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After the Baby: Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth

After the Baby: Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth

5.0 1
by Rhonda Nordin

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Conversational and practical, After the Baby teaches couples about the natural progression of their marriage as it expands to include children. An essential guide for strengthening marriage while becoming parents, it offers both help and hope for building better families.


Conversational and practical, After the Baby teaches couples about the natural progression of their marriage as it expands to include children. An essential guide for strengthening marriage while becoming parents, it offers both help and hope for building better families.

Editorial Reviews

L.A. Parent Magazine
Nordin's book offers warm, realistic support when and where you need it most.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While having a baby is often presumed to be one of the most profoundly joyful and intimate events in a marriage, this refreshing book examines the emotional upheaval that usually comes with it. Having interviewed more than 200 couples repeatedly over a 10-year period, Nordin reminds us that the birth of a child--even if it's a second or third child--plunges a couple into new rhythms, roles and responsibilities. The convergence of physical and emotional changes, sleep deprivation, constant child care, increased housework and worry over new financial responsibilities often results in "frequent disagreements, an emotional distance, and a stalemate to cooperation" between new parents. With less time and energy for each other and themselves, Nordin contends, new parents frequently lose both the sexual and emotional intimacy they previously enjoyed, at a time when they most need to pull together. These challenges, and unrealistic assumptions, end many marriages in the early years of parenthood. Offering hope that parenthood can provide "opportunities for growth and a deepening of the marital commitment," Nordin examines many common issues in detail with concrete examples for resolving them. Her weakest chapter relies on dubious scare tactics to steer couples away from divorce, lest their children's lives be ruined forever. Her strongest argument, reserved for a brief last chapter, is that the long-term rewards and benefits of weathering storms in the parenting process ultimately outweigh the growing pains and sacrifices made along the way. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Child advocate Nordin interviewed more than 200 sets of parents and 100 professionals for this study, which pinpoints the physical and emotional changes that occur in couples after having a baby. Stresses like money shortages and physical exhaustion are also covered. Using examples from her interviews, Nordin examines changes in intimacy, communication, and sex. The final third of the book offers helpful suggestions for dealing with these changes. Although she discusses divorce as an overly frequent outcome, Nordin strongly urges couples to deal with challenges as they arise and find the strength to honor their commitment to their marriage and children. Dwenda K. Gjerdingen (family practice, Univ. of Minnesota Medical Sch., St. Paul) wrote a foreword and provides medical advice. This will certainly interest new parents and those about to become parents. Recommended for public libraries.--Kay L. Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills, MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Foreword Magazine
In a world where couples seek "magical solutions, instantaneous results and concrete assurances," Nordin looks to the simple and practical... Basing her book upon ten years of research with medical professionals, scholars and first-time parents, Nordin, who works with children and families, may well have a classic on her hands...Running throughout the book is Nordin's belief, substantiated by research and statistics, that parenthood unleashes the essence of adulthood.

Product Details

Taylor Trade Publishing
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Product dimensions:
5.94(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

I have met many jubilant new parents. Rosy-cheeked, fresh-faced, just-home-from-the-hospital green, mothers and fathers waded into our interviews purposefully, proudly showcasing their newborn. Eager to take me into their homes, these new parents gushed with enthusiasm. The stories I heard were heart-warming, peppered with good-natured ribbing and an abundance of contagious energy. Within months, though, many of these same couples reappeared, bedraggled, haggard looking, snapping at each other, the tiny bundle strategically wedged between them, creating a physical and psychological chasm. Our second interview lacked the warmth and pleasure I had observed during our first encounter. Their eagerness was replaced with hints of anger, resentment, competitiveness, and a bevy of what I define as unproductive emotions. For many, what may have begun as an easy transition to parenthood, had turned into an arduous task-by-task struggle for marital survival.

Jeannie and Tom were in their late thirties when I first met with them. Only months before they had been overjoyed at the birth of their first child. I'd just been seated in their family room with Tom and the newborn when Jeannie entered. Tom was cradling their new son, whose wails were postponing the onset of our visit.

"Give him to me!" Jeannie demanded from across the room. She marched toward her husband, grabbed their screaming baby from his arms, reeled around sharply, then headed down the hall to the baby's bedroom. The child quieted immediately. Sitting in a rocker in that darkened room, clutching her baby to her breast, Jeannie sobbed louder and harder than the child. Tom sat before me, unmoved, his arms locked at his chest, his eyes cold and hard. He finally looked up. "Our marriage is over," he determined flatly. "Divorce is inevitable. We never fought before the baby was born. Now that's all we do. Jeannie criticizes me for how I take care of the baby. I criticize her for the same. We fight over everything - who's going to work, who isn't. The house is always a mess. We even fight over sex. I am so tired." He shook his head. "Where did the love go? The trust? The mutual respect? Somehow our communication system - and our marriage - fell apart. Honestly, I just don't know what has happened to our marriage," he added sadly. "It's just not the same since the baby was born."

This scene is not uncommon in the homes of many new parents today. Having a baby, cast as such a happy event does not necessarily set the stage for marital bliss - even when both partners love each other very much. Indeed, while the birth of a child is a joyous occasion for most new parents, it often sets off a chain of discoveries for them that greatly influences the state of their marriage. And although couples generally love their new baby profoundly and unconditionally, the changes it brings cause many marriages to become vulnerable and oftentimes end in divorce. In fact, statistics on divorce following the birth of a child are downright alarming. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, forty-two percent of divorces involving parents take place before a first child leaves kindergarten and almost fifteen percent of these parents end their marriage before their children reach even eighteen months of age. Sociologists maintain it is the changes after childbirth, coupled with the expectation that things won't change that leads to the high rate of divorce among parents of young children.

After the Baby is the first book written to help couples understand the natural progression of the marital relationship as it expands to include children. In essence, this book helps men and women make sense of their marriage as parents together. You will find several philosophies at work throughout After the Baby. The first, and the book's central theme, is that changes and conflicts are a natural and predictable part of becoming parents and inevitably affect the marital relationship. It is my goal to help couples understand this, so they will not be caught off guard and tempted to throw in the towel at the first sign of marital discord. The second principle is based on current philosophies and research that suggest many parents could avoid divorce if their expectations were more in line with reality. And lastly, the underlying theme that prevails throughout my book is that we, as parents, have a shared responsibility to sustain our marriage for the sake of the family - and even for society.

When I first learned from new parents about the challenges they faced during their transition to parenthood, I set out for the downtown public library, my ten-month son Addison, in tow. With Addison planted firmly in his stroller, bottle and pacifier at hand and a bag of items ready to occupy and distract him, I began my research. I found shelf upon shelf of documentation and scholastic text written, I believe, with professionals in mind, but little information about marriage after childbirth compiled in a reader-friendly easy to understand volume that brought workable solutions to ordinary parents like me.

Within a few more months, I found myself packing a double stroller and a larger bag of diversions, for by September of 1990 our second son, Ian, had been born and I was still in the throes of my research. En masse we continued to claim the southeast corner of the sociology section of the library: I spread a large quilt that my grandmother had pieced together years before on the floor beneath the windows and by some miraculous feat, my two young sons played quietly and long enough that I could pore over and record the facts I found. I persevered in my search long after my sons had left the stroller and were well entrenched in their own educational endeavors. Now, nearly a decade later, I have finished compiling the findings for this book. They are too startling to ignore. It appears that parents in our generation alone are not the first to witness marital challenges after the birth of a baby. Forty years ago, sociologist E.E. LeMasters determined that childbirth brings overwhelming tumult into the relationship of new parents. "The arrival of a baby," he stated, "particularly the first baby in a home, usually necessitates considerable change and reorganization for the parents, and some believe this transition is so disruptive that it produces a state of crisis."

An article in the New York Times' Good Health Magazine, dated October 8, 1989, referenced the "astonishingly stressful and social consequences of being parents", and more current experts agree: nothing makes a marriage more vulnerable than having a child. Ample documentation supports these claims.

  • Seventy percent of new parents said they hadn't thoroughly understood the immense responsibility of parenthood, or the impact it would have on their time and relationships - especially their marriage.
  • At least nine out of ten couples experienced more conflict after their baby was born, and said that adjusting to parenthood was more difficult as a couple than as an individual mother or father.
  • Half of all new parents felt their marital happiness dropped. They argued more, showed and received less affection from each other, doubted their feelings for one another more often, felt ambivalent about their marriage, and lost interest in sex.
  • Seven out of ten couples reported a decrease in the level of communication after they became parents, which, for half, became permanent.
  • And almost all new mothers complained that their husband neither helped them enough with the baby or housework, nor supported them emotionally after their baby was born.
  • Overall, Glenn and McLanahan reported in 1982 that the negative effects of having a child proved to be quite pervasive, and for many, outweighed the positive effects for spouses of both sexes, of all races, major religious preferences, educational levels and employment status.

    The bottom line is that, for many couples, childbirth brings the crisis E.E. LeMasters wrote about more than four decades ago. It appears that for all the joys and anticipation of having a baby, its arrival often spurs a long drop in marital satisfaction for new parents that doesn't hit its low point until that child reaches its teen years! What happens to these parents? Well, some of them weather the avalanche of parental stress. With an overwhelming love and a diehard commitment to each other and their marriage, they stay together after the baby. Many, of course, do not. These startling numbers disclosed the overwhelming upset a new baby creates in the lives of new parents and convinced me of the far-reaching need for this book. After the Baby: Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth is the first book to explore the stunning phenomenon of just how susceptible a marriage is to distress after the birth of a baby.

    I believe you will find this book logical, inclusive and easy to follow. I have written it from a parent's perspective. It is not meant so much to be a "how-to" book as a "this is what is happening and why" book. It provides a nuts and bolts description of how having a baby challenges the marital relationship of new parents. Most chapters end with a Points to Consider section that presents ideas to enhance parents' understanding of the contents and help them apply the information to their own particular situation. When I speak with mothers and fathers whose marriages did not survive, many reflect on the turn their marriage took after the birth of their children and acknowledge sadly that, yes indeed, it was after they became parents together that their marriage faltered and they grew apart. My goal is to stop that from happening, to catch men and women before the stressful consequences of being parents pulls them apart, and of course, to bind them together when there remains yet a thread of love between them.

    As new parents, you won't find themselves in every situation I outline in this book. Nor will you face conflict with every common change known by new parents. Perhaps you are among the fortune lot whose marriages remain unscathed after the birth of a baby. Maybe you have experienced the improvements in your marriage that various parents describe in this book, or with unabashed enthusiasm can proclaim, "Nothing has changed between us." Tell others! New parents need to hear encouraging words.

    If in reading this book you gain a new perspective that enhances understanding or communication or encourages cooperation in your marriage, or if you glean one suggestion that somehow helps you stay together when the baby may be pulling you apart, then I have accomplished what I set out to do.

  • What People are Saying About This

    Wade F. Horn
    If you want to childproof your marriage (and you should), buy this book. Filled with practical and insightful information, it is sure to strengthen any marriage following the birth of a baby. (Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., President, The National Fatherhood Initiative and coauthor of The Better Homes and Gardens New Father Book)
    Tom Prichard
    This book is a fun and practical guide very much needed by today's parents. Written with passion and clarity, After the Baby brings to light a dimension of family life seldom discussed-the challenges and struggles married couples face after childbirth. Rhonda understands that strong marriages and families are critical to the well-being of our children and society. This book will help strengthen many marriages and families, and will serve as an important resource to not only parents, but also counselors and health care professionals seeking to help new mothers and fathers. (Tom Prichard, President, Minnesota Family Council)
    David Walsh
    Clearly, children raised by two parents committed to a strong marriage enjoy a "jumpstart" on healthy psycho-social development. But such marriages don't just happen. They are built. Two key ingredients in the building process are commitment and good information. Rhonda Nordin's book, After the Baby: Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth is an important tool for new parents who want to build a stronger marriage and a healthy family.Nordin's book will fill a real need. So many young parents are taken by surprise when they encounter the predictable potholes in the road after childbirth. Nordin describes the "potholes", explains why they happen, and provides solutions so they don't knock the wheels off the marital wagon. America's children will be better off the stronger their families are. Rhonda Nordin's book will help that to become a reality. (Dr. David Walsh, author, parenting expert and President/Founder of The National Institute on Media and the Family)
    Sylvia Ann Hewlett
    After the Baby offers practical and readable advice, a valuable guide which should be essential reading for new parents. (Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President, National Parenting Association)

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    After the Baby: Making Sense of Marriage After Childbirth 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I think that this book great if you and your spouse don't meet eye to eye on things and their is no one you can turn to for help.