And Then There Were Three. Life After Baby.
“Why don’t black couples last after having a baby?” This was a question posed on Facebook followed by, #Opendiscussion. As I read this post a few things came to mind. First, why do we perpetuate black stereotypes on such a large platform?. Secondly, has open dialogue regarding the shift that occurs post the birth of a child become so taboo? Has social media’s role in the way it romanticizes parenthood forced us to become so naive? Lastly, but definitely not least, what does this mean for couples who find themselves struggling to hold their relationships together, where do they find a source of comfort if this stigma exists? Let me be absolutely transparent in saying my partner and I struggled significantly after the birth of our son. Today we are still trying to make sense of it. Parenthood in itself is rewarding but it is also difficult. To date, being a mother is the hardest thing I have ever done. When you combine that with a slew of other roles and responsibilities, including being a partner, some days you will find yourself operating solely off of prayer and a wish.
Maintaining a relationship after having a baby calls for a heightened level of intentionality in regard to your presence and behaviors in your relationship. A family, although not seen in this way by most people, is a system. As such, each family functions from its own set of rules, patterns, and behaviors; which ideally helps to maintain balance and stability. Therefore, the period after childbirth can in some ways create dysfunction thus forcing the family system to adapt by creating new rules, patterns, and behaviors to fit its new structure. For couples, this may look like scheduling date nights…like literally pulling your calendar out and personally writing down a date and time that you and your partner will go out rather than operating solely from spontaneity. Instead of the usual dinner at your favorite restaurant followed by a movie, a home-cooked meal at "Su Casa" followed by whatever is trending at the time on Netflix becomes the new normal. It may also mean that household roles and responsibilities change. This is a huge one in my family, if mom was the household chef, Dad may need to brush up on his cooking skills, or in our case, his grilling skills and begin to share that responsibility with mom a few days out of the week. Additionally, with more of your time centered around meeting the needs of your new bundle of joy that leaves less time for things such as intimacy or "me time". Lana Bangs, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist stated, “One way for couples to ensure that lack of sex doesn’t become permanent is to intentionally make the romantic relationship a priority.” There goes that word again. It’s all about being intentional and purposeful in your relationship. The same can be said regarding self-care. It is imperative that you create time in your busy schedule to take care of yourself. However, the reality is, these things are easier said than done. As a result, this can become an added strain on the romantic relationship thereby creating a wedge between the couple.
I would like to take this time to highlight two things: 1) this is just a small snapshot of how the birth of a baby can impact intimate relationships, and 2) although the shift from a two-person household to now a three-person household can be drastic in some ways, it is absolutely possible to create and sustain a healthy relationship that fits your new norm. In my professional opinion, some couples happen to struggle more than others with creating that level of balance or stability that their new relationship requires. Ultimately, this may lead to the termination of the relationship. Nonetheless, it is important to note that this is not a race-specific issue but rather something that we go through as human beings. As with most difficult things in life, adequate support and healthy dialogue on a societal level can make a huge difference.
Listed below are some of my favorite books for couples that I’ve found to be helpful not only in my professional life but also in my personal life. As always please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or concerns regarding this or any other topic. -The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman
-The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman PhD
-The Love Challenge: 30 Days, 30 Ways To Increase The Love In Your Relationship by Melissa Dumaz LMFT
*Please note, the information provided in this post was specific to both my personal experience in my own relationship, and my professional experience while working with couples who are in committed relationships. Circumstance may be different for individuals who were not in a relationship at the time of childbirth.