There is so much you may miss when baby comes along. Time on the couch snuggling together in the evenings, sitting down to read a book, long lazy weekends, nights out, meeting up with friends, going to the gym, going to work(!), the desire or even opportunity for sex and perhaps at the top of the list getting a good night’s sleep. There is often a real sense of grief at the life you have lost and for those who have taken on the main role of caring for baby, there may be the loss of identity drawn from your job. For many, this defines a large part of how they perceive themselves and can be a place where you feel competent and successful. Losing this to look after a little person, starting a brand-new role as a parent can be incredibly daunting and you feel almost incompetent. On top of this, the little person requires almost all of your time, so that it can feel that being a parent is almost all of you. This can lead to resentment at the partner who gets to go to work, to have something of your ‘old’ life.

When there are three, then it can often feel that someone is left out. If you find that your partner is enjoying baby more that you, the development of relationships with babies often goes at different paces, then it can feel as if you are excluded. If your partner is exclusively breast feeding, you may feel that you miss out on those moments of intimacy with your baby, that you do not get to enjoy this closeness and cannot feed them. Perhaps you have had arguments about how to feed your baby, should you exclusively breast feed, or combi-feed or bottle feed. If you are exclusively breast feeding, then you are probably getting up every time baby wakes, maybe watching in fury as your partner continues to blissfully sleep. It is often one person who holds the mental weight, so worry about the baby perhaps resides with one person more than the other and at night, if baby is exclusively breast fed, then that likely lies with you. You may feel that you are nothing more than a feeding machine, resentful of the seeming freedom that your partner has. You might feel trapped in the home, anxious to leave, thinking what if baby cries, whilst your partner not only goes out to work, but gets to see friends and colleagues in the evening. Then there is the whole issue of the household, who expects who to do what. Who does the cooking the washing, the ironing, the cleaning and sorts out the bills? When baby comes, this likely has to be re-thought, but you may not have had these conversations, or you feel that you are expected to do everything that you were before. It can feel as if you are weighing up everything you do against what your partner does, it is no longer a partnership, but a competition.

If you are the one going to work, then you may feel you are missing out, not seeing baby’s first smile, when they first turn over, or hear them say their first word and take their fist step. You might feel as if you have been replaced. You can see the affection given by your partner to your baby, what about me you might think, is there no more time for us even to cuddle. It feels as if you are living off scraps of affection and can feel that your partner almost prefers your baby to you.

With lack of sleep, less time for all parts of your relationship, arguments come much more easily. It is much harder to be able to listen to one another, more likely to feel accused or attacked, that you cannot get anything right. At times of stress and certainly caring for a baby is a period of prolonged stress on our emotions and bodies, our way of coping with what we feel is really challenged. If you are used to managing feelings by trying to fix it, or to push difficult emotion to one side, you may find this simply does not work anymore. You might find that what your partner wants from you has changed. You may feel frustrated that your partner does not seem to listen, wants to dismiss what you feel, not just let you talk and to simply hear you. In the same way that a baby really needs us to hold what they feel, which can often be very challenging; not to get rid of this feeling, but to show them that it is bearable, it is often this experience that as new parents you find you need too, but can be so hard to offer and also to accept. This need from your baby can often be challenging.

These experiences are common to so many couples. This is because a baby not only triggers the emotional memories of our own experiences in infancy and childhood, baby comes right in between you and the person whom you most trust, love and rely upon. This intensifies the powerful feelings of loss and rivalry, which serves to undermine your capacity to be able to talk and listen to one another. It is quite probable that baby highlights some of the cracks that already existed in your relationship and there is less opportunity to resolve this, or that the difficulties are no longer balanced by other enjoyable things you did together. This may mean that you need support to think through what is happening between you, to come to understand how you relate to one another and how you each manage emotion. This can enable you to develop new ways of being together that allows you to integrate your new identities as parents, learn to enjoy one another again and come to work together, now as co-parents and as a family.

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