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Life LinesNew Baby Stress
By David Arp Claudia Arp
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2003 David and Claudia Arp
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE TOUGHEST JOB YOU'LL EVER LOVE
Heather and Luke were deep in the throes of the early days with their new baby-and they were melting down.
"I never dreamed how much having a baby would change our relationship," Heather complained. "Everything is turned upside down. For instance, when I went back for my six-week postpartum checkup, the doctor told me we could resume sex as usual. Who was he kidding? Sex was the last thing on my mind-plus, at that moment my greatest fantasy was eight hours of uninterrupted sleep!"
"Well, that wasn't exactly my fantasy!" said Luke. "But Heather's right. Everything has changed. I feel disoriented, insecure, and frazzled. I'm exhausted, too. And I wish resuming sex was on Heather's radar screen.
"I want to help," Luke continued, "but I don't know what to do. I don't know anything about infants. I've forgotten what it was like to have uninterrupted time to talk, to dream together, and just to hang out. It's like having a new job with no previous training and with no inkling of what might be required."
We looked at Heather and Luke and smiled. They were new parents knee-deep in new baby stress, and they needed to learn how to pull together as a team. God created husbands and wives to be allies and teammates, not enemies. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 we read, "Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help." But when you're submerged in new baby stress, it's tough to see that and even tougher to make that teamwork happen. It takes time, work, and some wisdom to build a new life together. Together Luke and Heather can learn how to support and encourage one another in this most stressful time of life-and you can too!
WHEN PARTNERS BECOME PARENTS
Welcoming a new baby to your family is cause for celebration! This little one will bring you immeasurable joy in the years ahead. But he or she will also take much of your time and energy. Whether you become parents through birth or adoption, or even if you already have other children, the addition of a new baby introduces drastic lifestyle changes-especially in your marriage. How can you protect your relationship with your partner while experiencing the joy and hard work of parenting? Is it possible to survive the inevitable stress and fatigue that accompanies the birth of a new baby?
The challenges of becoming parents can be all-consuming, leaving parents little time to nurture their own relationship. Even if the marriage is strong and working well before children arrive, adjusting to a new baby adds stress and tension that can potentially tear a couple apart.
Marital researcher Dr. John Gottman, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, reports that most couples experience eight times more conflict in their marriage after having a baby than before the baby was born. Most couples have no idea what kind of conflict lies ahead when they bring home that precious child. Dr. Gottman also relates that with the arrival of the first child, marital satisfaction drops in 67 percent of marriages. In the United States, 75 percent of couples who separate or divorce have a child between the ages of two and three years-and many report that the relationship began to weaken when the first baby arrived.
So if you're finding the early days of parenting to be stressful, join the club! So do most couples. And if you're missing the relationship you used to have with your spouse, you're not alone. Studies on stress indicate that times of transition bring on the most pressure and tension. In their book Becoming Parents, marital researchers Pamela Jordan, Scott Stanley, and Howard Markman point out that becoming parents is considered the most significant of all life transitions. The arrival of that new baby or adopted child signals a new era in your life-one that comes with major changes in your responsibilities and relationships.
The addition of a child involves some subtraction as well. Spontaneity is a thing of the past. You can't go out to dinner or a movie on the spur of the moment, and running errands takes three times as long because you have to work around the baby's schedule. While the losses are well worth the trade-off, they are still losses-and it's natural for couples to deal with feelings of grief and sadness. Your old selves are gone-and so is your former lifestyle.
As you make this transition you can expect to have feelings of disenchantment and discomfort. During this time you may feel more vulnerable-and since your spouse is experiencing the same transition and feelings of loss or disenchantment, it's no wonder communicating suddenly becomes difficult. New baby stress affects your perspective, creating new feelings of protectiveness or defensiveness. Spouses may view each other in a more negative light than before this transition to parenting began.
Many new moms and dads move beyond feelings of loss to feelings of fear-fears that their relationship may never be the same, that they'll never figure out this parenting thing, that the stresses will be too much for them.
In the early days of your new baby's life, it's easy to focus on your new parenting role to the exclusion of your partner role. But if you continue to focus only on your baby, your partner is sure to feel neglected and unsatisfied. And that drop in marital satisfaction is serious business. Your marriage needs help and attention right now-at a time when you have little energy or attention to bring to it.
But don't despair. Trust us, it's possible to avoid this negative syndrome and keep your relationship strong when you become parents. Change in your relationship is inevitable, but change-well-managed, of course-can work for your relationship rather than against it. You can find immediate life support right here in these pages as we offer you a life line for protecting and preserving your relationship.
TOP FEARS OF NEW DADS Sex will never be as good again.
We'll never recover financially.
I'll lose all my guy friends.
My wife's hormones will never settle down.
My wife will never get back into shape.
I won't be a good dad.
Excerpted from Life Lines by David Arp Claudia Arp Copyright ©2003 by David and Claudia Arp. Excerpted by permission.
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