Things Couples Should Consider Before Having A Baby Think you’re ready for a baby? Here are things you and your spouse should consider before it has a negative impact on your marriage. BY IRINA FIRSTEIN, LCSW
Have a baby doesn't solve any problems, a baby will magnify them.
“ A baby becomes the focal point of the marriage in which a couple will project what they need or needed and what they wish they had gotten or did not get as children or as adults.”
There is no doubt that a new baby is the most joyous, wonderful and probably most incredible event in a married couple’s life. When your first child comes, his or her arrival redefines you from a couple to a family. It truly bonds you for life in many inexplicable ways that are too big to be apparent right away.
However, even if you thought you were ready for this, and had figured out all the ins and outs, there are always some issues that cannot be anticipated. Besides feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and incompetent—at least in the beginning—it magnifies many issues that may have been problematic before and even brings into light some new ones you didn’t even know existed.
It is my very strong suggestion as a marriage therapist of more than 20 years that you address and try to deal with whatever "problems" you have as a couple before having your first child, if at all possible. Having worked with many couples before the baby came as well as after, I cannot stress enough that a baby does not solve your problems by making your marriage more solid and give you a common project (the baby), which is greater than each other’s happiness. Whatever issues you had before will most likely get bigger with, or soon after, the arrival of your child.
There are many reasons for this. Besides all the obvious issues of financial and energy resources being challenged, parenting brings forth into question your deepest values and beliefs. Also being a parent means that you are unable to focus on each other and tend to each other’s needs in the same way.
A baby becomes the focal point of the marriage in which a couple will project what they need or needed and what they wish they had gotten or did not get as children or as adults. There are numerous potential areas of conflict and disagreement in many different settings such as approaches to schedules, especially regarding sleep, naps, feeding and playtime. Then there are issues of child care, early education, play dates and dealing with other parents. There are issues of in-laws and the degree of their involvement in your child’s life and upbringing, as well as in your life as a couple and as a family. Beliefs around safety are a major point of conflict for many new parents. It is impossible to anticipate all the areas in which your own upbringing as well as current values, beliefs and experiences come into this. It is very important though, for you as a couple, to learn to talk about these differences and be able to hear each other and appreciate your spouse’s position and then arrive at a resolution after careful consideration that is acceptable to the both of you. This takes care and patience.
Parenting is a very personal business for couples, especially with the first child. They do not have much experience and tend to be extremely defensive about everything regarding the child. People tend to be more sensitive about their parenting then just about anything else and, those with even less experience, more so.
My final point is about what happens between you and your spouse in terms of intimacy. All of a sudden it’s not just the two of you. There is a third party that needs you for everything. It is hard to appreciate this adjustment sometimes when it first happens, but time passes and you ask yourselves, "What happened to us?" Obviously there is also less time and energy, plus all the parenting issues described above as well as no or very little time for the two of you to be with each other. It becomes difficult to even have a simple conversation that is uninterrupted or not effected by exhaustion.
While I appreciate what comes up concerning choices and all the issues regarding your new baby, it is my belief that the most important thing you can do for your child is have a good workable relationship with your spouse. What this means is that you cannot lose sight of the needs of both you and your spouse. The two of you must make time to be with each other alone. Enlist each other’s in-laws or utilize baby sitters and get away by yourselves as soon as you feel you can. It is also, if possible, a good idea to get away a few times a year for at least a day or two. You need time and the opportunity to reconnect and be with each other the way you were before you had a child. You will be amazed at how well this does for your marriage.
Irina Firstein LCSW is a relationship and marriage therapist in New York City for over 20 years. She has helped hundreds of couples overcome problems with intimacy and inhibited desire to reestablish a meaningful connection and achieve satisfaction in their marriages. You can visit her website at www.psychotherapist-newyork.com and follow her on Google+.