The couple have been travelling along quite well, attending to each other’s needs, having regular dates, keeping house to at least a semi ordered standard, perhaps both are working and enjoying the contact with colleagues and friends which this provides. If they both want to lie in bed on weekends to recover from the busy week, this is fine. If they want to head out for a long swim, or a join in a 40 km walk, or head off towards a hobby, these things are manageable. (Though if this is not a realistic picture of your relationship, don’t stress: most couples take decades to negotiate these things successfully!)
But when children come along life is different. While it is usually filled with delight in the new life, it also involves many losses. The most obvious one of these is freedom. Another one is the loss experienced by the fulltime caregiver having to forgo work. While this may have been a welcome relief for some, for others it can result in loneliness and it may take some time to adjust. Mothers often take on the first part of the care giving, as breast feeding is all encompassing.
This then leads to another often neglected change. Men experience loss at having to give up their central place in the woman’s life as the baby now comes first for her attention. Men should not feel that this is inappropriate but, rather, that it is a time of adjustment which can best be handled by communicating needs openly and taking into consideration at the same time all the extra drains on the woman’s body and emotional world. Considerate care for each other at this time makes the transition so much more complete.
Sex life changes, particularly in quantity. Socialising changes as the couple adapt to the baby’s need for routine and to the changing conversations around children. Financial concerns may become sharper. Division of labour often needs to be renegotiated. When one partner stays at home with the baby/children, this does not necessarily mean they then have time to do all the housework and meal preparation.
One more important aspect of this milestone in the couple’s life is the possibility that the birth itself may have involved trauma. This usually requires careful attention if it is not to cause relationship and maybe even mental health problems later. Keep in mind that, although the trauma may have happened to the woman, the man may be at least as traumatised – but in a different way.
All these changes are normal and natural. Just because other couples are not verbalising their difficulties, does not mean there is something wrong in your relationship if you are experiencing stress at this time. It can be very helpful to access counselling to sort things through at this stage.