Week 22: Marriage While Pregnant

Where there is love there is life.
— Mahatma Gandhi
 

Research suggests that relationships hit the rocks once kids are in the picture. Is this an inevitable fact or has it just become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

 

Years ago, back when Heidi Klum and Seal were still a thing, I know I read somewhere, in a magazine or online article, an interview where Seal made a point to say that his wife comes before his children. Something like that. At the time, I thought it was a novel idea. He elaborated a bit, probably about how ultimately, putting wife first ends up benefiting the whole family, versus the common tendency to put children first and spouse, second or third or fourth…

I can’t for the life of me find this quote or interview online anymore, but I know it must be there somewhere [update: still haven’t found it…Millennial Question: if it’s not searchable on Google, does it exist?]. Unfortunately, it’s probably been relegated to page 80 or so of the Google search, and the top results with regards to Heidi Klum and Seal have to do with their subsequent divorce, accusations of violent tempers and adultery, and the truth about their yearly vow renewals. So, you know, maybe I should take his advice with a grain of salt.

 Image Source: pbs.com

Image Source: pbs.com

Since we’re talking about [taking advice from celebrities] analyzing celebrity sound bites to form a larger debate about our society, let’s throw Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively into the mix. I was filling my gas at an ARCO, which is the only time I am exposed to Late Night Talk Shows, and saw a bit where Ryan Reynolds was being interviewed by….maybe Jimmy Fallon? [update: it was David Letterman]. In the interview, he says that he would throw his wife in front of a bomb to protect his child. This is a pretty stark contrast to Seal’s POV. Being a bit cheeky is Reynold’s shtick so he wouldn’t pull the macho man route and say he would throw himself in front of the bomb. But still, as extreme a statement as it was, it does seem to be the norm among most parents I hear from – they would die for their children, their partners, not so much by comparison.

My 22nd week of pregnancy is when we’ve begun interviewing doulas. The process is painful – it involves scheduling people you don’t know to come into your home, to talk about things you aren’t quite sure about yourself yet, ask questions you aren’t sure are relevant. Having to schedule interviews during my free time was equally painful. And then, as we had to add more and more people to interview, it became dauntingly painful.

Why get a doula in the first place? Admittedly, I hadn’t quite answered that question for myself even during these interviews. My husband was a trouper through the interviews, but he pretty much put the decision-making on me, since I was the one who needed to feel most comfortable with doula (cop out, I know).

During one doula interview, the doula made some analogy using water ripples to describe the importance of a partner with regards to child birth. I will not even attempt to be eloquent and replicate what she said. It sounded good. The gist was that our partners are the closest ripple, because they are the most intimately involved with us. Doula is further out, but is still encasing the center, supporting the center. 

Now that I think about it, she may have used tree rings as the analogy…

Between the whole Seal quote and the prospective doula’s analogy, I’ve been feeling a lot of love your partner vibes this week. As my emotions fluctuate, one pressing fear has surfaced and that is the possibility that the relationship my husband and I have, and have had since we’ve been together the past seven years, will change for the worse after becoming parents. 

Research affirms this fear, which makes it hard to ignore. And then you have to wonder, is this awareness, that on average, a couples’ relationship suffers once kids come along, a self-fulfilling prophecy? How many times are soon-to-be parents warned to enjoy each other now because that ends after kids? Is that fair to impose on another couple based on personal experiences?

Eventually, the findings become more optimistic, showing that marriages can improve when children leave home. But that also has a contingency, if the couple has maintained some common interests, relationship improves. If not, they often realize they have grown apart.

I don’t like feeling resigned to statistics (who does?), and the proactive side of me wants to find ways to combat this as much as possible. What can someone, who is married and about to bring a child into the home learn from this? Well, though easier said than done, it seems effort is the best way to make sure things don’t change for the worse. They will change, ultimately, but change doesn’t necessarily mean deterioration. It also doesn’t guarantee everlasting joy in the relationship either.

Already in our relationship, my husband and I enjoy being home, taking our time making a meal together and revel in the quietness and peace that can bring. We sit outside with the dog, and chat casually, eating at our own pace, doing our best not to rush on to the next “task.” We do occasionally get the itch to go out for dinner, but even then, it is often low-key. Big outings or pre-set dates, haven’t been our style. But, should they? Will we need to be more intentional?

I wanted to make a list, but all the lists seem so contrived OR ‘duh’ (“make date nights a priority” “love more, fight less”) and I couldn’t come up with nifty ideas because, what do I really know about what works best after baby?

I can say that this Buzzfeed did have some simple things to consider that are easy to overlook, so here’s a start: 16 Real Ways to Stay Crazy in Love After You Kids

Seasoned parents, share your tips below for my inquiring mind.