This is a blog I wrote sometime ago that I wanted to post again to help make the distinction between the parenting blues that we all feel during the varied phases of our guardianship and Post Natal Depression itself as an illness. I have discussed this illness in a previous blog- Post Natal Depression – not just for women!
I was reading an article the other day titled “Making Out After Baby”. The piece discussed some common beliefs around ‘delivery-room trauma’ and sex after childbirth. The collated responses had been from both males and females, with the likes of, “I wish someone had told me after going through childbirth my husband would no longer see me as sexy. We are now separated. I’m not prepared to spend the rest of my life in a sexless marriage.”
Or another, “ We have been intimate five times in the last six years since our child’s birth.(Ed) I feel like we are almost a brother and sister looking after our common interest, our child.” Some other males continued with comments that they feel like just “a financial handbag” or ‘walking ATMs’. At this point I must admit I did throw the article down on the bench and look around for the first male that I could find clutching onto a similar “victim mentality” that I could slap. Then I took a hold of myself and my judgement and continued reading.
Fortunately this particular writer continued by saying that witnessing his daughter’s birth had made “for a bonding experience of incomparable intensity between he and his wife” however reading the varied responses, it would seem that there are a distinct minority of couples who would hold a similar view.
Surprised and perplexed I thought -“Why is this?”
In all authenticity, most couples with children are likely to have experienced similar frustrations at some point. What is it however that enables one couple to linger briefly with these frustrations and yet decide to move towards a resolution while other couples stay “emotionally frozen” almost like deer caught in headlights, shocked and stunned by the enormity of parenting? Here their relationship becomes so fractured and disconnected that the appeal of family life vanishes all to soon.
There is no denying that parenting itself brings enormous challenges, yet no one promised us that relationships would be challenge-free. At the risk of sounding like an evangelist for marriage (more in the idiosyncratic sense of the word, with “marriage” being a sign of commitment with or without the actual marriage certificate), I have come to realise that the ‘commitment to communicate’ is fundamental for any relationship to work. Irrespective of whether we have children or not.
The more I learn about the art of communicating the more I realise it is a real a skill, one that requires focus and time to master, and patience and commitment to implement.
So what are the post-birth/child issues at hand?
Yes there’s the labour itself, however with the right mental and visual (evidently important for both parties involved) preparation and guidance, couples can use this experience as a momentous celebration. Interestingly, the less clinical your birth is, the easy it is to foster an environment of love and intimacy.
Whether you are birthing at home or in a hospital, there are many, many ways to help ensure you create your desired birth. Preparation is key to using labour as a positive benchmark for your relationship. In ‘Well Adjusted Babies’ we discuss “birth preparation” in-depth.
In the first few years after children (even without text-book post natal depression thrown into the mix) there are generally a feast of issues at hand for couples to conquer. There’s the necessary time needed for a woman’s body to heal. Good preparation for birth helps partners appreciate that for about six months it is likely that sex will not be one of the mothers top priorities. Whenever Simon thought he might perish from a lack of nooky he’d remind himself of my description of our first child’s birth, “Imagine having to pooh something the size of a small dog.” It makes sense to practice patience with each other.
Other issues common to both parents include the stress of learning how to cope with the constant needs of a new born child, lack of sleep, exhaustion and hormonal challenges (most likely just the women here guys- sorry!). There are also personal identity issues where we assess our ability to parent and our ability to balance career and family. There may also be “body or physique” issues. Finding the time to exercise between the demands of children, domestics, work and trying to catch-up on sleep, certainly requires careful planning.
Sometimes when our relationships are strained and both partners are tired it can be hard to act with clarity. The following suggestions may offer some inspiration for those tricky periods.
Here A Few Tips To Help Move Through Post Baby/ Children Blues.
- Take time to centre your thoughts and take the time necessary to communicate with your partner
With children, comes the unspoken demand for both parents to clearly communicate their needs. For most couples the combination of fatigue and broken conversations (children are prone to inopportune interruptions) creates unrelenting tension and irritation. Voicing these frustrations requires careful consideration and planning.
Looking retrospectively I tend to communicate at my best when I have taken time to sit with my feelings and identify my “core” issues. This then allows me to communicate from my heart rather then simply retaliating and allows me to make my point hopefully without injuring another and it also enables me to genuinely bring ‘solutions’ to the table. Take my word for it, life feels easier when we take sometime to “be still” and hand our problems over to God or Spirit and ask for some clarity, guidance and support.
- Get your thinking back on track
Most days I have to wonder how people survive without chiropractic care. Whenever I have “stinking thinking,” whenever I am not centred or grounded in my body, there are generally two factors at play, I’ll need an adjustment or I need to meditate. Sometimes both.
Your nervous system governs every function in your body. Your ability to digest food properly, your ability to concentrate, the quality of your thoughts, your sleep, your energy levels. If I go more than a week without being adjusted I know I struggle to see the depth of beauty in my life. Truly!
Many chemical reactions take place with thought creation. Studies show that being overwhelmed or feelings of “hopelessness” create a stress overload in our nervous system which in turn may create body malfunction. This may occur in the reverse order as well, whereby existing nerve dysfunction (vertebral subluxation) can promote chemical imbalance and in turn a lack of harmony within the body. This imbalance may affect areas of your brain responsible for emotion and this alters your perceptions and moods. The specific work chiropractors do with the nervous system has a significant effect on our ability to think and behave.
Mental health, or the lack there of it, can be just as debilitating if not more than poor physical health.
- Active Listen
Another key element to communicating is – keeping quite! Yep that’s right – shutting our mouths and actively listening to our partners perspective. Sometimes we need to let our partners feel heard and really be heard before they feel like they are fully able to listen and appreciate what we are going through.
Now active listening is is not always easy but a great tip is to wait until you are both willing and keen to active listen each other rather then forcing it to happen. It is extremely tricky to active listen when we are angry so wait until emotions have cooled down and the environment is less heated, then agree to try an understand each others needs.
There’s no rules as to who goes first. Often who ever is feeling more centred will happily let the other off-load first. When active listen try to reiterate what your partner has told you so that you really grasp what they are saying. Use phrases like, “So if I understand what your saying correctly – you feel really hurt/upset/angry etc when we I …….?” Is that right? Is there more about that?
and let your partner just keep talking until they say something like, “No that’s all I feel like expressing”
Then reverse roles until you both come to a feeling of resolution.
- Bring back the humour.
Parenting can be really tough at times so it’s wise to commit to trying to stay light-hearted, to see the humour in the day. Life can be too serious.
Try to make each other laugh about the little things and look out for what’s right in your life and what’s right in your world.
- Share the load of family life.
Couples today seem to share the work load of domestics much more readily and easily than previous generations. If your partner seems a little immune to these challenges then offer a little loving guidance and encouragement about multi-tasking and job sharing. Remember some of our mothers will not have fostered male domestic skills so the trick is to ask for what we need and to encourage all efforts rather then simply critiquing.
- Give yourselves some distance “as a couple” away from your children.
Arrange some time in your week, where you have space away from children. Have regular adult moments over the weekend where you sneak 10 minutes to finish a conversation or have a “cup-pa” together. Simon and I chuckle that generally a lack of nooky for us goes hand-in-hand with a lack of conversation.
Create a “date-night” ideally once a week or once a fortnight (at a stretch once a month) to re-connect and finish all of those interrupted conversations. Pre-plan this date though, otherwise it is unlikely to be a consistent event and pre-arrange a weekend or night away every 4-5 months to really romance your relationship.
- Make time for regular exercise.
Everyone feels better when they exercise – endorphins are a great thing!! Help each other prioritise the time for exercise, tag-team runs or gym sessions, i.e. one of you go for a run then the other. Alternatively arrange family exercise that’s done together as well.
- Cling to what you hold dear, to what is precious.
I often wonder whether ‘little-people’ simply highlight the inadequacy’s of our relationships rather then actually creating them. While we may feel tethered by our parental responsibility’s we ( as partners in parenting) have a choice to make a fresh connection to partners each day or hold onto to resentments and judgement day after day.
If the relationship you and your partner shared pre-children was something precious, a bond that you both cherished, then it’s important to cling to that during the “not-so dreamy” stages of your relationship. If possible let go of ego and fight for what’s important to you.
Children bring great adventure and wonder to life and our relationships when we remember to focus on the good things.
- Stay in gratitude – it has a ripple effect.
If I find myself out of gratitude for the enormous privilege I have of sharing my life with Simon, if I’m having a “bugger you” moment, then the quickest way I can bring myself back to gratitude is imagining my life without him. I take a moment to image if I was married to a ‘chauvinist’ or to a ‘playboy’ or God forbid if “life” decided his time here was done. The sick feeling I have imaging my life without him reminds me there are no certainty’s in life, and that I am adult enough to resolve issues quickly.
I have also lived long enough to know how fortunate I am and how important it is to live and move through life with gratitude.
- Surround yourself with people who inspire you
There are many couples I know who are EXTREMELY HAPPY juggling family life. I don’t mean they are simply “ground-hog day” task-oriented, they are genuinely enjoying the ride of family chaos. Their relationship has deepened over the years to new levels of friendship and bliss, and through learning better communication skills their life gets better and better.
I encourage you to find other couples with children, who are achieving an authentically happy life and surround yourself with positive people. We become like the people we surround ourselves with, so find people who fascinate and inspire you.
“Where there is great love there are always miracles.”
Wishing you every success in all aspects of your life.