New Baby and Relationships

Written by Elena @The Art of Making a Baby on. Posted in BABY, FOR MOMS, New Mom Experience, Parenting

This has been one of the most requested posts and I have been dreading writing it, because I am just not sure what to say.

I mean I WAS NOT sure.

I am writing it now because after a whole year, we are finally starting to find our place together, our new relationship. That’s right – it took us a year to get into an equilibrium!

So I will finally put a complete mess of my thoughts into a post in an attempt to make some semblance of it.

New Baby and Relationships

 {Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography}

NEW BABY AND MARITAL RELATIONSHIP

THE BEGINNING:

It didn’t help things that we gave birth to what arguably could be the least sleeping baby in the world ( except for Luna, Megan’s daughter). A baby that was demanding and determined and set in her ways from 2 days after birth. Those are the qualities that will really help Alexis in adult life that I am extremely happy for and proud of. But for now they only made our life difficult.

Since we were simply struggling to keep afloat with lack of sleep and a baby that wouldn’t be put down, our number one priority was just getting through the day.

It didn’t feel that way at the time…. We had day after day of fun and joy and seeing our daughter grow, but looking back at it, in order to make “the joy” happen, we had to push certain things aside and concentrate all our energy on this chubby new bundle of life.

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One of those “certain”  things was our relationship.

We didn’t concentrate on how we were doing as a couple, we didn’t discuss our feelings ( except for in an argument, of course), we didn’t have any time to ourselves, for ourselves, for the sake of ourselves.

Our main priority was to keep Alexis comfortable and happy and I gotta tell you until she began to walk, I would not say she was happy with the world and not being able to move much.

We’d gotten unsolicited advice that it’s important to do things as a couple (said less nicely and more pushy than the way I phrased it). And I whole heartedly agree. It IS important. But it was more important to survive and be happy, even if it meant putting our relationship on a temporary semi-hold.

And so we did. Until Alexis’ first birthday. We did attempt outings together and trips to Disney and enjoyed them but again everything was focused on Alexis.

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THE PRESENT

What I am leading this up to is that finally, it is looking like we are slowly getting into the swing of things in our marriage and with Alexis being an adorable and comparatively easy (though still  non-sleeping) toddler, we are able to relax, take a deep breath, sit back and ENJOY each other’s company.

Even though we are still insanely busy, Andrew with work and me with the blog, Daily Mom and, of course, my primary job of taking care of Alexis, we’ve been able to take the time to do things we enjoyed doing before. Watch a show once in a while (the only show that has survived the baby is Vampire Diaries). Or sit back with a cup of tea and snuggle while Alexis runs around in the grass. Or talk…

Ahhh the talking. We used to be a couple that never shuts up in each other’s presence. That all changed when Alexis arrived due to lack of time and shift of priorities, but it’s coming back again. It’s finally summertime and I am looking forward to more beach trips, and more Disney trips in the fall, and guests visiting.

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One of the big steps in the change of our relationship dynamic was committing to be nicer to each other. It seems like a no-brainer, but with a stressful first year with a high spirited baby being nice  is the last thing on your mind.

We’d snap at each other at a moment’s notice. Snarky remarks, exasperated voices, fatigue – all that didn’t help the love. Committing (truly committing)  to being as nice to each other as possible has turned all of that around, but it could have only been done now, when things got easier.

There is a phenomenon that we discovered in the 10 years of being married  that we called “TONE FIGHTING”. That is where one person didn’t like the tone of another person’s voice and reacted to it with another “tone” that the first person got further pissed of at. We’ve fought many fights over the last 10 years and we have analysed every single one of them, when we were done, in hopes of improving. Time and time again we’ve come to the conclusion that the reason for fighting was the TONE of voice that one of us used. If pressed, we wouldn’t even remember what we were fighting about at the time. And every time after dissecting it from start to finish, we would discover it had been the tone all along. Because…really… what ELSE do we have to fight about?

THE PERSPECTIVE

I think it’s important to remember that things with a baby CAN be damn hard! That two people do not have to see eye to eye just because they were joined in a marriage, but it is the commitment and the desire to make things better that truly makes a couple last. In the past year, there have been fights, big fights (how could there not be?), small arguments  lots of making up, a few nicenesses, mutual joys of growing a human being and finally a resolve to work harder, be better.

It is no wonder that a massive percentage of couples gets a divorce in the first year after having a baby, whether planned or not. This shit is hard!  Harder than anyone could tell you, or more like harder that you could have understood without going through it yourself.

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Even in a seemingly perfect situation like ours (stay/work at home parents, very well planned baby, married for 10 years and still in love, extremely alike, with similar parenting philosophies) there was tension, issues and arguments.  I cannot imagine adding another wrinkle to it, besides a high spirited baby.

So as my closing line (to the rambling thoughts), I’ll say this. I’ve talked to enough first time moms to know that marriage is hard when you have a baby, that what we experienced is very much normal and experienced by many other parents, even those whose babies sleep through the night and nap for three hours a day).

If you feel like your marriage is struggling and your relationship is in the dumps, remember that it is to be expected and you’re not alone. All you have to do is for both of you to continue trying harder, commit to a better attitude and/or wait out till times get better without hopefully ruining your relationship further by building resentment and fights. One can’t do this alone, there’s gotta be commitment and help from both sides, both have to commit, both have to want to get back to love.

THE FUTURE

My hope for the future of our relationship is that we continue being understanding, helpful, nice to each other. We’ll continue meeting each other expectations and demands while together meeting the demands and needs of our beautiful daughter.

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{Photo Credit: Stacey Downey Photography}

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Comments (50)

  • Chrissy

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    Great article! And totally off topic, but you look really good with a little more weight on you :)

    Reply

  • Grace

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    I’m sorry to hear that you all had such a rough first year, and poor Lexi, it sounds like she’s one of those babies that hates being a baby! For what it’s worth (and to reassure other parents-to-be) my husband and I didn’t really fight at all in the first year after our daughter was born. But we’re both laid back people and have a very strong relationship (we’ve been together for 10 years, and we’re both in our mid-30s), and we very rarely fought beforehand. I can count on one hand the number of (minor) arguments we’ve had since our daughter was born 16 months ago, and we’ve never mean or snippy to each other, no matter how sleep deprived we are. And we were also able to make time for ourselves as a couple, even in the early months when our daughter rarely slept and needed to nurse all the time. But we have family in town so there was always a grandma willing to come over and babysit, which is incredibly nice and we’ve very lucky in that regard. So not everyone will have that negative experience in the first year that you did. I hope that things improve for you!

    I’ve only recently discovered your blog, and I’ve been enjoying reading back over your previous entries. Has Lexi been evaluated by a sleep specialist? I’m also a “AP” parent (we co-sleep and nurse on demand, etc.) and in your early posts Lexi sounded like a normal newborn (nursing all night long, would only sleep w/a parent, etc. is what we and most of my parent friends experienced), but at 15 months old waking up every hour doesn’t sound like good quality sleep and sounds outside the range of normal even for a co-sleeping family. We co-sleep, and starting around 8-10 months our daughter’s stretches of sleep greatly increased, and now at 16 months she only wakes up 1-2 times a night. She also started out like Lexi (nursing every 30 minutes to an hour in the first several weeks, etc.) and had a long, rough four month sleep regression, etc. but now she’ll sleep 7-8 hours at a time, at least.

    Reply

    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      Good for you, Grace! lol Everyone has their own experience, I’m pretty sure it’s implied in every blog post ever written that not everyone might have the same experience :)
      I never really said our experience was negative. In fact, quite the opposite, while it was hard it was a positive experience on many levels. We weren’t at odds with each other, we just didn’t have the time to foster our love and spend lots of time together. But we were both ok with that, and did whatever we needed to make things work.

      Re: recently discovering my blog, I am pretty sure you’ve commented for the past year using a different name (same email address and similar IP address)… 😉
      Lexi does not wake up every hour at this point. Only when something really bothers her (teething, developmental) for one night. She tends to sleep in 3 hours stretches now with regressions every now and then. She sleeps similar to what half the other non-sleeping babies I know do at her age. Thanks for the concern, though.

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      • Emily

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        Bravo to this response.

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      • Elise

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        My husband and I had a little bit of a tough first year. I was surprised at how difficult it was for us when our daughter was such a positive change in our lives. She is 21 months now. When we became pregnant with our second I was worried. By then we also got in our grove. Made a point to say I love you. Things like that. With our second we are closer than ever. It is pretty common!

        Also for what it’s worth my daughter started to sleep through the night at 18 months. I never wanted to force her to do anything before she was ready. Today’s society and its obsession to get babies to sleep to suit the parents is mind blowing.

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      • Allison

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        I agree with Emily – Bravo on your response! It shocks me the number of judgmental and condescending comments that people post here! I always feel like that those who try so hard to paint their lives as perfect are those whose lives couldn’t be further from it. Keep up the honestly – we love it!

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        • Paula G

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          See, I don’t see this comment as condescending and judgmental at all. Much like Elena, Grace was just giving her story about how it went for her and her family. Two differing situations by two differing families – it does happen! It helps give a broad view and understanding to many situations, which is okay in my books!

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        • Renee

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          I agree that Grace’s comment was quite smug – that’s the word someone used below, and it fits perfectly. Oh gee, how nice that you and your husband are so laid back, have never ever been snippy with one another, and are ever so much more mature, in your mid-30s. You know what that means, though? That your good fortune means you don’t really have any helpful advice to offer. It’s exactly like if someone wrote a post on how they lost their baby weight, and someone came along and commented with something like, “Oh, just so everyone knows it’s not the same for everyone, I lost all my baby weight naturally within 2 weeks after giving birth because I just have good genetics like that.” Sounds smarmy, right? Well, so does this.

          Reply

  • Verna

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    I hear ya! It is HARD in the beginning. Garrett barely slept for 3 months (nothing to what you guys went through, but still hard), and we were pretty much in survival mode. The 2nd one gets a little easier. You learn how to juggle better. 😉 In Sept it will be 10 years that we’ve been together. It’s a nice point to be at.

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  • Amanda

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    Thanks for writing such an informative post! My husband and I do not have kids yet but I appreciate reading about how a marriage is with a baby in the picture.

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  • Urban Flowerpot

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    Thank you for such an open and honest entry. It’s comforting to hear from other moms as they adjust. We had a housefire and a preemie on top of being newlyweds (I’ve mentioned that in a comment here before but a while ago) so the amount of stress we felt was crushing. My son just turned two and it was sometime over the last year that things fell into a groove. It’s still hard, and T didn’t STTN until a couple months ago (EEK), but with more sleep and time…we always knew it was “important to have couple time, too.” That reminder from others who had forgotten what the first year is like was tedious.

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  • Elena C.

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    Oh maaaaan :))))
    Now I know whay you said “I’m not sure I want to watch this movie, it’ll just depress the shit out of us” when I asked if you watched the “Friends with kids” :)))))
    But you guys are seriously amazing and mature! and handled all the shit and difficulties in such an adult way! Bravi!!!

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  • Kat

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    thanks for this!

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  • Tawny

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    I hear ya! We have twins and my husband was a very good team mate but one colicky baby/one not and lack of sleep had us blindly fighting about absolutely nothing. Those first 6 months are nothing I would ever want to relive again. Rest assure that is DOES get even easier :)

    Reply

  • Jacki

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    What about a night out, just the two of you every once in a while. It is important to be a married couple, not JUST parents. I have two under two and it’s admittedly hard to carve out time to get out of the house with just my husband, but we try to do it every other month or so. Give it a go, you’ll be glad you did!

    Reply

  • Rockie

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    love your honesty. so true that having a baby can bring on stresses on a marriage. On another note, I love those photos!

    Reply

  • Julia

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    Thanks for sharing this post. The whole time I was reading it I felt like I could have written it. It’s an amazing feeling to finally be settling in to this new life but I kept thinking (thanks to outside “helpful” advice) that it was taking too long; glad to know we weren’t the only ones that took a year!

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  • Danielle

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    Thank you so much for posting this. I almost started crying a little bit. Alexis sounds exactly like my son who is now 19 months old. Very spirited, High demanding baby and toddler. He started sleeping in longer stretches around 16 months but still has some rough nights. Last night he was up for 4 hours!! Our marriage the first 15 months was a little rocky but now it’s getting a lot better. None of my friends have or had babies that were so demanding so this helps me feel not so much alone. I love him so much and enjoy watching him grow even though i have a lot of sleepless nights!! She is ADORABLE by the way!!!

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      OMG you too have a baby who has “night parties”? We’ve “assembled” a group of moms who’s babies decide they’ve had enough sleep and wake up in the middle of the night and refuse to go to sleep for 2-4 hours…

      I’ve never met anyone who had that until I’ve talked to some e-friends.
      We should start a FB group lol

      Reply

      • Danielle

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        Ha! A FB group sounds like a great idea! I’m in!

        Reply

  • Kat

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    No high spirited baby and I can still attest to the hard transition period. I think P was probably among the easier babies (with exception of about 2 months of colic) and Jon and I were married for 3 years before trying for a baby and very much in love and in like with one another. We loved doing everything together. Sure we fought but that was part of our passion for one another.

    And I so agree with you – you just have to give it time to adjust. Marriage is hard. Babies and marriage is even harder.

    One of our plans for baby 2 is not to judge any fights as anything bigger than JUST A FIGHT for the first 6 months after baby. Because things can blow up and feel like they’re bigger than they really are because you haven’t devoted time to one another and your marriage or simply because it’s a disruption to your lifestyle (not an unwelcomed one, obv, but still a major change).

    Reply

  • Ana O

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    Loved the RAW honesty in this post Elena. Our baby is currently 10wks old today and we’ve already experience the ups and downs of parenting and marriage issues. It all leans on how dedicated you are to each other in the end. We drove home yesterday from visiting family nine hours away and had our first car ride disagreements…ha!
    Our little guy being colicky, a huge eater (already doubled his birth weight) and just very clingy has made things hard. On top of being a military family and constantly traveling to see friends/family. YIKES! We are also co-sleeping.
    I’m so glad to hear of other’s similar experiences! Thanks!

    Reply

  • maria

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    Wonderfully honest post about the 1st year. Thank u! I feel so much more normal now knowing I am not alone!

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  • Corinne

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    One nice thing about fighting is it shows you both care enough and are passionate enough TO fight/argue. So many people think fighting is a bad thing, but I think it can be a good thing sometimes.

    My husband and I are working on the same thing- better communication, teamwork, general trying harder, etc. The first year is tough, and even though we do have family around and we have a generally easy baby (and have from the start), I still felt like we should be staying home with her instead of going on a date. Like it was our duty as parents to sacrifice time for ourselves/each other for time with her. So we’re also working making sure we plan a date night at least once a month, if not twice.

    Like you mentioned, everyone has different experiences and this post was not to make parents-to-be or current parents scared about what’s to come. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with this. It lets others out there who ARE going through similar times know they aren’t alone.

    Reply

  • Yana

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    Wow, as the mom of an 8-month-old I really needed this post! The smug comment by “Grace” undid some of the comforting that I got from your post, but what can you do 😉

    Reply

  • Bailey

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    This post is so helpful! I’m due with mine and my husband’s first baby in less than 4 weeks and I’ve been thinking about this stuff. He is leaving for 5 weeks in the summer and I’m worried what that might bring to our relationship and how I am going to handle it. Having a 2 month old at home while I work full time and my husband is gone is going to be hard but I can tell this advice will help :)

    Reply

    • Corinne

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      I have a 12 month old and my husband was gone for 3 weeks last month. I only work part time, but it was still tough! Biggest advice, don’t be too proud to ask for help! If you’re feeling overwhelmed (bound to happen), before you drive yourself crazy and end up resenting hubby for being gone, ask friends/family for help just so you can catch a break. Good luck!

      Reply

  • Faye

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    Thank you for sharing the not so nice side of marriage with a baby. We are AP and have received lots of unsolicited advice regarding our son and our marriage. We are finally able to carve out some “us” time and its helping. Trying to take the time before caused more issues. Thank you for helping to normalize the not so easy 1st year.

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  • Anna

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    Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am so happy to hear someone else going through the same thing. Not that I am glad it was a hard first year on you, but that someone actually acknowledges it. I had a terrible time with my daughter until she quit nursing and I could feel “human” again. I went back to work full time at 12 weeks and nursed, well more like pumped until she was a year old. I was a slave to the pump.
    My husband had a totally different perspective on the first year than I did. Thank goodness for him. Most people only talk about how great having a baby is, but is was hard on my marriage. My daughter is now 2 and we are both really enjoying her now!

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  • Sarah M

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    We had a very different first year, our daughter was a micro preemie. 28 weeks 1 lb 10 oz. we had to deal with going home w/ou our baby and going back and forth to the hospital for her 80 day NICU stay. Then once she was finally home, lots of follow up visits. Our sleepless nights were not due to a demanding crying baby, it was purely stress, fear and checking on her(multiple times an hr). Our relationship grew so much over the last 17 months, we had no choice but to be united and strong for her as well as each other. This blog helps remind people that every beginning is different and hard but oh so worth it!

    Today she is a very happy, very active toddler with no set backs from her early arrival.

    Reply

  • Stephanie

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    I know exactly what you mean! My son is about to turn a year old at the end of the month and my husband and I are finally really getting back into each other. The past year was the best of our marriage and in some ways was also the hardest. We worked through all those sleepless nights and once my little guy finally weans (he refuses a bottle!), I am looking forward to mommy and daddy going on a date night together!

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  • anna

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    Thanks awesome post. 10 years together! Wow! But your so young!!!:) ive been in my current relationship for over 2 years and we have never fought but started to argue a bit now… tone is one of the things we rarely have though and our arguement only about me being not happy here and there sometimes but hes like a piece if still, nothing bothers lol weird id say!

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  • Kelsey

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    I discovered your blog about a month ago, and I started at the beginning and read through. I love how thoughtful and personal your writing is. My husband and I have only been married a year, and we’re still in our early 20s. We’ve talked about having kids in the next couple of years, and I just wanted to thank you for sharing all the things that you’ve learned about preparing for a baby, being a great mom, and being a loving wife. You’ve inspired me to improve the way we eat, to learn more about how kids develop, and to really think over some of the really important parenting decisions. We’re still a year or two away from TTC, but I’m planning on keeping up with your fantastic posts to learn more. :) Thank you.

    Reply

  • claire

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    This is a tough subject for me! My marriage came pretty close to the edge during my son’s first year. I think having a baby was quite a shock for both of us, and there were many times that I, very unfortunately, decided that this would be easier by myself. But here we are, as my son approaches the half-way-to-three mark, and we are actually happier than we have EVER been. It’s been quite a strange and diffcult journey but my oh my, have we grown! It really does bring a whole new level to a relationship, having a baby. I think taking a step back and really looking HARD at the way we communicate was the first step. And making time for one another was also important. He realizes that after being with our son/tornado all day, most nights I am too tired to do much more than stare at a wall. And I realize that he’s worked hard all day and wants to spend a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying his wife. We don’t have anyone (literally – his family is on the other side of the country and mine is in a completely different country!) that we would leave our son with, so we “date” with the little dude in tow. It’s a change of pace from our pre-baby days, but it’s also How Life Is now, you know? I think that once we both accepted our new way of life, it all fell into place.

    Thank you for writing this post! I honestly wish that someone had told us that it was ok to put the Mr and Mrs aspect of our relationship on hold for a while as we adjusted to mother/fatherhood. I think it might’ve saved us both quite a bit of heartache <3

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  • Lara

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    I really enjoyed this post and especially the photos…such a happy and good looking family :) Having a non-sleeping infant has definitely affected our marriage as well, but we are committed to our family and we know that this time will pass. (It does get better, right? RIGHT?) 😉

    Reply

  • Kelsey

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    My husband and I almost never fight, but when we do, it’s almost always because of the other person’s tone. It’s such a silly thing, but I’ve never really considered it before. I certainly plan to be more mindful of it in the future. Thank you again for sharing your beautiful family and your stories. :)

    Reply

  • kelly

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    Elena,

    I too found your blog about a month after Alexis was born I too went back and read everything… and yes all very helpful. Lets cross the fingers that round 8 of IVF is the round! then i can put a whole lot of this to practice :)

    Reply

  • Brittney

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    This is a great post! my husband and I had a great baby the first time around, so we where one of the rare couples. HOWEVER!! with our second it was a whole other ball game, and it was awful! 18 months I feel like we are just barley getting back to normal. some babies just don’t like being babies, you know what I mean 😉

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  • Sally

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    Elena, Thank you so much for your honesty. It’s good to hear that other couples do have “tone fights” and need some time to adjust after having a baby! My husband and I never really fight but we both recognized that we snaped at each other more often since our son was born a year ago (though we always make time to share a kiss or two and say i love yous). In the last weeks I feel like we are almost the couple that we were before our son was born(ok, we will never be the same hahaha), so it just takes time.
    I LOVE to read your blog, we even started BLW because of you and bought the Kiddy stroller because of you review, and Lexi is such a precious toddler.
    And good luck with that sleep “issue” :)

    Reply

  • Julie

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    My husband and I have made it a rule to hold hands when we ‘discuss’ things. We did a lot of hand holding during our daughter’s first year :)

    It probably sounds ridiculous and often times we’re at opposite ends of the couch when we do this (at first) but we’ve found that touching each other really helps remind us that we’re a team and we really love each other. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that HAS to be done and work and sleep deprivation – a little hand holding makes it all a little nicer.

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    • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby

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      You know it’s funny because we resolved to do that a few years ago and couldn’t follow through cuz we both get so passionate about what we are arguing. Lol.
      But it does make a world of a difference. Somehow you can say the same things you would on a fight while holding hands.

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  • Kimberly

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    I’m so glad you did this post. My husband and I have been struggling so much, and I felt so alone. We love each other very much, but sometimes the lack of sleep just made us angry with each other. I also felt that i was not putting so much effort into our relationship because we were so busy with our baby. Now my daughter is 5 months and things are getting a little bit easier, and we discuss our arguments too because we do love each other, and we are so grateful for our daughter Nicole. It’s nice to hear stories where other people are in a similar situation and everything will be fine. Thank u, Elena!

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  • K

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    Thanks for the raw honesty. I am 7 months pregnant, 5 years married and have been wondering what it might be like for us after the baby is here. We’ve talked about it but we have no idea. Its good to know that its just temporary and we can get through it. I love Julie’s tip for holding hands and your tip about being nice to each other. I will suggest we try those.

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  • Meegs

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    I’m a breastfeeding, babywearing, former bedsharing Mama, so there have been plenty of your posts that I’ve related to, but this is the one I’m most grateful for. Co-parenting (especially while exhausted!) is hard. Completely refiguring out a relationship with the addition of a new (and very dictatorial) little person is even harder. Thank you for being so honest!

    I’ll be truthful… 3 years out and we still don’t have it down. But we’re working on it. Fingers crossed.

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  • Mia

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    “..committing to be nicer to each other”
    Love it! I’m going to tell my husband exactly that
    Oh and we do the tone fights all the time too, so lame.. but you just can’t help it when both parties are lacking sleep!

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  • Tanya

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    Hello Lena and what an amazing post you did. I really enjoyed reading it. Even though I understand that every single family is going through different stuff and very individual problems I have to say that the first year of my son wasn’t bad at all. Well, i have to mention that he was and still is a very good sleeper, which certainly gave me more opportunity to relax and enjoy my significant other:) Some free time definitely helps, but it would not eliminate any issues with the partner. I agree with you any relationship is a work, very intensive work. When my son was a baby we agreed on rotation of weekends, one weekend is all for me(i would pump) and another is for him. Even though we wouldn’t spend days off together, but it helped to shuffle things up a little, and get out of the house once in while:) Now when my son is almost three we just get a babysitter to enjoy each other. Also, a little of the topic, but I realized that my love for my significant other became so much stronger during the first year of our son. I guess just seeing him loving our baby as much as me really opened up a new level of love and appreciation for him.
    I am glad that you guys find your way to better yourselves and make a relationship work.
    Good Luck

    Reply

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