Marriage after Babies


Ben and I have now been parents for .25 years with a baby. (that 3 WHOLE MONTHS!) We're nooblets. Yet, I feel like a lot has happened in our marriage since she came on the scene and late at night when I can't sleep or I'm feeding Eowyn, I think about this stuff.

Whats changed? Whats better? What have we learned? Here's a few things that I've found are pretty crucial for us to keep our marriage kickin'.

#1 The relationship with each other has to take priority over the relationship with the child. At first when I read this in books and on blogs, I figured it would be more of an intellectual decision. Sure, I'd choose Ben first, then baby. We had a conversation that we were going to pick each other first before Eowyn was ever born, but when she came on the scene, focusing on our marriage before we focused on being parents was easier said than done. Daily we  had to decide if what we said we would do would actually be what we did (and what that even meant!) It meant finishing our conversations at least to a adequate standstill before we jumped up to meet her needs. It meant prioritizing 'us' time and if that was interrupted  ensuring we rescheduled. It meant letting Eowyn wait.  This commitment is something I get to practice daily. Eowyn will not remember, and if she does she'll learn patience, and she'll learn about priorities in marriages. Win-Win.

This has been sort of a big deal for us and I think has allowed us to physically demonstrate our first earthly love is each other. It also allows us to not be upset with Eowyn and be parents that are leading rather than parents that are reacting. This little commitment has had huge impacts on everything.

#2 "He's just as [insert emotion or state of being] as you are. Be gracious."
Once upon a time it was really late at night and Eowyn was crying. I was exhausted. I had just fed that child, put her down and like...20 minutes later she was asking for attention. Ben snored through the whole thing. I was mad. Infuriated. I was hormonal. And I literally had to hold my hand as I left the room to keep myself from hitting him. I played it out  in my head, contemplated his reaction and was struggling to figure out if it was a good idea. It felt like a really really good idea. I've seriously never felt that way before-and it surprised me. As I was rocking E, I started to vent to God. "This is so hard, I have to do it all by myself, bla bla bla" And God gave me a 2:30 AM smack down. Ben doesn't snore unless he's exhausted or sick. I could hear that man in the other room. God showed me that the strain of a baby isn't just affecting me. It's affecting him too. So grace is needed. I repented. Even since, I've had to remind myself-Ben gets tired, gets emotionally drained, needs a break from the baby just like I do. His emotions are just as legitimate as mine. 

#3 Limit talking about the kid.
After literally hours of talking about diapers, sleep habits, reflux, parenting, etc. Its easy to get lost in the sea that is baby. There has to be a deliberate decision to mark off a time when we don't talk about her. For us, that meant establishing a time when we seriously do. Typically on Sundays we set the course for the week. If we want to try some new parenting thing we talk about it, we decide and that meeting is adjourned. Stuff comes up but if it needs an elaborate conversation it waits. This has helped me remember who Ben is, and who I am outside of parenting and has allowed time and room to goof of and just be us. If we don't do this, I spent hours rehearsing every move she made and asking Ben if we should readjust our parenting every 5.4 seconds. This way only consistent behaviors shine through and Ben and I aren't playing a continually-changing guessing game.

#4 Physical Intimacy cannot go out the window. 

I remember someone described sex to a man as the equivalent to a deep emotional conversation for a woman. Meaning the refreshing cathartic experience I feel after that good ol emotional outpouring-well there's a man equivalent and its physical. While grace obviously applies with a newborn baby, before the baby was born I decided that I didn't want to get familiar with the "well, he understands" card.  If one has a good husband, truth is they do understand and there is grace for that. Just like I understand when Ben has to work late, when comes home exhausted and really spent emotionally. Sometimes he can't really have much conversation. But lets be real, repeated working late and repeated unavailability emotionally leaves me fighting bitterness. He knows this, and refused to do it. I'm thankful. I can't expect him to be available emotionally day after day and not be willing to be present physically.

I've found absence of intimacy makes a marriage with children turn into a glorified roommate situation where you have to take care of this little life-sucking nugget of cuteness.  It gets unfun. Its unfair, and we all end up grumpy.  Plus I recently read this book about happy mothering that cited a research article (I can't seem to find it. Fail) saying mothers life satisfaction was more correlated with their satisfaction with their love life than any other factor. Another Win-Win

The happy thing I like about this area of life, is whenever I feel like it may need some work, I can see improvements overnight! (harty har) and I've been blessed to find some encouraging blogs in this area (since sex is never an easy issue) here's a meaningful blog to peruse: It talks all about sex quite plainly and intimacy and has plenty of posts for those struggling. It's a christian blog, which I appreciate in a culture that seems to take Christianity and sex and put them at opposite polls. Its encouraged me several times. I recommend it.

#5 Sacrifice-It's inevitable
This was hard for both of us. We had so many activities that we were successfully juggling before Eowyn. Then she came. For the first few weeks we tried to keep them up and ended up doing our respective things separately. It started feeling estranged and the more we talked about it, the more we both realized that things just had to go. We cut out some commitments we had thought we would maintain and we really examined and are continually examining what gives us energy. If an event takes away energy-so much so that we won't be available for each other throughout the day or week-we say no. There's obviously exceptions, but that's the rule. We had to sacrifice some outside things to keep inside things going well.

This has been huge. And incredibly difficult. Seeing Ben limit his activities in order to spend time with me, and me choosing to do things that do not drain me so that I've still got something to offer when he comes home has been sort of a big deal. While difficult, its life giving. We sort of have a "do later" list. I also give Ben, and he gives me the option of requesting limits on our activites. If he plays video games too much (which is really life giving for him) or if I'm out and about too much, we limit it. We have nights where we do our separate activities intentionally, and others where we intentionally spend time not doing those things.

In addition, while several ministry opportunities and cool exiting opportunities sometimes present themselves, I've put a lot of that in the 'do later' list. Mostly because I've found that at the end of the day of doing this, I repeatedly just want to be left alone and am easily frustrated with family. I felt God really challenging me on this area-how much of the activities do I maintain because of my own pride in my heart, fear of what others will think if I stop etc.-and have since found a lot of liberty to just enjoy life right now. I think its whats keeping my head afloat. A lot of women can juggle it all really well and not one area of their life suffers. I commend them and cheer them on! I simply am not one of them.

#6 Laughing is the the lifeline of sanity

So, Eowyn is awesome. She's kind of emotional-as most babies are-and sometimes her dad and I are exhausted. She can sometimes give us a run for our money and we've survived through laughing. Sometimes at each other, mostly at her. Happy benefit is she sees us laughing and stops crying cuz she wants to know why we're happy (or she gets even more riled up...but...hey..)

From laughing at the weird cries she makes, to joking about spit up and our ruined pillows we keep it light. Ben has that voice from the 'honey badger' video (it has a lot of language-I don't recommend it-but its funny) and repeatedly will say stuff like "that's nasty," "Eowyn don't care" etc. It keeps us laughing. And this keeps us happy.

It'll be good to reflect on the maintenance of these in the upcoming weeks. Am I prioritizing Ben in how I spend my days? Am I being considerate of how he's feeling with all that's going on in our lives? How much am I talking about baby? Are we feeling close both emotionally and physically? If not, how come? What sacrifices need to be made? Is there something we're taking too seriously that we just need to laugh about?

Looking forward to the next several months of marriage and enjoying that chubby faced spraguelet.

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