A baby changes everything: a woman who becomes a mother, a man who asks himself a thousand questions, the shopping list (longer), the nights (shorter)… Here are five ways to enjoy these first months with your baby without putting your married life on the back burner.
1. Don’t drown in your mother’s baby blues
This temporary state of depression occurs between the third and tenth day after birth with varying degrees of intensity. What causes baby blues? A hormonal upheaval and psychological factors. Becoming a mother is not easy, even if the child was intensely desired. The weeks following childbirth can be a difficult time for your couple.
What can you do to make the best of this time? Show your partner that you understand her, that you can be her support. Reassure her with your love and tenderness and help her to move on with finesse and subtlety.
If this discomfort continues beyond a few weeks, it is probably no longer baby blues, but postpartum depression, during which the young mother may not feel any emotion towards her newborn. You alone, no matter how loving and caring you are, will not be able to resolve the situation. Postpartum depression will require psychological treatment and even medication.
2. Admit your own concerns as a father and talk about them
Although the term “baby blues” is reserved for mothers, this does not prevent some young fathers from feeling depressed, anxious and a little lost after the birth of their child. After the congratulations and the moments of intense pride, the confrontation with reality is sometimes difficult and the effects on the couple are felt. Some even have the baby blues of fathers.
Being a father also means looking to the future, dealing with expenses, bad nights and accumulating fatigue. “Men can feel like their wives are slipping away from them. They may be afraid of the future, wanting to run away from their new responsibilities. They may also be struggling with self-doubt, especially since some are not quite settled in professional life,” notes Nicole Prieur, psychologist and psychoanalyst.
“Birth is the occasion of a profound identity upheaval,” the psychologist notes again. What is difficult, for each man or woman, is to pass from the couple to the family, to become father and mother of this child to be discovered, while remaining son and daughter of his parents and husband and wife in this new configuration. But, she adds, the difficulty for the father is that, unlike the mother’s baby blues, there are no words to explain his discomfort. Today, paternal models have been turned upside down and the father’s place has to be invented.”
To get out of this, the solution lies in the new parental duo. “It is up to the father and mother to help each other to consolidate their couple, put it back together and work to separate themselves from family models. Let’s remember that it is sometimes necessary to put grandparents at a distance if they tend to interfere too much”, adds the psychologist.
Couple specialists are clear: communication is essential! And when you’ve just experienced the earthquake that is the arrival of a child, it becomes vital… And not only to inform the other about the time of the next feeding or the drop in the stock of diapers.
3. Stop thinking that a father is useless during the first few months
Fathers are useless? Certainly not! “For a long time, psychoanalytical theories claimed that the father’s role only became important after a few months. Now, we know that the baby can be in a relationship with him very early and the importance of this early link has been demonstrated. The earlier we establish it, the easier and more natural this relationship is”, insists Nicole Prieur.
While mothers enjoy the dual relationship, the face-to-face relationship, fathers tend to orient the baby more towards others and make him more sociable, less afraid of the “stranger”. Studies have shown that newborns recognize their father’s voice as long as the father has spoken close enough to the mother’s womb. This bond can even be forged during pregnancy through prenatal techniques such as haptonomy.
“Everyone has a different place. Of course, the mother carries the child and the father is outside, but he is still there and has a role to play with the little one. By his presence, he will disrupt the fusion that exists between the mother and the child and this role of third party is essential to give the child another reference point and help him to build himself. He also has a role to play with his wife and not only to assist her”, emphasizes the psychologist.
What does the mother expect? She will appreciate being relieved of some of the housework, shopping, etc. You are very busy with your work? It’s time to surf the Internet to test out home shopping services. Above all, your partner will appreciate the initiative and not having to systematically ask for help. She will especially appreciate the fact that you are concerned about her well-being without her having to make lists! But what a woman also expects is to be reassured about the love you feel for her. A young mother has many doubts about her ability to seduce you!
4. Accept to be relegated to the background, temporarily
Before becoming parents, you and the mom may have spent a lot of time together, to the point of being each other’s priority. But now that the baby is here, your partner’s attentions are often focused on him. This situation is not exceptional, even if this degree of “fusion” varies a lot from one woman to another. Psychoanalysts speak of “primary maternal preoccupation” to designate this state where, for a few weeks, the mother is continuously in thought with the baby, which allows her to guess his expectations and to answer them. This set of symptoms, close to the state of love, probably explains in part the “jealousy” felt by some fathers.
The positive point? This maternal attitude is reassuring for the baby and beneficial for his future development. However, if you suffer from this, it is important to organize yourself to set aside a time each day to talk about something other than your child, about the two of you for example, and about your dreams, which are probably not limited to the baby. She reproaches you for not being interested enough in him? Reassure her by telling her that he is important to you, but that she is also important to you… Don’t hesitate to reserve moments of intimacy alone with your child. His mother must give you some space!
5. Put your sexuality on hold… but not your tenderness
In the weeks following the birth of a child, the mother’s libido often goes into a hibernation phase. Fear of being in pain, discomfort in this body still a bit foreign on which she often wears an unindulgent look. “During this period, a woman is especially turned towards her mother’s body and does not want to let it wake up”, explains Nicole Prieur. The “you never feel like it!” and the “you only think about it…” are not likely to help the situation. It is better to talk about what you feel. Because, if men often think that they have to make love to get along well, women tend to believe that they have to get along well to make love. It will probably be necessary, for some time, to find another way to show your love: tenderness, attentions… and especially patience.
It is also important for the personal balance of each one to do things for oneself… without deserting. It is also important that the mother can feel authorized to go out, see friends, go shopping (for her, not for the baby)… Don’t hesitate to suggest that she goes out alone and show her that she can count on you. “Often, when the mother starts to regain her female body, to lead a social life, to get closer to her colleagues, things get better”, explains Nicole Prieur.
However, if you think you’ve reached the alert level and the dialogue has broken down, couple therapy can help. It would be a shame to separate without trying to “repair”. The sessions allow you to confront your grudges, unspoken words and expectations in front of a benevolent third party. It is an opportunity for a couple to relearn how to talk to each other, to listen to each other and to “readjust”. The only condition: that each one really commits himself.