Relationship Changes After Baby

relationship changes after baby

I’m so excited to talk with Elisa Syed. She is a birth Doula, marriage coach, educator, and host of the New Mama Marriage Bliss show. She’s here to talk to us about relationship changes after baby. 

More about Elisa Syed

I like to say I’m a grateful wife and a proud mama of five, I’m also a podcast host, and I work really hard with couples and with mamas to bring more love and connection to this world. I originally was an educator, and I always knew that a day would come when I would work with families and be able to bring that loving connection to this world. Since the birth of my first baby, I knew that one day I would also be a birth Doula because it was one of the most empowering and beautiful experiences I have had. 

Shelly: I miss it very much. I used to be a birth Doula, too, which is amazing. Every time you help out at birth, you get that birth high that you ride for like three or four days I do miss it a lot. 

Does having a baby change relationships? 

A: I think that Gottman says that around 80% of couples say that after the birth of especially the first baby then, they experience some kind of crisis in their marriage, or at least they’re less satisfied than what they were before. Why do I think that is? There are so many reasons that go into it. I mean everything. Somebody asked me once: What changes after you have a baby? them well, what doesn’t change after you have a baby? Everything about us changes! The way we perceive ourselves, our bodies, and our schedules change; how we sleep changes, how we eat, and every single thing I’m doing in my life changes. So the dynamics with myself change, and the dynamics with everyone around me change. 

It seems that we have less of everything; it seems that we have less time, it seems that we have less energy, it seems that we have less inner power because we’re just so overwhelmed with everything else. Then you might feel like, ‘I don’t have any time or power inside of me to also work on my marriage’ you feel like there’s no time for that because your whole body, whole self, whole soul, is invested in this little being if I’m taking care of it. A lot of times, a relationship gets put on the back burner because of that. We have only so many resources that we can put into everything, so usually, the marriage gets put in the back because the baby needs me to survive. You know my relationship will be okay. However, it won’t be okay and also needs us to survive. 

So we need to bring this up more and talk about it more. When I started talking about it, I found that mothers had difficulty talking about it. It was like they felt a little guilty because, yeah, but it’s my time to be with my baby, and right it is your time to be with your baby, but I can’t put my relationship and say hold on, I’ll take a break for a year, and then we’ll come back, and it’ll all be okay. It doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t mean that my relationship has to stay the same way. It doesn’t mean that maybe we won’t be going out on date nights outside of the house for a year. It does mean that we have to think about how we are intentionally working on our relationship all the time whatever season of life we’re at. 

Connect with your partner post baby

With my clients, I use all different things, such as five love languages. We learn to dive deep into connection and our habits and connection and learn what our obstacles and connection between us are. There are so many ways to communicate, many times when we say communication, we think of just the way we talk. However, we communicate in many many different ways in life and with people, especially with our spouses. We could do so many small little tweaks to our lives that can help us move from scarcity of ‘oh no, how are we going to connect?’ Being able to see endless opportunities of ways to connect can make a relationship. 

I thank God for every child I have; they’ve made me so much stronger personally and in our relationship. Were there challenges? Oh yeah! Were there times I thought we would break? Oh yeah! You can transform your relationship when you know how to connect and go back to refining those habits you have together as a couple. 

S: Would you suggest working on communication skills and being open and talking with each other, something you should do prenatally? 

Working on communication + expectations during pregnancy

A: One of the things that I do with all my birth Doula clients is we have just one meeting that we talk about just the relationship. Your relationship with yourself and your relationship with your partner after the baby, like what’s going to happen? I kind of first burst their bubble because we sometimes I see that couples have this like really romanticized view of what’s gonna happen after they have the baby. They’re gonna become this beautiful family sitting peacefully on the couch and laughing with each other and cuddling up and it’s all going to be so beautiful. Then they get into this reality of like dripping and from who knows where and Soggy everywhere and haven’t slept in days and they don’t even know like what they ate in the morning did they eat in the morning have they taken a shower like life is completely crazy. Then they’re like wait but where’s that picture that I wanted us to be sitting nicely and you know have this beautiful romanticized life? 

The first a tough do is understand that it’s going to be a challenge in the beginning, especially. Also during those first few months! I’m there right now, I’m three months postpartum. I’m going through it myself. Those few months, there’s a different type of relationship during those months, and we plan what’s going to happen throughout those months. As much as we know right now, it could look completely different than what we planned, but at least we’re aware. Then we make a plan of what your needs are going to be or what we think your needs will be. We’ll think about how that can really feed into your relationship and how your spouse be there for you. Next, how can you be there for your spouse? I like to think of a relationship as like a complete different person. I have my needs, my husband has his needs, and our relationship has its own needs. So we really look at those three different entities that need us to really invest in them, love them, and nurture them so we really make a plan with for all three. It makes a huge difference. 

I remember one of my clients called me I think she was like three weeks postpartum and she had a difficult birth and she called me she’s like I just want to thank you for that list that we made of things for us to do together in the home. That’s one of the things we do when we plan we plan; ways to connect inside the home and for every person it’s going to be very different. This client said she was having a really hard time and I couldn’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. One of the things I tell my clients is to put your list on the refrigerator because if it’s in a bookshelf somewhere, they’re not going to look at it. However, it’s on your refrigerator and it’s right you know where you are all the time you’re more likely to, use it. This client said ‘I saw that list and then I was like okay, let’s just do one of these things tonight’ and she said it made a huge difference in her mood and in every everything in her relationship. It was like a huge shift and it’s such a little thing to do. These are little tweaks that we can make that make such a huge difference. 

Parental Expectations + Relationships

S: When I teach my newborn care or prenatal breastfeeding classes I always say: talk before the baby arrives about what you imagine overnight parenting will go. If you’re imagining that you’re going to do teamwork, get up and help change the baby’s diaper and feed the baby. Still, one partner is thinking that they’re not because maybe they’re not the breastfeeding partner, imagining that they’re just going to be able to sleep through the night. You don’t want to learn about those differences on the first night you’re home with the baby. You want to have that discussion beforehand and ensure you’re on the same page. The same goes for what our expectations will be around not only nighttime parenting but visitors and family members. 

What are our expectations telling us?

A: We’re aware of some expectations and some that are in our subconscious. Only when they play out do we realize, oh wait a minute, I expected that to happen that way. At that moment, we were like, okay, wait a minute: 

  • I have an expectation 
  • You have an expectation

Let’s sit down and talk about it. I didn’t realize it, but in my head, that’s what needed to happen and that was my expectation; in his head it was completely different. So then we sat down, and we could talk about it and understand what it does that mean to me. Also because there’s the surface level of problems, but there’s always something deeper. Underneath the surface of smaller problem there’s something deeper under that. So really finding that and being able to meet our expectations even when it wasn’t something that we were aware of. It’s so important to bring up things that we already know are going to maybe bring up a conflict, like who’s going to wake up with the baby? Who’s going to come and visit? All those kind of things and then when there are things that come up that we didn’t think about no Panic it’s okay let’s sit down and make another meeting of expectations and really be able to be on the same page again.

S: It’s nice that to have a practice of talking over the expectations so you can anticipate when something comes up that isn’t anticipated or wasn’t anticipated you already have those skills in place to just fly off the handle because you’re exhausted and sleep deprived and your nipples are sore or whatever. You can stop and think hang on we’ve already practiced this skill and now we know what to do because we’ve done it before.

A: When we are deprived and our hormones are doing acrobats inside of us sometimes we react in ways that we didn’t want to react in. Sometimes we say things we didn’t want to say but when it’s a habit that I’m already doing that will be more automatic for me to use those tools just like you’re saying. Giving ourselves the grace of being able to see the miscommunication before all that happens that really helps a lot. 

S: Do you see one common issue for couples you’re seeing? Or is it just really dependent on the family?

Communication + Quality Time Post Baby

I think it really depends on the family. A few common ones that usually come up, one is usually communication. the other is usually finding quality time, to be present with each other, to do something together that’s really hard for parents. Those two come up the most but it really depends on the family and what each mother is going through. Every child born; births a new mother as well. I’m a mother of five, every time I had a baby a new mother was born because of the new dynamics and the new things going on and it brings up different challenges. Any challenge is okay. Whatever is going on there’s no shame. Becoming a mother is a huge deal. Becoming a family is a huge deal. We as a culture we have so much compassion for pregnant women then once they become a mom they have to like bounce back. They have to go back to work after six weeks in some places. We just created life; we just made a whole new world in this world. Let’s hold space for that. Whatever challenge is coming up embrace it. Embrace it and utilize it to grow from it. 

S: When the mom is pregnant all the attention is on her. People will ask how she’s doing but then as soon as the baby’s born all the attention shifts to the baby. Usually there are visitors for a couple weeks but then she’s alone. The partner goes back to work and she’s alone with this baby and no one’s checking in. I imagine that can feel isolating, at least for me it did feel isolating and a little bit lonely. 

A word on fathers post baby

A: What we didn’t mention is the partner because many times we also forget about him and he’s also going through a lot. We also have to recognize that the partner also has a whole new world and a whole new dynamic. Fathers also suffer from postpartum depression because they are becoming into this new role. We have to be really aware and conscious that yeah maybe I didn’t sleep as much as he did but he’s also running around with other kids, doing all the errands and doing so much. How much do we really give them credit for everything that they’re doing also in that crazy time? so we have to really be aware of everyone involved.

New siblings I want to add that to the list of people that need to be acknowledged for this huge transformation.

Meeting BOTH partner’s needs in a relationship

The first thing that I have to do is ask myself ‘where am I feeling that I have a need that is not that is not being met at this time?’ I would ask a client what was your need at that moment? What were you feeling at that moment? Then maybe your husband could be the solution but maybe there’s a different solution at that moment. There are some partners, that’s what where they want to be, they want to be there to take the baby and tell you go take a shower. It’s very dependent on the couple but the key is to understand what the underlying need is for each of you at that moment and to be able to communicate. You want create a bridge between the two needs to make it beneficial for both. 

S: On your Instagram you talk about “give to love” can you explain what that means?

A: We think that the the formula is when you love someone then you will give. I believe it’s the other way that when you give to someone then you will love. This is because love is really like a bonfire. I ask many couples that separated or that got divorced what happened? Many of them will tell you they just fell out of love. They didn’t love each other anymore, they grew in different ways, their paths parted, in whatever way they’re gonna say it. 

Remember, love is like a bonfire. What does that mean? We know that if you want the fire to burn you have to keep putting wood to the fire and if you’re not putting wood to the fire it’s going to die down. The same thing with our love. Love is an emotion, as Marshall Rosenberg says “emotion is in order to put us into motion.” 

Once you give, you will love; because that’s just what giving does. Something else that we need to understand nobody’s in charge of our happiness. If you’re not happy you need to think for yourself; what do you need to do for your happiness? No one’s in charge of your happiness, it’s our sole responsibility. Your partner can add to it absolutely. They can evolve it, absolutely, but are they in charge of it? No. 

If you switch it around instead of saying ‘I’m so frustrated with my husband and he never does anything for me.’ Switch it and you try and do something for them. It’s in the simplicity especially for moms, I say simplicity! Don’t look for big, don’t go on like a hot air balloon or anything. You just need something really small. What happens is once we add this “wood” into the fire and we start to give, nurture and invest we’re creating an atmosphere of a nurturing relationship. Then they’re also going to want to be a part of it and they’re also going to give. 

  • Instead of saying… ‘nah you know I’m not so in love with them right now I don’t want to do for them’ 
  • Try saying… ‘I’m not so in love with them so I’m going to think think of what I can do for them in order to get that fire burning again’ 

(I’m not talking about an abusive relationship here I’m talking about a healthy relationship that there’s healthy dynamics). 

S: I love the idea behind knowing your Love Languages. I have read that book and for example my husband’s love language is acts of service and it’s just like little things: 

  • Every morning he makes my coffee. 
  • He’ll do my laundry for me
  • If he sees that my phone is on low battery he’ll charge it for me and I’ll be like where’s my phone he’s like oh I plugged it in 

That’s not my love language and before I read the book I didn’t realize I thought he’s being really nice, but I didn’t realize like no this is how he’s actually saying I love you. I wish every couple would read that book, I think that’s an amazing book. 

A: My husband is also acts of service and I totally did not speak that language before we were aware of this. When you know what the other love language is or what your love language is it’s so easy to perfect the time and energy we have for each other in a way that’s going to fill us up and not leave us empty. It’s important.

S: I my love language is quality time. I always found myself getting like resentful before I understood the Love Languages thinking it’s great that you make me coffee every morning but that’s not really what I want. Then we’d argue about it, but once I understood I appreciated them more. Then he made an effort too to like go out on dates more with me once he realized that that’s how I feel loved. 

A: I’ll just speak on quality time, because sometimes it’s really tricky for moms because where are they gonna find quality time? Something that I like to say is that we have to bundle together our time. What does that mean? It means that we have so many things on our to-do list anyways; how do I put in another thing to our list? Ditch perfectionism it’s okay if it’s not going out to the restaurant and having a full full-blown date! Just find time for connection and bundle it up together with something else. You could make many different things very fun and a bonding experience even if it’s something that needs to be done anyways.

I actually have a list of 50 date nights at home that you can do because really sometimes it’s the simple simple things. It’s really in the simplicity and being intentful on connection.

S: What tips do you have for couples on how to calm themselves and remember communication? What resources and knowledge should they have on how to bring themselves down? 

Communication in the moment

A: It’s a myth that you cannot go go to sleep angry. This is a complete myth, because it’s okay if you’re going to sleep and you’re kind of angry at your spouse. Take a deep breath and distance yourself from the situation. don’t try and solve things when you’re in the midst of the anger and when you’re in the midst of the resentment because you’re not going to solve things. You’re probably going to say things that later on you’re gonna have to solve those things that you said. It’s not going to be the smart decision to do it in the moment. So take a deep breath some people have a hard time just distancing themselves from the situation because we have this fight in flight or freeze and this usually does not freeze right now but usually that fight or flight instinct that we want to right now go head on with whatever’s going on. 

Try this: go to the kitchen and get a cup of water. Drink a cup of water or have a bottle next to your next to your bed just take a drink of water, it forces you to slow down. You can’t gulp it down and be really angry. If you need another cup take another cup. There are all kinds of different techniques that work, it’s really in the moment but in the moment don’t try and solve it. In the moment that’s not the time to start decompressing everything that you’re feeling and and trying to find a solution. It’s not going to happen so take a deep breath distance yourself from the situation so that you could you could allow the anger to come through or allow the resentment or whatever else is coming up. Then you’ll be able to really digest it and see what is that anger coming up to tell me. 

  • What in those moments do I need? 
  • Why am I getting so angry? 
  • What does it mean to me that he’s sleeping and I’m taking the baby? 
  • What is underlying here that I need to solve? 

So take yourself away, allow yourself to go through whatever feelings you’re going through. Then later you’ll be able to digest it when you’re not in the midst of the boiling up anger or resentment or whatever it is. 

What is anger trying to tell us?

A: What is anger? Anger is this little light going on our dashboard and it’s saying: 

  • ‘Hello there’s something that needs fixing here’ 
  • ‘Hello something is not working right now’ 
  • ‘You have some unmet need’ 

If you try and box up your anger it’s going to come out in a different way. Usually in a way less beneficial way. Anger is coming to teach us something and if we try and shove it away it will come back in a different way. We never want to suppress anger or any other feeling that’s coming. Emotions they put us into motion towards something.

S: what is one thing that you want all parents to know about staying strong in their relationship after baby is born?

I’m going to say that marriage or relationships after children should be beautiful, they should be empowered they should be connected. It can be and it has the power to be a source of energy and not a energy sucker. It has the power to really transform us and to fuse our lives with connection and love. If there’s something that’s not working seek help. If there’s something that’s frustrating you whether it’s emotional intimacy, or physical intimacy, whatever is going on in your life that’s not working, please seek help. Let’s change the culture around marriage, let’s change the culture around relationships. Why is it so acceptable that so many people are giving up on relationships? Relationships can be so beautiful and we just have to know how to use the right tools in order to to make it. Don’t give up it can be beautiful and it can really transform you and your partner and the world. 

Relationships are the most powerful gift we can give our children

I believe that having a good relationship is the most powerful gift that we can give to our children. There is nothing better that we can give to our children than them always seeing an example of a loving relationship. Knowing how to communicate knowing how to fall and then and get back up. When we have a good relationship we are giving them a huge gift a huge security. A sound base; we’re giving them so much. That’s the one thing I want everybody to know that it can be beautiful. I’m saying it from a place of knowing what it is to be in a really bad place. It’s not like it was always beautiful; there were times that we didn’t think we were going to get out of the really hard part. That’s what I want to say to wherever you are in your relationship, wherever you are in your journey together, it can be better. 

So if it’s not feeling great seek the resources. Seek the help. I always offer whenever I get onto different podcasts I’m really help whoever wants just DM me and we can bounce off ideas on whatever it is you’re going through. Sometimes it’s just a little tweaking that needs to be done and a lot can change. 

S: It can be beautiful not necessarily the same. I think knowing that your relationship is going to change, knowing that if you have this expectation that we’re all going to be sitting on the couch and snuggling and loving on each other and that doesn’t happen for a lot of families. On the flip side, if you go in with the expectation that our relationship’s not going to change then I imagine it’s harder to ride out the hard spots. Versus going in and saying okay our relationship is going to look very different but it’s going to be just as beautiful.

A: Who wants to stay the same as they were when they were young? We always want to be changing we want to be able to be evolving. You don’t want to go back to what was. you want to keep evolving and becoming someone else. Do I want to go back to who I was before having a children? No, they turned me into somebody totally different. Would I like my body to look different? Would I like things to go back like they were? Maybe there are some things that I would like them to be similar, but I don’t want to be that person before. I don’t want my relationship to be what it was before because we went through so much and we just have to evolve. 

So instead of thinking of the bouncing back or the I wish it was like in the beginning let’s just evolve from there. Let’s deepen our love. let’s bring those butterflies but with a deeper love than what was before.

Posted in