lines and offer us what we want. We can look right into our their eyes and say “I am going to lay down and take a nap in the bedroom, and I need you to take care of the baby so I can get some uninterrupted sleep for three hours. When I am better rested, I can take back over. Is there anything you need before I lay down?”
All of this takes time to work on and develop. We may have to identify and let go of models of relationships and parenting we witnessed when growing up. We have the opportunity to take the strong, healthy tools we learned from our own parents and communities, and then add our own. Sometimes we need to speak to a professional to work through any unhealthy habits we picked up that might interfere with raising a family the way we want to. We WILL make mistakes, and that’s ok. We can say “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong”. “What can I do to make this better” or “What can I do differently in the future” may help immensely in all the relationships we have, and especially in the ones closet to us; our partners and our children.