As a new mom, you've got all the best intentions in the world when you bring your little bundle of joy home. Then, reality sets in and suddenly you're undertaking the enormous task of round-the-clock feedings, diaper changes and playing Martha Stewart for guests, who stream through the front door to meet the newborn and empty your refrigerator. Soon, you discover it's not just the baby having a meltdown at 2 a.m., it's your marriage.
Welcome to the crazy, busy, sleepless life of a new mom.
You thought you had your "things to do before baby" list covered: diapers, bottles, sippy cups and strollers. But many moms find that adding couples counseling to the checklist can pay-off big-time, according to a recent study by the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle. The study's findings suggest that about two-thirds of couples see the quality of their relationship take a nosedive following the birth of baby.
New mom Donna. N., for one, says the stress is taking its toll on her marriage. "All my attention and patience is given to my baby boy all morning, all day and all night," she says. "I'm using all my energy to keep my baby happy, so he feels secure and loves life. But the stress builds up from that and...I find later I take it out on my husband." Anita F. agrees. "It's been a hard slog, especially the last six months. My partner and I have at times just felt like leaving."
There's no question that a new baby impacts a couples' intimacy, says Ricci L. "Since I've had my baby girl five months ago I really can't be bothered having sex anymore," she says. "I feel like I'm pushing my husband away all the time."
To help new parents deal with a baby's impact on their relationship, a new breed of relationship skills classes are springing up at hospitals and among doulas and midwives. Some experts are even advising pre-delivery counseling in anticipation of a birth, according to the Relationship Institute's survey. (And the Institute offers a program of its own, called "Bringing Baby Home.")
Circle of Moms member Michelle L. says she and her husband sought counseling following the birth of their third baby, and that it saved their marriage. "It really helped us work out our issues," she shares.
Moms who have survived that period of post-baby relationship stress offer these tips for baby proofing a marriage:
1. Sleep intentionally. The sleepless nights definitely take their toll on how you and your husband get along, says Crystal V. She advises planning a "sleep-filled" night. "Have someone you trust keep the baby for the night (a grandparent, family member or friend)," she says. "Or spend a night away from home - and (from) all the baby paraphernalia that has taken over your house," she says. "Believe me, getting a night away from the baby and baby stuff does help," she adds.
2. Plan solo breaks to recharge yourself. Jen B. also recommends the great escape method with a twist - escape by yourself. "Go away for the weekend without your husband (and the baby). I know every time I go away for the weekend I always want my husband when I get back."
3. Appreciate your partner with new eyes. Step back and take a new look at your husband, says Dawn C. "You have to really sit back and see your husband for the man he is and was when you fell in love with him," she says. "Let him hold the baby and just sit there and look at him holding the baby and you will see him a whole new light."
4. Plan date nights, suggests Kristen. "We make sure that we get a date night at least once a month and we shoot for more like every two weeks," she says. "We are lucky to have family around who will watch the baby but if not then you can hire or sitter or have a date night in after the baby has gone to sleep."
Ultimately moms have to accept that having a baby is a really challenging experience and that their relationship with their husband will take a hit, says Allison M. "I know how difficult this time can be with a baby — I've done it twice and (am) about to do it again in May. If you relax as much as you can and you know that what you are doing is helping to form a strong bond with your baby, your marriage will withstand this tough time."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.