Like many of my columns, the subject I choose to write about is usually something I had brushed to the side without a second thought way back when I was pregnant. I was prepared to push but hadn’t prepared for little more than what my baby would wear when she arrived. You’ve read about my woes of breastfeeding, the mourning of child-free holidays, the anxieties of becoming a parent... but I’ve been saving the biggest transformation of all up until now: the effect that having a baby has had on my marriage.
The minute Greta arrived into the world; swollen, wrinkly and red, was the moment my relationship spun off into a whole new direction. Suddenly I had eyes for somebody else that wasn’t my husband. The love I had for him had quadrupled and intensified for someone I had only known for less than a day. Everything had changed.
In the early weeks, I watched my husband hold our little girl and I felt my ovaries pop like fireworks, the oxytocin coursing through my body sending me into a love spin. I had never felt so secure in our relationship than I did right there and then, content with my newly born family unit. But as our normal life started to seep into the baby bubble, so did the reality of having a new addition to our two. There were times when I would count down the hours until my husband returned from work so we could both coo and cuddle our little baby girl together, and other times my internal rage would reach new heights for no other reason than seeing him eat a banana on the sofa.
“I love you” WhatsApps were replaced with baby bowel movement updates via voice notes. Long lie-ins and weekend newspapers in bed together turned into bleary-eyed baby snuggles at the crack of dawn. Lavish late dinner reservations and smart clobber became rushed Deliveroo orders gobbled while wearing sweatpants. Mocktail hour was swapped with bubbles at bath time. Goodnight kisses turned into barely audible grunts. Three in a bed had become a thing after midnight. Weekday mornings became a relay race of pass the baby as we dashed to and from the shower. And there’s nothing like a teething baby to add another layer of strain to your relationship.
Long days at work for him - and at home for me - were tiring enough, but then to be rudely awoken by our tiny dictator come midnight didn’t exactly bring out the loving side of either of us. “Dummy!” I would squawk, as I would not-so-gently ‘pat’ him on the arm. “Don’t use that tone,” he would reply in a whispered shout. “Really? Are we doing this now?” I’d snap back. And then there were times when I would walk straight past my husband in the hallway “like I wasn’t even there” he would protest. It wasn’t intentional, my mind was, let’s just say, preoccupied.
When we both became parents we were determined for our new dynamic to not fall into a misogynistic trap. People would comment to me, “When we had the baby, I would let my husband sleep and I would tend to the baby at night as he was working all day in an office.” We saw it this way: if one of us was going to pull a 12-hour shift with a baby that naps badly during the day, we were definitely going to share the overtime in the middle of the night. But as Greta grew and I got back on the work wagon, the competition of who was doing more began. Everything was under scrutiny: loading of the dishwasher vs night wakings, emptying the bins vs expressing milk, cooking baby cuisine vs bathtime.
Having a baby - in short - has been the biggest test on our relationship. We’ve encountered a side of each other that neither of us had seen before. There have been times when I’ve felt that my heart might burst when I’ve peered around the nursery door to find him reading to our daughter. And other times, I’ve knowingly allowed the baby to crawl noisily into the bedroom if he was having a short-lived lie-in after a, ahem, late night out. But then there was the more recent time he whisked us away to Oman for my birthday and we were all violently ill, one after another, and ended up stuck in a hotel room for three days. Instead of wallowing in our own self-pity we both fought the nausea and joined forces to look after our baby.
You see, this man, my husband, the man who makes up one half of my baby girl is my team mate. What we’ve lost in love WhatsApps, we’ve gained in becoming a family.
Photos: Jade's own