Saturday, February 26, 2011

What they don't tell you in prenantal class

There are a million things people don't talk about when having children. Your deliveries will be beautiful, your birthplan will be adhered to, you'll spend your babymoon nursing in a sunlit room garbed in white, your baby will make your family complete and you'll all live happily ever after.

What they don't say is that you'll likely poop yourself during delivery, your birthplan may be radically altered in a blink of an eye, your babymoon will be filled with delirious highs and crushing lows due to sleep deprivation and your partner and you? Your marriage is likely going to be REALLY tested by this little new arrival.

That is the thing they don't talk about, but they really need to. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to moms who were at their wits end with their partner. Their partner having emotionally distanced themselves, burying themselves in work, games, hobbies or even less healthy activities. I'm not going to be inclusive and talk about partners in terms of men and speak from the womens point of view, because it's really the only one I know. It's like the guys see this new responsibility, which is going to tie your life down considerably and they panic.

I've known women with husbands who've cheated during their pregnancy, post partum, husbands who work like maniacs, get involved with online gaming, pick up several new hobbies, turn into grumpy emotional messes. I've known women who scratching their heads, women who would pin part of their PPD in part to their hubbies wigging out, women teetering on a knifes edge about whether they were going to leave their marriage.

Pregnancy is hard, post partum is brutal, nothing can quite prepare you for the toll it takes. In Canada, most women take the first year off work for maternity leave (yes, envy us Canadians) more often than not, mom stays home as we're the ones with the milk. So in addition to no sleep, wild hormonal swings, a mega dependent baby, we have a partner going through an identity crisis, but we seldom address the mom's needs beyond good nutrition, good lactation support, good post partum support and really, even that support is a joke.

And on the other side of that, what about our loss of identity? Our loss of independence. I've been childfree three times this week. Once for a meeting at church, once for an appointment and once to go grocery shopping. Maybe for a total of 6 hours, out of 168. And I don't count shopping or medical appointments, so 2 hours. I had to threaten to put my head through a badminton racket if I didn't get 20 minutes to write this blog post. I've purchased food, supplies, clothes, underwear, furniture with baby in tow. If I want to take a class, go to the doctor, or do anything for further health or mental development, I have schedule babysitters, drivers, schools and pray that no one gets sick,. My life is no longer my own, it's dictated by the needs of three children and as a SAHM, the buck stops here. If my child is sick, my plans are cancelled. Period! It doesn't matter if I have a date with the Queen, that's how it is, and it's not unique to me.

Our independence and identity has been changed to the nth degree. We are forced to sit still and just be. After being programmed for 30 or so years that we're nothing if we're not out making money or out changing the world, we struggle with the slower pace of life. We're not being the movers and shakers we were pre kids, so needless to say, it's a pretty big adjustment. And while moms do go off the rails, biology is a strong pull to keep us near our babes and exhaustion takes care of the rest and so that offers little opportunity to do much else than shutting down emotionally or being crabs.

So we might feel a little resentful when our significant others go squirrelly at the shock of their new identities when we are struggling with ours. I mean, a big part of me is like WTF? You get to PEE ALONE!!! You get to go to work! You get to have lunch! With people! And have a conversation! You don't have to go food shopping, or buy toilet paper, or clean the house 40 times a day or change 70 diapers a day! So in my less charitable moments, I'm not even the slightest bit inclined to see the other POV and to be honest, I still don't fully understand it, three kids later.

Is there a happy medium? I imagine there is, but I think it's a learning curve. I wish I could say I've figured it out, but three kids in, I haven't. I think time, patience, and understanding for how we're coping is needed. I think sensitivity in how we cope and how it affects our husband/wife is vital. If your inclination is to go to the computer after a hard day, do so after the kids are in bed. Stay up as much as you want, but be prepared kids wake up early and often and you'll have to be game ready. Going out drinking every week and coming home smashed...probably not a great coping mechanism. We need to cope, but we need to cope responsibly!

The marriage is going through a major change and the urge to escape the pressures is only natural, but how, and when and why we do it is key to determining whether this will make or break your marriage. I think even though our reserves are low, we need to dig down deep and pour in extra energy to make things a little more bearable for our partner, within reason of course.

We also need to identify our needs and get them addressed. Whether its swapping some babysitting, hiring someone, getting housecleaning, getting non work/baby time ALONE with some friends or not. We need to figure out our emotional needs, like touching, thoughtful gestures, space and we need to get them addressed. As emotional partners, we need to be prepared to meet our others emotional needs as well. (BTW, this is going for men as well as women, don't think for a minute I'm letting them off the hook).

Really, I think more time and study needs to be given to helping couples get through that first year or two. It's a major shock to the person, let alone the relationship and no one talks about it. It's like a shameful little secret, but the more and more I hear about it, the more I believe it's common, even normal, however it needs to be managed so that the marriage isn't staggering along, but rather evolved into something different, but better and stronger.

Sometimes I waver in what to do with my next life (post SAHM) and given that I've just spewed a bucketload of thoughts on this subject, sometimes family counselling doesn't seem like such an out of place idea. ;) Anyhow, my 20 minutes are up, I have two kids 3 and under melting down, I have laundry, shopping and a house to clean, before 2pm. So I best put away my superblogger cape and get back to my ordinary mom identity.


Stacey said...

Love this post. It is so true. And I'm here to tell you from mine and other 2 mom family experiences, it doesn't matter if it's man/woman or woman/woman or man/man, someone always feels like they are stuck more with the kids, etc. It's just how families operate--someone does the mat leave and then they will automatically become the person who thinks about the kids first or be the main caregiver. I think it's hard to say it will ever be equal. Everyone goes through the struggles of trying to make it equal and feeling like their partner doesn't give enough (on both ends).

Karen said...

I Have to say THANKS for this post. I'm a new mom, and don't have many close friends who have been here. I had to wonder if it was just me or? You're right. No one talks about this stuff, and then you wonder what's wrong with you when it's not all sunshine and love fest! I've been considering a similar post myself, but again, it's a shameful secret.