Sunday, 15 July 2012

How babies can bring a relationship to its knees

After 5 long years of trying for kids and IVF.  After more heartache and stress than I ever want to feel again, we found out that for us babies are like buses; you hang around for ages and then two turn up at once...thank God.
It’s an age old adage that “nothing prepares you for kids”, which is true.  And I had a lot of time to think about how our lives would change in those 5 years.   How would I cope with less sleep?  Would I love my babies?  Would I be able to tell them apart? (My biggest fear).  I received oodles of wanted and unwanted advice; “leave them to cry for a while”, The more they sleep, the more they want to sleep” and “a baby wipe warmer is a must” – I shit you not.
But what I didn’t see hurtling towards me was how babies have the power to bring your relationship to its knees.  They have an inbuilt ability to divide and conquer. 
My Story
So this is my honest story of the first year – keep with it, it’s gets better.
Like all new families we floated round on a cloud for the first few months.  Partly down to the whole falling-in-love-with-you-baby thing, but partly due to existing on as much sleep as a torture victim.  We were happy to get up to them at night, to indulge their every whim.  But the honeymoon ended about 3-4 months in, and the cracks started to show.
Sleep
Lack of sleep was the instigator.  I’d be existing on 4-5 hours of sleep a day, which after 4 months would make anyone cranky.  We started to get very competitive about sleep, trying to convince each other that we’d had the least sleep so the other should do the night feeds.  It became each man for himself.   We’d exaggerate, lie and bicker for hours about it, sometimes in the middle of the night.  When the crying would start we’d both lay there motionless,  pretending to sleep, seeing who’d cave in first .  I had totally perfected the asleep breath – slow and deep, still fools Anonoman now.  I started to go to bed as soon as Anonoman was home, just to catch up...and before I knew it months had gone by without a loving or friendly conversation.  Then I started to wonder what the hell I was getting out of this marriage?  Lack of sleep prevented me from seeing past crumbs left on the bread board and tops left off the toothpaste.  Getting increasingly angry and depressed.
Sex life
Then there’s the sex life.  It was like a visiting the creepy uncle - You do it once in a blue moon because you have to, but other wise you avoid it like the plague.  Tiredness is a major factor but to be honest I felt as though I gave my all to the girls and I didn’t have anything else to give.  I had nothing else left.  I called myself Mother Husk, just a shell.  I started to wear PJ’s as a sex-barrier, it was the clothing equivalent of a “Do not Enter” sign.  (Works a treat by the way).
Power Shift
The other issue that I didn’t see coming was how Anonoman would react to being the sole provider.  It felt like he’d regressed into a man living in the 1920’s.  He had to work, my job was the kids, and where was his dinner when he got home?  Because he was bringing the money home, It felt like he owned me in a way.  Something I was very uncomfortable with as I’ve always paid my own way.  I wouldn’t tell him if I’d treated myself to something, I felt guilty. 
My understanding, sharing husband seemed to disappear and I was left with an alpha male.  I started to feel undervalued and taken for granted.  I felt like my job as a mum was extremely important, but he couldn’t see it.  He just saw earning money and keeping us going as important.  We argued a lot, and grew apart.  I resented him being home at the weekends and messing up my routine.  I wanted him to take on 50% of the responsibility at the weekends but he wanted to relax, watch the football or mow the lawn...so I was left doing the usual stuff with the kids.  I didn’t get any time to kick back.  It got quite depressing and I’m ashamed to say I did fantasise a few times about divorce.
Grass is greener mirage
He started putting a lot of pressure on me to return to work from around 6 months, which I refused to do.  In one talk he confirmed my suspicions that he was jealous of me at home with the kids and seeing my friends for coffee.  Even though it was mostly hell and we’d hardly manage a conversation amongst the cries, demands and nappy changes.  So I started to lie a lot.  I’d either make my day was much worse than it was, or I just wouldn’t tell him if I’d done something nice.
We tried to go out once a month, just the two of us to reconnect, but all we did was talk about the kids, our future (which we differed one), or argue.  Since having the kids I’ve also dramatically reduced the amount I drink, whilst Anonoman has stayed the same.  Something else we used to enjoy together had disappeared.
Resolution
But luckily there is a positive ending to my story.  Around 2 months ago Itchy (18mth) started to sleep through the night (Scratchy – her twin, has on and off since 6 months), and its made such a difference.  I can happily get out of bed at 7am and I have lots more energy.   Also, the girls go to nursery one day a week which gives me a much needed break and some time to be myself.  Anonoman also understands now that because of the childcare fees (£2,000-£2500 p/m) it doesn’t make financial sense for me to work, and so accepts that I’m home with the kids for a while longer.   But lastly, I’ve started to do things for myself.  I went on a photography course and a jewellery making course, I’ve done a night class in Photoshop and now I’m writing this blog.  These things have helped me to remember who I was before kids.  I’m feeling more interesting, useful and confident.  Being a mum is great, but for me being just a mum was depressing, and having other interests has pressed my reboot button.  I finally feel like I did before we started trying for kids 7 years ago, and it’s a huge relief.
And as a result, I’m happier, more relaxed.  Our relationship has improved no end.  We haven’t argued in months, and we are making each other laugh again.  We’re staying up late just to chat like we used to.  It’s only coming out the other side that I can fully appreciate how hard that first year (or so) is.  Would we do it all over again?  Most definitely not, but there’s no account for Mother-Nature-Amnesia.

4 comments:

  1. I am going through precisely this at the moment. Our twins are 8 months old and we have a nearly 3 year old as well. I'm stuck at home, and my other half works all day and what you've written is exactly how I feel!

    I'm so glad that I'm not the only one. With no family close by it's hard to get that alone time you so desperately need, but slowly as the twins get older and the evenings are getting more settled, (still have a few nights a week where they don't settle until 11pm!), we're slowly re-connecting and enjoying each other's company more.

    Thank you for such an honest post!

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    1. Apologies for the delay in my reply.

      It's not easy is it? What you've got on your side is you've been though this once before so know it gets better. 8 months is a tough stage - teething right? I say head down and plough through until you're out the other side.

      All the best
      Ax

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