with Social Worker and Psychotherapist Kameela Osman
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN
- Struggles In Our Relationship During The Postpartum Period
- Changes In Physical Intimacy
- Partners Also Struggle With The Transition (PPD In Partner, Trauma From Birth, ETC)
- Caring For Our Relationship During Postpartum
Have you ever noticed every fairytale or romantic comedy ends right after the wedding? Disney didn’t show Belle or Jasmine with their 2.5 kids, because the adjustment to parenthood isn’t glamorous. New babies are snuggly and adorable, but they’re also a lot of work. Everyone tells us we need to babyproof our house, but no one tells us we need to babyproof our relationship. Or where do we even start to do that? Happy as a Mother Wellness Therapist Kameela Osman is a social worker and psychotherapist with over ten years of experience, and she’s here to help us babyproof our relationship.
Struggles In Our Relationship During The Postpartum Period
Completely babyproofing our relationship might not be realistic, but babies do impact the happiness of a relationship for a while. “It’s a 60% decline in a healthy relationship,” Kameela said.
Before we had kids, my partner and I would say things like, “Oh, I want a baby,” but we had no idea what we were throwing ourselves into. Adding a baby to the mix was hard on our relationship, and we have a really strong foundation. I can see if there were already cracks in that foundation before the baby came, it could have divided us.
“It’s really easy to slip into thinking the grass is greener on the other side,” Kameela said. It’s easy to think I’m feeding the baby, changing the diapers, and driving to the doctor’s appointments. What are you doing? “I remember one of my pet peeves was my partner mowing the lawn. You get that hour outside and I’m inside with baby,” she said.
A lot of times we may feel unseen or unheard by our partner, because it can feel like a lot of the work of caring for baby falls on Mom. That can lead to resentment. It’s really easy to be angry, hurt, or resentful that your partner keeps their individual role, and their life doesn’t change much while you’re isolated at home caring for a newborn.
“One of the things I talk to couples about frequently is the use of affirmations,” Kameela said. We can use affirmations for our relationship the same way we use them for our individual mental health. Remind yourself of the things you like about your partner. If you have a negative thought try to follow it up with a positive one.
But it’s important to point out, you’re not talking about trying to convince yourself that an unhealthy relationship is healthy. Affirmations are a tool we can use when the logical part of our mind knows our partner contributes to the relationship, and the emotional part is ready to kick them to the curb. “It’s not your relationship. It’s not your partner. It’s just this hard,” Kameela said.
The idea of glasses or lenses can also be helpful. Am I seeing my partner through the lens of exhaustion right now? Am I seeing my partner through frustration after I’ve dealt with screaming kids for twelve hours?
Changes In Physical Intimacy
Taking care of a newborn is a physically and emotionally draining season of life. It will be exhausting and just plain hard, but it won’t last forever. If you feel like you need some extra help preparing yourself for it, I’ve put together a free postpartum checklist.
We go through hormonal changes after delivery and during breastfeeding that can impact our sexual desire. We may just have a lack of desire, and some women experience guilt because it’s something that their partner wants and isn’t getting. Or it may feel like a chore rather than something you can enjoy. Sex after having a baby can also hurt.
Being “touched out” and feeling like you’ve been jostled around too much, and you just want to be left alone can be a problem too. It’s hard to get in the mood for physical intimacy or even show affection when you feel little hands have been clinging to your body all day.
“When we’re not connected, it’s really hard to communicate,” Kameela said. “It’s really hard for communication to go well.” Are we believing our own intentions more than what our partner is saying?
When communication becomes a struggle, we may also make assumptions about why they said or did something, and we may find our assumptions easier to believe than anything their explanation for why they said or did something. But for the benefit of our relationship, we really need to try to accept their reasoning and give them the benefit of the doubt.
When I find myself believing my assumptions over my partner’s words, I try to become curious about it. Through the years, I’ve learned that if I’m overly irritated with my partner, and not much about his behaviour has changed this could be an indication of my mood or anxiety level.
This won’t be the case for everyone, but checking in with yourself can be really helpful. Have you had a bad morning with the kids? If it’s noon and you haven’t had breakfast yet, it can be frustrating that your partner gets to have a bagel on his commute. By becoming curious and checking in, you might find an unmet need, and once you find it, you can fix it.
Partners Also Struggle With The Transition (PPD In Partner, Trauma From Birth, ETC)
1 in 5 moms will experience some sort of postpartum mood disorder like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. “In the pandemic that has multiplied,” Kameela pointed out. But if we’re experiencing something, our partner is too in their own way.
When we experience birth trauma, our partner watches us and the baby go through it. We have moms who are under-supported, but it’s often not even acknowledged that our partner needs support.
And if your partner is also having a hard time adjusting to parenthood, they may start to pull away from you. But if you’re already struggling and under-supported when your partner pulls away from you, it can feel like you’re losing what support you do have which just further fuels the resentment. It can become a cycle.
Couples counseling during the postpartum period can be really beneficial for mom, but really helps both partners. Kameela and I both provide this kind of support, so if you need help, reach out to the Happy as a Mother Wellness Center.
If you’re willing to do the work, you can build joint dreams and support each other in individual dreams. Your love can become stronger and richer, but not without conscious effort.
This also takes a safe, secure attachment. If our relationship has already been fractured or there are fissures in the foundation of our relationship, we can’t work on deepening our relationship. We’re working to repair the fractures.
Caring For Our Relationship During Postpartum
“How are we going to adjust?” Kameela asked. “Don’t set unrealistic expectations.” When you have a newborn, date night might be an unrealistic expectation.
We can get caught in the trap of every conversation being about the logistics of taking care of kids and a household. But make quality time together. Talking out the logistics is necessary, but you should also be able to enjoy the relationship.
When our partner takes things on, it can feel like we’re losing our support during postpartum, both emotionally and just the extra set of hands. “It certainly does come up. It’s often a side business or something else, or commitment to parents. I think it comes back to that communication piece,” Kameela explained.
If you or your partner are still struggling to adjust to parenthood, reach out. Help is available at the Happy as a Mother Wellness Center.
Kameela is a social worker and psychotherapist with over 10 years of experience supporting mental, emotional, and relational wellness. She’s a mom of 2, passionate about supporting other moms and couples. Her own personal experiences in pregnancy and postpartum inspired her to become Perinatal Mental Health Certified (PMH-C). She additionally enjoys supporting couples and is trained in Level 1 and 2 of the Gottman Method Couples Therapy.