Romance After the Baby

While pregnant with her first baby, Sharon read Dr. Spock and every book she could about what to expect and how to care for children. She was ready for the challenge. Her husband, Michael, was extra attentive to Sharon's physical discomfort during the pregnancy. They were a loving couple who looked forward to becoming parents together.

After the baby was born, Sharon had at least a vague notion of what to do with their little boy, Jacob, and spent almost all her time caring for him. Michael did not see where he fit in. He began to withdraw from the family. Sharon felt abandoned and alone with all the work and responsibilities of the baby. She got depressed. Michael felt hurt, left out, jealous and angry. Ten years later in couples therapy, they looked back at Jacob's birth as when their relationship began to deteriorate.

This scenario occurs frequently in marriages. Couples are often ill-prepared for how enormous an impact the birth of a baby will have on their relationship. Suddenly, there are huge sources of stress: new roles and responsibilities to learn; the need for a new division of labor; a barrage of advice about how to parent (and anxiety about making mistakes); sleep deprivation; new economic pressures; a decline in time for fun and recreation; a damper on the sex life (partially for physical reasons and partially exhaustion); and love between two people is suddenly realigned to include a third.

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