Becoming a parent is a major life event. But what happens to couples and lovers when they become parents?
In an ideal world, these two worlds will mix and become one. However, making this happen amongst the craziness of life with a newborn can be tough. Today we will learn some tips on how to succeed and why it’s important from Sammy Strasser.
Sammy is a certified coach, couple and family therapist. She is the mom of 18 year old twins, and lived in Los Angeles for five years before returning to Berlin in 2020. As a couple and family therapist she helps individuals, couples and families with all different kinds of challenges.
Can you tell us more about how a relationship changes when a new baby enters the world? You talk about staying lovers when becoming parents. Why is this so important?
With the first baby, life how you knew will never be the same.
Things will change, you will be three instead of two.
And I can tell you, it can be challenging, but also wonderful and filled with joy.
This is a major time in your life that can be very easy, but of course you never know. Your new baby can have problems adjusting with nursing, or sleeping. That’s something you should be prepared for.
With every baby that enters your family, things will change.
The first baby is the one who will teach you the most about the change to your relationship as a couple.
Your life as a family will be very different. For example, your morning routine is different than before you had your baby. You might not have time to talk with each other in the morning, but it helps to stay connected while you are not together. You can still text, and send each other pictures. It feels good to feel the presence of your significant other.
Of course sometimes you have the urge to do your own thing, and it's important for both you and your partner to respect that.
With all that said, it would be good to maintain some form of “us time”, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes, while talking before going to bed. Try to make it fun…tell each other all the things you would do to each other, if you weren’t so tired… and who knows what could unravel while you fantasize.
I think it is crucial to keep the feeling of love and intimacy. Even when your new family member has other plans, for example waking up every time you start to be intimate with each other. In the little time that you have, try to compliment your significant other. Tell them how patient they are. Tell them how good they are with the new situation.
It is proven that compliments bring lovers together.
Try to be patient, especially when fighting. Stay calm, even while you fight, and try to express your feelings in a gracious way. Show your love, with hugs, kisses, notes... Of course you’ll have disagreements, but try your best to discuss them calmly. If you can’t stay calm, go to another room and take some deep breaths.
What are some of the ways that couples can prepare for this major change before their baby is born? Also, what is your recommendation for dividing parenting responsibilities?
It makes sense for couples to equally divide parenting responsibilities. It's important to keep this in mind, especially in the first 6 weeks after childbirth.
Ideally, both parents are involved with the newborn for at least the first couple of months. While mom is recovering from birth, her partner has an opportunity to shine. They can do everything needed, besides breastfeeding.
Also think about what other support you can line up for when the baby is born: Do you have the (financial) means for help? Is family around to support you?
Most of the families living in Berlin are not from Berlin (or even from outside of the country), so most of them have to hustle to get help.
Check out our article on postpartum support for new parents in Berlin, which includes low- and no-cost options as well.
How can couples navigate each of their needs and boundaries when it comes to sex in the first months or even first years of the child’s life?
In the first six months it is advised to have your baby in your room. That is also the time for you to be intimate with each other.
Regarding sex in the bedroom, this not a problem. If you want to be intimate with each other, make sure your baby is secure in a baby bed, or crib. Until the age of two, the baby won't know what is happening.
What is the importance of sex in a relationship before and after the baby is born?
Sex is that one thing that distinguishes the love a couple experiences from the love felt between relatives or friends.
As we have to adjust to the new situation, we should be patient, especially with the mom who has to recover from birth – no matter whether she she had a cesarean or spontaneous birth.
Take your time with intimacy. It doesn't matter if it's the first baby or the third that comes into your family.
The whole family has to grow, not only physically, but also psychologically.
And yes, after six weeks usually things will come together, and fun time is back on the horizon.
Anything else that expecting and new parents need to know?
Yes, you have to be patient, with yourself, your kid, or kids, and your significant other.
Yes, being parents means plenty of joy, laughter, and lots of miracles.
The journey with kids is very beautiful, and magical, but it will force you to grow!
Here's an intervention for you that you can use any time:
Every time you have the urge to scream or insult someone – pause and count to twenty.
Also, learn the 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise. Believe me, you’re going to need it.
Rest in place somewhere, sitting, standing, or laying down, and make yourself aware of your surroundings. In your head, name:
4 things that you can see (for example, the window, my hand, my coffee)
3 things that you can hear (a drop of water, my baby playing)
2 things that you feel (my hands in my lap)
And 1 thing that you smell.
This intervention will help you deal with things.
Thanks Sammy, for all your insights!