During our guest blog series, Jessi shared some candid thoughts in The Someday Scenario about preparing for a future life with children. It helped me revisit that same place in my journey before Daddy D and I decided to conceive. We all know that having a baby means life changes in every way possible. Over the years, I’ve heard the phrase, “you can’t fully understand until you experience it.” It used to be hard for me to accept this as an answer to, well, anything! I believe I’m competent and empathetic, so I sometimes took offense when others didn’t think I could comprehend an experience without living through it. I’ve learned that there is something to participating in life altering situations that helps me understand more than through explanation. It’s the first hand experience and emotions that affect everyone differently and teach us. It has nothing to do with a person’s competency or ability to relate and I have become a believer in this saying. I catch myself thinking or saying it more often than I’d like to admit these days.
For me, this phrase held truth and heavy meaning while earning my master’s degree because I did not understand the time and energy commitment this would require until I was working for it myself. It became even more real during my first birth experience and while becoming a new parent. Today, it still holds true concerning various aspects of my life. Three changes I’m sharing about today all tie to relationships before and after the birth of our first child.
My husband and I knew that we were in for the biggest change of our lives when we decided to become parents. The truth is, though, we didn’t fully understand what we were in for until it happened. People told us how different our relationship would be with each other, how our friendship would change drastically, and how there would be times that we wouldn’t recognize ourselves. Because of our longtime bond and strong relationship, we had a hard time believing it all until the experience was upon us.
For starters, we weren’t fully aware of how a lack of sleep and the stressful decisions we would have to make as parents would impact us as people. When we became responsible for another human being, the pressure we felt to make the right decisions was almost suffocating and our priorities and mindset did a 180. So naturally, when we changed as people, our marriage changed. Our relationship became strained at times and we seemed to become hypercritical of one another. The stress of our new life took a toll that we had to come to terms with and address, even though we weren’t fully ready for it.
Our relationship and marriage has always had a healthy physical component. There was something different about sex when we flipped the baby switch and decided to roll in the hay for the purpose of creating a new life. We, in fact, quite enjoyed this change in mindset and had a ton of fun with it. Our bedroom time had taken a turn for the “even better” and we loved it. Even though we still joke about how our son was conceived at my “30th Birthday Monster Mash,” we aren’t exactly sure when it happened because there was so much “making baby time” taking place! Additionally, sex for me during pregnancy was so euphoric that I’ll save the conversation topic for a post all it’s own.
However, after having our baby and recovering from a birth experience that didn’t go according to my plan, I started to view my body differently. I felt that it wasn’t my own and viewed it as damaged and undesirable. I wondered if my husband would ever want to touch my flabby body again or if he was as repulsed by my C-Section scar as I was at the time. (He often lovingly reassured me that he was still attracted to me.)
I also wondered if I would ever feel the same about my breasts, again. As a nursing mom I felt that my “girls” were about as attractive as a cow’s udders. I’m pretty sure there were times when I just felt like a cow! I was proud of our nursing experience and cherished the bond it created, but in no way did I feel sexual, sexy, or even remotely connected to anything sensual. There were days when I wondered if I ever would, again. This was surprising to me because I have always dreamed of having multiple children and I started to worry that I was developing into an asexual person. I was confident that conceiving future children wouldn’t happen if I remained a sexless human! Even though I still had those rational conversations with myself about how this was absurd, these were truly my emotions and feelings at the time.
Lastly, our friendships changed in a huge way. Our relationships with our single friends dwindled and our friends with children quickly became our closest allies. We weren’t hearing from some of the people we held so dear and it became hurtful. It felt like we were being counted out. Some of the responsibility lies with us because we did put our lives on hold as residents of a newborn household. We weren’t reaching out for friendship time as often as “normal,” either. However, we weren’t dead or incapable of socializing even though our single friends seemed to believe this. We weren’t ready for these changes to be as drastic as they ended up being. Again, we had to come to terms with relationships and people in ways we never imagined.
For me, the good news is that I now “fully understand it because I have experienced it.” I don’t share this in a boastful way, but in a state of surrender. I’ve worked hard on our marriage; as has my husband. He was patient and understanding during my “cow phase” and we are now returning to our sex life. It is different than in the past but just as satisfying and even more connecting. We have had frank discussions about the people we revere so highly but who no longer share in our lifestyle. We have changed and they have, too. Ties have been re-tied and they look and feel different. This is our new normal and as long as we stick together as a family, we have come to terms with the fact that life will never be the same, again.
It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just our new normal. We are grateful for our biggest supporters and best friends. We are humbled by the people who “stuck it out” with us while we were changing so much that we sometimes didn’t recognize ourselves. And, now we are back. The “girls” are back to being mine and serving a different purpose than milk production, our sex life is up and running again, and our friends are still our friends, even if our relationships have changed. For those of you preparing for your first rendition of parenthood, I lovingly share that “you can’t fully understand until you experience it” but you will learn through your own journey, survive it just the same, find your own normal, and share in these sentiments when the time is right for you.
*Featured image by Special Moments Photography.