Having my baby, what a lovely way of saying...your life is about to change. While the majority of this wonderful journey may very well be altogether worthwhile (at least that's what every parent guarantees and swears upon) the first couple of months that come with being a new parent can take a serious toll on ones relationship. Friendships, partnerships, work and even those precious moments of you-time are sidelined and somehow dictated by the schedule of one tiny little bundle. Goodbye to the scent of designer perfume and welcome to the stench of baby puke and pear-flavoured aftermath. It's a limbo of emotions filled with equal amounts of happiness, stress, sleep deprivation and irreplaceable firsts, where tears come more easily and the strength of one's relationship is put to the ultimate test.
Forget about the tips you picked up in What to Expect When You're Expecting or even the advice you received from some overzealous relative who's well on their way to baby number three. Welcoming a newborn baby into the fold can be quite an adjustment and the transition can have some serious side effects on both mom and dad. For starters, you are no longer just an ordinary couple with the unlimited luxury of freedom and time to do whatever you please. You have become a parent now which means sacrifice, constant prioritising and putting someone else's needs ahead of yours, at least for the next eighteen years of your life that is. As if pushing something the size of a watermelon out of something the size the opening of a lemon wasn't triumphant enough, along comes this formidable tornado of physical, emotional and mental evolution in a style that comes in both his and hers.
The Royal heir may have been the talk of the town this week, but closer to home, one of my dearest and nearest had just welcomed their own little peanut into the world. Tommy and Katie were the first in a long line of friends to experience the many so-called wonders of parenthood and had embraced it with open arms. They had read all the books, taken pre-parenting classes and even endured some of the wackiest old wives tales told by some of their loopier relatives. Although they had done as much research as they possibly could on raising a newborn, I couldn't help but wonder whether they'd actually read the chapter about the various challenges their relationship might face in light of a third party arrival?
It was a Sunday afternoon when I decided to visit TomKat at their Sea Point apartment. I brought flowers for mum and a cigar for dad although something tells me Preparation H would have been much more appreciated. There I was, a non-parent, bright eyed and bushy tailed in a newborn parents war zone, staring dead into the tired eyes of my darling friend Kate. Tom, bless his soul, had been reclining on the leather sofa where he had been counting sheep since putting little peanut to sleep. The kitchen was a total mess with dishes resembling Pisa and the wooden floors that had once acted as a dance floor several moons ago, was over run by soft blankets and cuddly toys. It was like a Michael Jackson paradise and I felt the sudden urge to clean. Did having a baby turn TomKat into slobs or were they merely depleted of energy, too tired to complete the simplest of household chores?
"We're both beyond exhausted and highly irritable right now. We bicker about everything and barely have time to have any kind of adult conversation with one another or our friends for that matter. What I wouldn't give for a night out, and if you thought the hormones were bad during pregnancy, it's like they're on steroids now, and he gets the brunt of it. I'm constantly crying over everything and we both feel so guilty about not enjoying every single moment of this baby. We have not had sex in over four months because let's face it, I'm a blubbery whale. I feel so disgusted with my body right now. I'm lactating out of every orifice on my body and could really, really, really use a day at the gym. Anything to have a few hours to gather my thoughts and save my relationship."
Tea and sympathy. The only missing ingredient was cocktails. "My whole life feels like it's turned upside down. Going to the shops once used to take me 20 minutes and now takes up to an hour and a half. You have to have the baby stroller, the car seat, diapers and God forbid you forget the wipes! The family are forever popping in unannounced and uninvited to spend some time with the baby. Not us. The freaking baby. Never mind the fact that Tom and I are struggling to keep up and are both about ready to return baby to sender. I actually wonder sometimes whether the whole experience was worth it."
Tiny coo's had begun to emit from inside the cot and in an instinct Tom was up again. As he slowly peered over the baby cot to meet the eyes of his newborn daughter, she smiled a toothless grin before picking her up
and bringing her over. It cried as all babies do when they meet me but at that moment, I understood how the anguish of sleepless nights and postnatal depression was nothing in comparison to the precious moments this couple would share for life. Like most trying times, the initial stages will make you wish that you'd thrown a stone at that stupid, fertile stork but if you can find a way of communicating with your partner throughout this period and acknowledge the fact that you are both just trying to do the best with the little you have, you may just find an even greater respect, love and appreciation for one another.
When it comes to a life-changing event such as rock-a-bye baby, how do we baby proof our relationship?