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    Keeping Your Relationship Healthy During Pregnancy and Parenthood

    Cynthia Nunn, RNC-OB Maternal Care Advisor at The Women's Hospital 06/12/2017

    During my first pregnancy, I remember being tired all the time. Like, all the time. So unbelievably tired! There were moments I literally thought I was a crazy person.
    People had warned us of the effects a newborn would have on our life. However, we couldn’t really see past the rose-colored glasses which displayed the perfect little family and the perfect little child. Sleep deprivation was not part of the image portrayed in our minds. Yet this became a huge reality that neither myself, nor Ryan (my husband) really knew how to handle.
    In the midst of all of the self-induced pressures weighing on a mother’s mind, (i.e. to be the best mom this universe has ever seen, healing from the experience of childbirth, getting baby on a schedule, and trying to achieve normalcy in some way) the tendency is to place marriage on cruise control. It is easy to focus your energy on the new, beautiful life at home. Shifting your focus off of your marriage is done with the best intentions, but it sometimes comes with a cost.
    The cost is losing a teammate. True health for mom, dad and baby comes when the marriage is healthy. “Commitment To One Another” or “Being a Family Unit” are said to be key indicators in family health. With that being said, too much focus on any one part of the family unit can decrease the sense of unity in the home.
    As you go through your pregnancy journey, here are a few things to keep in mind:
    Tell one another how you are feeling. If you are stressed, say it. If you want more help, ladies, just say it. I know you are thinking, “But he should know!” Guess what? He doesn’t.
    No-one has the ability to read your mind. The most helpful thing you can do for your spouse is to tell him exactly what you expect of him and make your needs clear. Men, hang tight. The craziness will subside sooner than you think.

    Have a Plan
    Ryan and I tend to work really well together as a team. I have strengths where he is weak, and vice versa. We have managed to work together to make it through 3 pregnancies - and whew it was rough! Did I mention earlier that I was a crazy person?
    Thankfully, he was kind and gracious and stayed for the long haul. Our strategic plan for conquering sleep deprivation was getting up with the baby every other night. The challenge for me was nursing, so it was more of a 60% to 40%. Ryan would get up and do everything for the baby except feed, obviously, and I would have the opportunity to rest between feedings. I lived for the nights when he would do everything except nurse! This was not something we got right every single time, but it provided structure for both of us to operate under and to manage our expectations of one another.

    Be a Team
    Ryan and I have been married almost 12 years, and I am convinced the only way we were able to make it this far is because we are committed to being a team. I’m not saying we bat 1000. However, there has always been a willingness to realize we are not doing this alone.
    In the midst of conflict with our spouse, the first thing we tend to do is place blame or seclude ourselves from each other. You may go to bed without a kiss or saying goodnight or maybe not call or text as much as you normally would—anything to make sure they know you are upset. We treat them as if they are the problem. However, in reality your spouse is not the problem. The source of the conflict is the problem.

    All Conflict is a Result of an Unmet Expectation

    Let’s say I am working late and expect that Ryan is going to handle dinner and make sure the house is in order. Instead, I walk into a house that smells like sweaty boys, I see a sink full of dishes, homework is not done and Ryan is on the couch taking a nap. In this scenario, I am going to be upset, like a red-headed (which I am) kind of upset.
    But why am I upset if I did not clearly communicate my expectations with him? As angry as I am, and although I may treat Ryan as if he is the problem in this situation, he is not. Again, the behavior is the problem.
    I am responsible for how I treat Ryan. My goal is to treat him as part of a team, trying to get through this life together, as a team, not enemies. Remember that pregnancy is a season of chaos, disagreement, discomfort, hormonal imbalance, and borderline craziness. The hardest thing to be is objective. If you communicate, have a plan, and commit to being on a team, conflict resolution can slowly become a part of your life that you no longer have to fear. Married life is hard….very hard. Be a team and work together!

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