By Dr. Parie Baharian
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, you are probably seeing masses of sugary commercials—seemingly everywhere you turn—of couples being romantic with each other with lavish displays of affection. Now that you've had a baby together, it may seem like such a long time ago that you once had that time for one another, or felt that romantic connection.
With your little one needing your undivided attention and what seems like all of your time (not to mention sleep!), it may seem impossible to have any energy to give to one another.
It probably feels like the only time you communicate is to talk about the baby. Or worse, to argue because both of you are so frustrated, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed. (If a new mom is dealing with intense mood swings post-baby, please see below on what’s normal to expect.)
Everything has shifted. Many couples feel wistful for their old relationship, before children and have no idea how to reconnect with their partner or to get "back to the way it used to be". Therein lies the issue, it likely will not ever really be exactly the same. Don't despair! Instead, find a way to create a "new normal" with your partner, to reconnect and start rebuilding your romantic relationship, post-baby.
You might be asking, "How do I do this? I'm so tired, I haven't slept more than 2 hours a night for weeks, and even washing my hair feels like a victory! How in the world do I carve out time and muster up energy to give to my partner as well as my baby?"
Well, there is a simple solution. All you need to do is find ONE thing the two of you used to do together before baby, and find a way to recreate that at home, maybe when the baby is asleep. Perhaps you liked to watch a favorite TV show while eating frozen yogurt or indulging in some popcorn. Think of something you can do together—to recharge—instead of using more energy to think of grand date night ideas or how to spice up your sex life. All of that will come with time, as your baby gets older and becomes more independent. You will eventually feel more comfortable finding a sitter or loved one to watch your baby so you can get of the house.
If you are at that stage now, give yourself permission to have a night out together, and accept help that is given to you. If you can't even imagine leaving your infant alone, then some of these "at home date night" suggestions should be right up your alley.
Finding simple moments to reconnect is much more realistic and will take the pressure off. Right now the two of you are focused on taking care of your new baby, and that will take most of your resources, but this is temporary. Finding a new normal in your romantic relationship will take time. For now, focus on finding that one thing that both of you enjoy doing to help the pair of you feel more connected, to ignite that old spark once again.
Share your ideas
Chime in below with a comment with your best ideas for how to keep the spark alive in your relationship post-baby.
How do I know if the really intense mood swings I’m having are normal and not something else? My partner is worried about me.
This is an excellent question, and one we hear often. Over 80% of all new mothers deal with intense mood swings for about three weeks following the birth of their children because of their changing hormones. It’s important to understand that if the intensity of these mood swings are still lasting and you or your partner feel overwhelmingly anxious, having intense feelings of anger or irritability, having thoughts that scare you, or are experiencing endless sadness or tearfulness beyond three weeks, we suggest you seek professional guidance and support and/or see your doctor for a check-in, as this may be a sign of postpartum depression or anxiety. You and your partner are not alone. There is help and hope, and soon you’ll be able to carve out a happier “new normal” life post-baby.
Dr. Parie Baharian is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of California. She and Dr. Nicole Chavez co-run a clinical practice called OC Family Wellness Group that is located in Irvine, CA
OC Family Wellness Group loves hearing from couples who may have questions or concerns or who are in need of resources about postpartum life. Knowing when to seek help for yourself or your partner about postpartum issues is not always easy. We are here to help.