Newborn

How the balance in the couple changes when a child arrives

With the birth of their first child, the family history is enriched by the presence of a third generation. It causes a personal evolution and creates a particular moment in the couple’s life

Becoming mothers and fathers is often linked to a natural instinct, but the unconscious instinct must become a conscious choice. To deal with all these transformations it helps to find a deep meaning to them.

New tasks, new relationships

The unborn child introduces numerous variables that weren’t there before, profoundly modifies the previous balances as birth obliges the couple to redefine family relationships and to a consequent redistribution of roles.

A task is added, in fact, one is no longer just a wife and husband or companions, but also a father and mother and this involves needs, expectations, comparisons, tasks to be carried out on which to dialogue and share new agreements.

In the phases immediately following birth, parental care basically consists in ensuring continuous protection for the newborn.

The central objective, referring to Bowlby’s attachment theory, is to provide the child with a “secure base” which allows him to regulate his psychophysical functions more and more appropriately in relation to the context in which he finds himself.

Just as newborns have to adjust to various aspects of the outside world, primarily their parents, the latter will also have to adjust to the new baby.

Lots of joy but also stress

In most cases, it is a time of great happiness, however, many couples can experience stress of various kinds.

An example of stress in the parental couple is the awareness of the child’s dependence which implies the adoption of a new lifestyle both in terms of work and leisure.

A reorganization of time will be necessary especially in the first years of the child’s life who will need fairly defined routines and educational support from both parents.

They will have to insert the rhythms of the threesome into their daily lives. The stress of the parents combined with a deep joy and a strong sense of fulfillment from the arrival of a child, leads to the awareness that the well-being of the child and, indeed, that his whole life depends on them and can be a source of tension that weighs more than physical fatigue.

It often happens that the stress that the parental couple accumulates leads to a couple crisis, as some of the aspects described above are often underestimated and add up to the absence or decrease of spaces of intimacy and time for the couple, to the management of the tiredness of the partners and the ability to regulate the “intrusion” into the family life of grandparents and various relatives.

The mother-child relationship

The relationship that is created between mother and child is also often underestimated which when it becomes extremely strong is no longer balanced and the child will have all the attentions of the mother from breastfeeding to sleep care. In this relationship, the father is often excluded or neglected and experiences the feeling of being the “third wheel”.

It must be remembered that the role of the father has a fundamental function like that of the mother, therefore the father cannot be excluded from the relationship between mother and child.

At the same time the mother may feel unattractive, neglected, little understood and helped and considering that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood represent physical and psychological fatigue, she needs moral support and understanding, as well as practical help from her partner.

We need to be aware that the balance previously reached by the couple is always questioned by the newcomer, and so we need to find a new one, renegotiating roles and rules and if the couple hadn’t previously achieved good conjugality, the already precarious balance will lead to a complex and difficult relationship that will not help the growth of the child and the couple relationship.

We must never forget that there is the space of the parental couple which must be only for them, where no one else must enter. These spaces must coexist and it takes respect to be able to keep them in balance.

If the couple is really a couple, the child can become a child, otherwise he becomes the glue of the union between mum and dad, he can become the substitute partner and sometimes an emotional shelter for the parents.

Each couple has its own specificities that can vary profoundly in terms of their ability to successfully negotiate their transition to parenthood. Many factors underlie these differences: the age and maturity of the parents, the relationship they have with their own parents, the social support they have, the level of marital satisfaction existing before the baby arrives, the state of health (also psychological) and the mother’s postpartum.

Another element that can influence the parents’ adaptation process is the child’s temperament. When a newborn is “difficult”, due to innate character traits, or a premature birth or an illness, parents may experience the transition as a more stressful event than normal and be more vulnerable in relationships, it is possible that they will distance themselves even more from each other.

We need to be aware that comparisons between partners and their respective parents will be inevitable and relationships with families of origin will also change, because as the couple becomes a parent, birth generates grandparents, uncles, cousins ​​and new roles will also be created in the families of origin for which it is necessary to redefine the relationship as in a more extended family.

Methods of managing the child will have to be agreed, regarding the concrete aspects: timetables, visits, different types of help and the definition of this will involve the couple considerably especially if the child will be entrusted to relatives.

In fact, the area in which the two partners must confront each other and reach an agreement and mediation is growing. As long as there are two of you, the tasks are divided but in three it is all much more complicated and a whole series of situations must be negotiated and agreed that now have to coexist in a smaller space since personal freedom of movement has obviously been restricted.

We are not always what we thought we were

In the relationship with the child there are aspects of oneself that emerge and we don’t always find ourselves being that father or mother that we had fantasized about being. All the dynamics experienced with the family of origin are also set in motion, which one would like to relive or which one absolutely does not want to repeat. In fact, through the child many aspects are recovered that bring back the childhood one lived and often also recall playful aspects.

We must learn to know these new aspects that belong to us and know those of the partner. The ability to experience diversity is very important because very often it is experienced as threatening and if you don’t learn to understand it it turns into guilt, it becomes a race to decide which is the “right way” par excellence to raise a child.

Having a child responds to a person’s very deep needs. The first need is the desire for someone to survive you, for the story to continue. The second is a need that originates from identification with the child, it is the pleasure of seeing him grow up. We identify with him and the satisfactions of growing up satisfy the healthy narcissism of the parents.

Becoming a parent is an opportunity for enrichment and development of one’s self, it is the possibility of playing new roles, it is the possibility of doing different things, sometimes more fantasized than real.

Maintaining the balance of the couple means above all, having the awareness that moments of tension, failure and misunderstanding in the couple are normal and should not be taken to extremes. Ultimately , new dads and new mothers have to take care not only of the child they have brought into the world but also of their relationship.

The newborn is affected by the crisis of the couple

We must always bear in mind that if the couple goes into crisis, the newborn / child also suffers. It is important to remember to dedicate quality time to your partner by carving out, perhaps at the end of the day, a few minutes to rediscover being accomplices, lovers, supporting each other to be one.

We must keep in mind that we have decided to become parents because we are bound by a deep love and it is precisely this that should give support and energy to raise a child. All of this must be cultivated every day to make the balance of the couple more solid and stable, which will strengthen even more if managed consciously.

It happens more than we talk about that couples get into crisis and often ask for specialist help from a psychologist or psychotherapist to be able to overcome the impasse they are experiencing and be able to overcome the difficulties that threaten the well-being of the family and the child .

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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