Things your dad NEVER told you about becoming a new father.
By Shari Schreiber,
you and your spouse eagerly anticipate your first baby's arrival and
think how wonderful it'll be when the two of you finally expand to
three, there are some things you should know, when heading into this
joyous occasion. Most of the information you may have already
been exposed to on this topic, deals with adjustments concerning interrupted
sleep schedules, finding yourself homebound because of the baby, having
to refocus your entire existence around this completely dependent
little being, and generally, feeling like your life is no longer your
own. Think you're prepared? Hang on--there's more.
While childbirth and the early stages of mothering are very difficult
and challenging for women, they're especially trying
for men in significantly different ways. For the first time in your
marital relationship, your 'husband needs' are usurped by the baby's
needs, which are far more critical and immediate. After all, as an
adult, you can fend for yourself--but your baby will be relatively
helpless for the first few years of his or her life. Because of this,
not only will you and your wife find yourselves back-burnering your
personal desires and needs, certain fundamentals you've probably come
to count on in your relationship (like SEX) may not
be available to you for quite awhile.
An emotionally healthy woman's natural mothering instincts come into
play when she's given birth, and this is always supported by significant
changes in hormone balance. Her very first, and most primal impulse
is to insure the survival and well-being of her newborn, and everything
else is secondary to this aim. Throughout this period, a
new father usually finds himself at odds or loose ends, as he begins
to notice a decline in the loving attention he's come to anticipate
within his marriage. Often, his needs for physical and emotional connection
are not being responded to--and in their absence, frustration, depression
and resentment can start to build. In short, he has the sense of having
lost his lover.
A man who encounters a loss of romantic connection within his marriage
can experience varying degrees of anxiety, dread and grief that make
him feel trapped in an emotional quandary. If his personal integrity
has him reluctant to consider, much less attempt to get these basic
needs met elsewhere, his conflict can feel monumental. This lack of
having his desirability mirrored, along with the inability to enjoy
a warm, satisfying sensual/sexual outlet, can leave a new father feeling
a deep sense of disengagement and sadness. When this kind of inner
turmoil is triggered, it invites conflict in an already
highly stressed environment that's characterized by
BEING A NEW DAD--IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT.
new father might feel pressured to bond with the new baby, and his
wife could exacerbate this issue, by wondering how in the world he
can resist having the same feelings of attachment as she
does! Nobody else will ever tell you this--but it isn't natural for
men to feel the same way as women do, about their newborn.
baby begins an intimate bonding experience in-utero, with its mother.
As a fetus develops, he hears his mother's voice, learns her language
style, shares her heartbeat, and co-experiences her emotions. In short,
an intrinsic and powerful connection is formed during the gestation
period (roughly, nine months) that a man cannot possibly compete with,
after the birth. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.
infant might not forge a solid bond with his father for the first
year of its life, and this isn't unusual--so don't freak-out if/when
you're feeling left out in the cold, with your nose pressed against
the glass. This is not to say that you won't bond with this baby--but
the first year of life is actually about the symbiotic
connection between your child and his/her mother. Give it a bit of
time--your turn is coming.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SEX LIFE:
most instances, your wife is not withholding sex, because she wants
to. She's (temporarily) feeling a complete absence of
erotic desire, over which she has no control. This is due to dramatically
altered hormone levels, and her body's need to physically heal and
adjust, after giving birth to this kid. The unfortunate truth is,
she's incapable of responding to your flirtations,
your efforts to seduce her--or even, your pleadings and tantrums.
Her lack of sexual interest can have her feeling like she's living
inside somebody else's body, which undoubtedly seems
foreign and uncomfortable for you both! It may take up to a year
or more before the woman you fell in love
with can fully return, and want to resume the sensual and erotic play
you've mutually enjoyed before the baby arrived. You're allowed to
have feelings about this, but a little information can help
the two of you keep it together.
wife is trying to adapt to the considerable demands of her new role
as a mother, as well as constant exhaustion and
accompanying concerns she might have, about not
desiring sexual contact. It isn't unnatural for her to experience
a nagging awareness that she's not taking "good enough"
care of you. This issue is magnified, when you exert
pressure of any kind on her to respond to your needs for physical
and/or emotional closeness. She's already feeling overwhelmed because
of psychological and emotional shifts due to hormonal influences,
and is doing her best to accommodate these changes. Your needs
(which you're fully entitled to, incidentally) lie beyond what she's
equipped to handle at this point in time. Given that she's grappling
with her own needs, the baby's requirements and any external pressure
from you (no matter how subtle) she could feel resentment--and
a need to withdraw or retreat, just to cope. This
can easily leave you feeling neglected, angry and jealous
of your new baby--even when you believe it's "wrong"
to have these emotions and reactions!
TIMES CALL FOR SOLID PROBLEM SOLVING.
your best to talk with each other as sensitively and openly as possible
about your feelings/thoughts during this time of adjustment. As
an option to enhancing this process, you might engage the services
of a counselor or therapist who's capable of helping you learn new
communication skills and interim physical techniques that can ease
the tensions in your relationship. This should increase opportunities
for the two of you to reconnect in ways that feel loving,
nourishing and satisfying for you both. The object here, is to move
toward a win/win situation, and restore intimacy/closeness
during this challenging time. What you must remember, is that neither
of you is wrong. When you begin to discover more about
each other's feelings and perspectives through enhanced communication,
you can each start to access more empathy toward your partner's
predicament. Each of you has special needs at this time--you're
just needing a new roadmap, for meeting them! This is a pretty common
struggle for first time parents, but far less difficult with a little
SOME VERY IMPORTANT INSIGHTS
these circumstances, loss of connection within an intimate partnership
can feel especially difficult for men, because it can reactivate
issues they might carry from infancy and boyhood. Along with this,
harsh self-judgment about "negative" feelings toward the
baby, can prompt a need to repress
these emotions (which gives them even more power).
It's unfortunate, that this current experience can trigger unresolved
abandonment wounds that have previously
lain dormant, but may (now) amplify reactivity to whatever frustrations
already exist. Men may adopt coping strategies,
like working longer hours, overeating, having affairs, abusing alcohol
or drugs, etc., to lessen their impulses to react aggressively to
these new conditions. Childhood wounds have subtly
influenced every decision we've made during the course of our lives
(including mate selection), and they can make it harder to manage
this life transition. A bit of sensitive guidance and support can
make an enormous difference, as to how well you navigate
this baby will bring opportunities for deeper insight and expansion
within yourselves, and your bond as a couple. A little exploration
can lead to important growth, healing and enhancement to your capabilities
as parents and committed lovers. Best of luck, and congratulations!
crucial to note (particularly in light
of recent media events) that Post-partum Depression
is a serious clinical issue, and should be responded to as such!
Changes in hormone levels impact brain chemicals that determine
mood--and this must be addressed and treated medically.
If there's been a persistent lack of loving contact in your marriage
before or after the baby arrives, or your relationship
has felt mostly unstable/volatile, it's extremely important that
you read this article!]
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2014, Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.