Q. I just stumbled across your site while almost weeping with desperation. Our baby girl is 9 weeks old and my husband and I fight nonstop. We are both so into our baby and are madly in love with her. And my husband does a lot … cooking, tidying up our home, picking up groceries etc. He is the perfect provider. Our problem is, we fight about WHAT the baby wants, HOW we should handle her when she wails, WHAT we can/should do with her.
We fight about who is more tired (I do ALL the night as I breastfeed). I don’t mind getting up feeding our baby but I also do ALL the soothing even she fusses at night. Then he complains about being tired, when he doesn’t have to flick a finger at night. If I make a suggestion about what the baby likes, he gets all defensive and offended saying I’m nagging and trying to take away moments from him, even if I say it very very nicely.
It seems like we can\’t even talk anymore without judging each other these days. Obviously sex hasn’t been happening for quite a while now and I don’t even know how to get back to how we feel about each other before. My tummy isn\’t back to pre-pregnancy shape yet and I feel utterly unattractive. I just don’t seem to see the light of our relationship at this point.
A. Let me start by telling you that how you are feeling about your husband is completely normal. Engaging in marital bickering and defensive behavior is almost inevitable when you have a newborn baby. This is a wonderful terrifying time (or terrifyingly wonderful time) for both you and your husband. You are exhausted. Adjusting to life with a baby is unbelievably difficult. Cut your marriage some slack. Don’t even think about your marriage for a while. Just take for granted that you and your husband will reconnect as the couple you once were at some point in the not too distant future. You write that you “just don’t seem to see the light of your relationship at the moment.” That’s OK. Life is not about your relationship right now, it’s about your baby and trying to figure out how to feed her/soothe her/dress her/diaper her and so on. Not to mention dealing with the sleep deprivation and hormonal upheaval. And please, please don’t give sex a second thought. You gave birth to another human being less than 60 days ago. You need time to recover. Make a mental note to think about sex three months from now. There will be plenty of time for all that after you and your husband are sleeping through the night and you feel a little more like your old self.
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts that I hope will make the newborn stage a little easier for you:
Hand over the baby. Let your husband spend time with his daughter on his own. Not all new Dads want to roll up their sleeves and take care of their babies. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen a new mother, with tears in her eyes, complain that her husband does not engage at all with their baby, and just leaves everything up to her. You have a good man and potentially a great father for your daughter in your life.
Take advantage of your husband’s willingness to be a hands-on Dad and take a nap/bath, call a girlfriend, wash your hair while he takes the reins. Sure, he won’t take care of your daughter exactly the way you do; but so what? He is as much a parent as you are, and he needs to figure out all this baby-care stuff for himself, just like you.
You are both exhausted and you are both entitled to a break. Yes, it is more than likely that you are working harder than your husband. Much harder. In fact, he may never catch up and the score will always be Mom 100: Dad 2, or something like that. But, the chances are that your husband is working harder now, with a daughter in his life, than he was 9 weeks ago. And he does deserve a little recognition and credit for that. As do you. So, instead of fighting over who is more tired – which is one of the most common games parents of newborns play; let me say it again, you are completely normal – work together to make sure both of you are getting enough sleep. You sleep when he gets home from work and/or he bottle-feeds the baby a couple of nights a week and so on. Spend some time figuring out a game plan. You will be amazed at how much kinder you will be to each other when you are getting enough sleep!