Having a baby is such an amazing, terrifying, wonderful, life-changing, emotional roller-coaster event in a couple’s life. Every birth is a miracle – and something amazingly sacred and special. But, sometime between finding out that there’s going to be an addition to the family and that addition actually coming, there is a conversation every couple needs to have before baby arrives.
This conversation isn’t a harsh, one-sided, telling of what needs to change once the baby comes. It is an open dialogue between the parents of the baby. It also isn’t a one-time conversation. This conversation needs to happen many times, over the space of many days, weeks, months, and years, as the baby changes. This first conversation should be just that… the first conversation – not the only, or the last.
This conversation needs to be similar to the other conversations the couple has had – before they were a couple. Remember, those wonderful conversations about hopes and dreams that were shared? Remember those honest conversations about finances, career goals, and educational plans? Those conversations helped to establish a trust and expectation on which the relationship was based in the beginning. That same level of communication needs to be continued as the couple changes into a family. Both people involved in the growing situation need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings knowing that those thoughts and feelings will be respected.
The reason for all this emphasis on communication is that a new baby will change everything within the family dynamic. With the birth of the baby, the mother becomes very aware of how helpless the baby is and how dependent the baby is on her to live. With the birth of the baby, the father becomes very aware of how suddenly there are two people counting on him for protection and support. Something neither truly understands is how the baby is going to interfere with personal desires and time usage. Something neither truly understands is how much of being a parent isn’t what they thought it would be, no matter how many books and advice columns have been read.
Parenting is a wild ride.
One where time goes so slowly – and yet slips by. It is full of opposites—the best day can become the worst day in a blink of an eye. Sometimes the silliest thing (a dropped spoon, a missing toy) can cause the greatest amount of frustration. And, parenting can feel so lonely, while at the same time leave the parents overwhelmed with how many people are wanting attention at the same time.
Parenting is also full of the most exquisite joy imaginable. The first time the baby smiles melts hearts. When two siblings take time to care for each other brings the warmest feeling. Kissing the children, as they slumber, evokes angelic images.
And, for a different length of time after each baby, these emotions can all happen within the space of 30 minutes – leaving both parents exhausted and confused.
That’s where talking to each other becomes a life preserver.
Talking about all these emotions, listening to each other’s perception of the experience that is being shared – these skills are what will keep the relationship strong. Babies, mommies, and daddies need strong relationships in order to thrive in the new family. Feeling safe to communicate the darkest feelings, silliest desires, or happiest moments creates strong families that will withstand all the difficulties that might come their way.
One of the best way to keep families strong and family members feeling safe is to make sure to give the other person the opportunity to “fix” whatever they might have done “wrong”. Respecting the other person, offering forgiveness, and the benefit of the doubt do a whole lot more for solving irritations than venting to a friend, a parent, or an online forum. And, it shows the person that they are special and safe. It’s very hard to share deep feelings if there’s a fear that those feelings will be mocked on-line, or elsewhere.
So, the conversation every couple needs to have before the baby comes isn’t really a list of questions to ask and answer, but more an attitude of listening and speaking in open ways about needs, desires, fears, and hopes. It’s a conversation that happens, as often as is needed, by either parent, about any subject – and it should start long before the baby arrives.