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'We swore we'd never be the couple who talked about baby poo all the time, and yet...'

Navigating the new ‘us’ with a baby in tow can be tricky. Here’s how Joanna Carley is making it work.

THEY SAY NOTHING can prepare you for the arrival of a baby, and whoever ‘they’ are, they’re absolutely right.

Sleepless nights, lost hobbies, no alone time, the list goes on. Your view of your own personal space drastically changes, but that’s not the only thing a new baby affects. 

I was prepared for the sleepless nights. I was prepared for breastfeeding to be nothing like the serene brochures you see in hospital waiting areas. I was prepared for all of the things you give up, including in my case, my career.

But nothing can quite prepare you for the unique combination of feelings you go through when you’re rocking a screaming baby, covered in puke at 2am, boobs hard as rocks, while your partner sleeps soundly beside you.

That’s not always the nightly situation, of course, but having a baby most definitely makes you reconsider the roles each of you plays in the relationship. I wasn’t prepared for that. 

I know I’m not alone. It’s widely known that many couples feel the quality of their union hits the floor in the first few years of a baby’s arrival.

And baby makes three

When our daughter, Tess, was about six weeks old, we had a particularly rough day. My husband Michael came home from work and I burst into tears. So did Tess. As much as I needed a hug, I wanted him to comfort her rather than me. At that moment, I knew our relationship would never be the same. It wasn’t about just the two of us anymore.

Thanks to my mother, I recognised early on that our relationship could benefit from a little extra attention. My mother was a marriage counsellor and spent her time helping couples maintain their relationships, so I knew from her experience that a marriage after baby sometimes needs a little extra work. 

shutterstock_489558292 Source: Shutterstock/photo4passion.at

She explained the concept of ‘love languages’ to me: five categories that describe what you need most from your partner. They range from expressing love with words, to acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time or physical touch. The theory of love languages is that your partner should make a conscious effort to recognise yours – even if it isn’t their love language – and vice versa.

In the depths of babyland, these small acts have helped us navigate the new ‘us’. They are achievable, realistic and quick. If you’re rolling your eyes and thinking this isn’t for you, think again. Even if you’re not into romance and big soppy acts, these can work for you, too.

Yes, you could plan grand gestures and offer bouquets, but something as small as getting the peanut butter your partner likes when you do the shopping (for those who respond well to gifts) or giving them a hug when they seem particularly tired (for those who crave physical touch) can have a huge impact on your relationship.

These little gestures helped us get through the hard moments over the past twelve months. Without a doubt, my love language is acts of service, so one simple thing that Michael does is to make sure there is always petrol in the car. This may seem small, but not having to worry about taking Tess in and out of the car seat at a garage means the world!

We’ve found a few other tricks that have strengthened our bond while we’re adjusting to our new roles as parents…

1. Make time together, even if it seems takes effort

Since having a baby, the days of a 5pm text saying ‘Fancy going to the cinema after work?’ are gone. Going for a meal now requires military precision, a boot-load of baby paraphernalia and offloading the little lady on any willing family members. 

Then there’s a lot of clock-watching and a number of ‘Is she ok?’ texts. We sit opposite each other, trying really hard to talk about anything not to do with Tess… and then we end up looking at pictures of her within a few minutes. A takeaway at home would be easier, but we feel it’s important to make the effort to go out. It can feel like a lot of faff to achieve, but even if it’s just once a month and we end up looking at pictures of the baby, it’s important. 

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shutterstock_1023850765 Source: Shutterstock/Shift Drive

2. Maintain communication about things other than the baby

We swore we wouldn’t be that couple that talked about baby poo all the time. Oh, how naive we were! But rather than fighting the change in our texts after Tess arrived, we embraced it and even created a system of texting the poo emoji to each other so we could keep track of things in the early days. 

Our life won’t always be about nappy changes and baby wipes, but for now, it is, and we’re rolling with it. For every mundane text about nappy contents or shopping lists, there’s an equal number of texts reminding each other that we’re doing a great job. Sometimes a Ryan Gosling kiss gif is all there is time for, but it’s all you need. 

3. Take turns getting a lie-in

We often reminisce about how many sleep opportunities we wasted pre-baby. Public service announcement: if you don’t have kids, never leave your bed before noon unless you absolutely have to! Even if your baby is a sleeper at night, romantic lie-ins will not exist anymore. 

However, you’ll never love your partner more than the moment they say, “Go back to sleep, I’ll bring the baby downstairs.” That’s true love! We take it in turns to get up with Tess at the weekend and it has really helped. Just knowing there is an hour of sleep coming your way is pure heaven! 

While these tips might not hold all the keys to marital bliss, they’ve helped us in the first year of parenthood – and hopefully they’ll help someone else, too. 

More: ‘There’s a different in-law here every week’: 7 working parents share what they do for childcare>

About the author:

Joanna Carley

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