My husband and I were together for eight years before we had our son. Eight fun years of dates, vacations, lazy weekends watching Netflix, and eating popcorn. We were thrilled to start a family together, and simply could not wait to be parents. We loved talking about all the fun things we would do as a family, traditions we wanted to start, and what kind of parents we would be, but we never really talked about how having a baby would change our relationship.
We went from dreaming about being parents to being thrown right into the thick of parenthood. Our son was born six weeks early, which involved an emergency C-section and a 12 day NICU stay. I could not wait to get our son home from the hospital so we could finally be together as a family. We knew that bringing home a newborn would not be easy and that there would not be a lot of sleep involved - at least not for us.
We did not realize how much being a family would make us feel like we weren’t a couple anymore. There was no more time for a lazy Netflix binge, or to get dressed up to go out on a date to one of our favorite restaurants. There was a lot of crying, diaper changes, doctor visits, and very long nights. Our conversations that once focused on such dreamy things like baby names, nursery décor, and which stroller would work best for us were now replaced with conversations about reflux, breast pumps, the correct position for burping, and nipple cream (yes, nipple cream). If either of us got a break, it wasn’t together. “Can you watch the baby while I go take a shower?” “Can you hold the baby so I can eat?” Almost everything we did was separate, unless we were together as a family.
A few times we left the house to go on a “date,” but when you have a baby that doesn’t sleep, going out on a date is just another stressful activity. We would finally get to sit down together but felt we needed to hurry through our meal so we could get back in time for bedtime. We were so consumed with the stress of being new parents that we did not have much else to talk about besides our son. We were so exhausted from barely sleeping that we just sat across from one another at the dinner table feeling like strangers. What happened to us? What happened to the spark, the laughter, the closeness?
We are always a team in parenthood. It wasn’t just one of us up all night with our son, we did it together. We supported one another through this journey as much as we could. When I was up pumping or nursing, my husband would bring me a water. When he would be changing a diaper, I would open a new packet of wipes. We did everything together but felt so distant.
We made it to the six-month mark before we knew it was time for a change. We were both so tired and worried that we were all not getting the healthy amount of sleep we needed. We reached out to a sleep consultant, and by night three, our terrible sleeper was sleeping through the night.
Sleep training changed everything. We were now all getting the sleep we needed. Our son was on a consistent schedule. Scheduling appointments or date nights was no longer a stressful task. Our son went to bed every night at the same time, and now we had two hours to catch up with one another, watch a show, or enjoy dinner. Having someone else put our son to sleep at night was no longer impossible and allowed us to get out on a real date. I’m talking about a date where we both felt confident in our parenting. One where we did not feel guilty doing something just the two of us because we knew our son’s ultimate need of sleep was finally being met. It finally felt like we had a little more control over our life. We finally had us back.
Between having a one year old running around, managing your home, and running businesses, life gets a little crazy. Having a rock-solid schedule and getting the right amount sleep made everything else function more smoothly. We are more patient with each other, and also have the time to really listen to each other’s needs. Every morning, we wake up and start our day as a family, but every night we get to end the day as a couple. It is important to us that we keep our relationship strong for our son. We want him to grow up observing a healthy marriage, and something as simple as us all obtaining proper uninterrupted sleep has allowed us to achieve that. We are his foundation, and we believe that we need to be strong for him to grow and develop in a healthy, confident way.
The Cradle Coach