When they say having a baby changes everything, they truly mean having a baby changes e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Having a baby will change the dynamics of your relationship. Will you share household responsibilities? How will you manage expenses? Is there a specific type of parenting "style" you aspire to?
Assuming that you and your partner have talked about your expectations once baby is born, it is important that you are on the same page. You have discussed your hopes and fears, and you feel that things are going in the right direction.
Those days leading up to baby's arrival are full of dreams about what that day will feel like when you two become parents. No doubt you will be excited, but at the same time, you might feel nervous and fear if you will be enough and if you are cut out for the job. It’s important to lean on each other during these early days as much as it is once baby has arrived. And the same thing goes for whether it’s your first baby or your fifth. Because a tiny human changes everything, even if this isn’t your first rodeo.
1. Share your fears + excitements
There are a lot of emotions that envelop us at these beginning stages of parenthood.One of the best things you can do for your relationship is communicate with your partner what your hopes, dreams and even fears are about becoming a parent. Sharing your feelings and thoughts in a transparent manner can help to build trust between you and your spouse, and also surface any challenges or differences in opinion, ahead of time, so they can be resolved—or at least discussed—before baby arrives.
2. Discuss realistic expectations
Repeat after us: “There’s no such thing as the perfect parent.” It might be difficult to believe when you see all those insta-moms making it look idyllic, but it’s true. Mistakes will happen; everyone is learning as they go; and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. You may have a high-need baby, or you may have an easy baby. You might find breastfeeding comes naturally to you, or it might take a bit of perseverance and getting used to, or it might not be for you at all. Until your baby arrives, you won’t know what they will be like or how their feeding/sleeping patterns will pan out. Setting expectations ahead of time helps alleviate frustration later on when you’re sleep-deprived and covered in the contents that seeped out of baby's diaper.
3. Be proactive about staying connected
Come up with ways you can still make time for each other after the birth. Brainstorm little rituals the two of you enjoy doing now that you’ll be able to maintain later. How can you make each other feel loved? A simple compliment telling your partner they’re doing a great job can make the world of difference while you’re knee—okay, waist—deep in dirty laundry.
4. Round up your support systems now
Parental burnout is very real, so it’s important to take some time out each week for some child-free self-care that doesn’t involve going to work. Discuss how you can schedule time for both parents to have a break without feeling guilty. Once everyone is settled, schedule certain days and times for each parent so no one is caught off guard.
This can also mean communicating ahead of time who you’ll count on for support in those early postpartum days. Who do you want helping with the baby? How many visitors do you feel comfortable having at home? Self-care needs to be as proactive as possible before baby arrives and turns everything upside down (in the most beautifully-chaotic way imaginable).