I had forgotten about the curveball/ grenade a baby throws into your relationship until I read an article on it recently. It completely changes how you both feel about each other and the manner in which you deal with these feelings will ensure your survival or destruction as a couple. I was completely unprepared for how much I would dislike my husband after baby number 1 as he would me but let me back the story up a bit..
My pregnancy on Conall was as lovely as expecting your first baby can be; I would stroke my belly while smiling up at Ossie as he caressed my hair and kissed my head lovingly. We walked everywhere (no car at the time) holding hands and imagining what our little man would be like. “I’ll be happy if he has your nose” I’d say and he’d reply “I’ll be happy if he has your lips”… We’d then laugh at the possibility of him having my teeth and his ears.
At night we’d look in the empty moses basket longingly, willing the weeks to pass.
It didn’t happen like in the movies; For a few nights in a row, I’d get up to pee and as I’d make my way back to bed I’d feel a trickle down my leg and think ffs and go get a pad and do a baby wipe job on the undercarriage. I began googling and thought it could be my waters so I went to my GP who gave me a little pee container and said if I could catch some that that would be my ticket to the labour ward. That night I managed to catch some and I did the smell test… it smelt sweet, bingo! I was starting to get some light contractions so off we went.
I was in very early labour but the magic vial of amniotic fluid ensured my stay and Ossie was fantastic walking me the length and breadth of Holles Street to make things move faster and he let me gouge his arms with my fingers when a bad contraction took hold. His face was pressed to mine in the final stages as he told me to push push… “I can’t I answered, I’m going into the light.” (It was BAD)
When Conall was put into my arms, I smiled at Ossie and I had never loved him more… “he has your nose” “and your lips” he answered with tears pouring down his face. We noticed his ears then and laughed.
We were living with my parents and the segway into parenting was not so smooth. I had adopted a uniform of giant nursing bra, disposable pants and an oversized nightdress. I had gone from glowing and “all bump” to a saggy, leaking mess. Conall would not latch and my nipples were cracked and scabbing and I was getting little or no sleep. The moses basket was still pristine as our angry man had made his way between us. Then I contracted a kidney infection that spiked my temperature and had me shivering and in pain for a week. There was an ugly moment where Ossie tried to strip me of my fleece dressing gown and blanket and threatened a cold shower to bring my temperature down; I turned my pleading eyes to my parents who were putty in my hands and a row broke out with Ossie storming off and me agreeing to remove the dressing gown. I started to resent his light snoring at night and prodded him to wake when Conall cried even though he couldn’t feed the baby and had work the next day. I was insanely jealous that his life continued more or less the same while I had this screaming dependant that wouldn’t let me shower and I felt broken inside and out. I found myself narrowing my eyes and searching for “mistakes” Ossie had made so I could point them out and say “see, see you’re useless” (implied and not said). They were tough times and I began to plan my life as a single parent and I’m sure he did too although he would never dare admit it.
It was only when a couple of months later I was on the phone to a friend, Michelle who asked “well have you noticed how useless men are yet?” and I almost fainted… yes, yes! I’m not proud it was a phonecall full of misandry (it’s a word) and husband-bashing at it’s worst but it was cathartic and she recommended a book on how to babyproof your marriage. I bought it the following day and read it cover to cover. It’s hilarious and includes real stories and I came to the realisation that this is a thing. I’m sure some of you didn’t experience it and were blissfully happy but many women I talk to agree. Having a baby is HUGE… it changes your perception of the world and those around you. You realise quickly which friends will offer practical support and advice and which ones are pissed off that you’re not their drinking buddy anymore.
The romantic world that you built the foundation of your relationship is stripped away and he has seen you at your worst/best with your vag in tatters and your boobs leaking. You now pee in front of each other as opportunities to use the bathroom are not as easy (I draw the line at pooing, never, ever do I want to see his poo-face). Sex is off the cards for a minimum of 6 weeks and new ways of intimacy have to be initiated. I remember telling my mother that Ossie was in a bad mood and she asked “have you had the other yet?” (her euphemism has always been the other) and I said “no”. She told me that it would be a good idea to keep him sweet and that there was “more than one way to skin a cat”. I will never forget those words…. they haunt my nightmares but she had a point.
Communication is the key… he kept asking me what I wanted and I would answer “nothing” and cry… (I still do this) but I should have told him I wanted him to tell me I was doing a good job, I wanted him to hold me and tell me he loved me and that I was still the same sex bomb I had always been to him. In hindsight he probably wanted these things too but we sat side by side and watched TV in bloody-minded silence while Conall fed oblivious to the chaos he had caused.
I baby-proofed our marriage when the next two came along simply because we talked about it and knew what to expect. It isn’t a fairy-tale, it is bloody hard but if you survive it together you have a strong foundation to lead you through the minefield of raising children.