I’ve been meaning to write a light-hearted and possibly funny entry for a few weeks now, but I’ve stalled out quite a few times. I think because honestly, I don’t feel all that humorous or light-hearted at the moment. While being a new father has had its definite highs, there have been some pretty serious lows that have come with it.
It’s one thing to know that having a newborn will be tough. To have the information that you’ll have sleepless nights, difficult days, and just be outright tired most of the time is helpful, but I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for the toll it takes on you, both psychologically, and emotionally. Not to mention the problems that arise in your relationship with your spouse.
No one really wants to talk about it, because the focus should be on the baby, and rightfully so. There is a ton of responsibility and work that needs to be done when caring for a newborn. However, all of that work takes away from your ability to actually have a relationship with anyone except the baby. It’s not hard to keep up a façade of happiness and joy when dealing with people outside of the immediate family, but within the nucleus, things can get pretty strained. I know I’ve found myself snapping at my wife due to being tired from lack of sleep, or stress from doing duty after duty, and I’ve been equally snapped at. Sadly, it doesn’t feel as if any of this matters, because there is a baby to look after. When the happiness and well-being of the child comes first, everything else seems to come second.
I love my daughter. I want her to be happy. I love to see her face looking at me, with not a care in the world. However, it comes at a price. It has been the roughest month of my life when it comes to my relationship with my wife. I have never felt as angry or as helpless as I have this last month, because I honestly feel that I can’t do anything right.
Case in point. Due to the task of trying to either put her to sleep, or keep her asleep, both my wife and I have found ourselves up for long stretches of the night, trying to comfort our baby. Sometimes it’s one of us, sometimes it’s both of us, but someone is always tired come the morning. I’ve been trying to take some of the stress off of my wife by getting up early, and taking care of my daughter for a few hours so that she can get a few extra hours of sleep. However, because I am so tired from the night before, I need to do something to let my mind rest. For me, this normally consists of doing something relatively engaging, but pretty mindless. What does that mean? Right… video games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t translate well with a squirming, fussy child in your lap who doesn’t want to sleep. She starts crying, which either causes my wife to wake up, or me to stop what I’m doing. So I try everything in my power to get my daughter to stop crying, but this stops my resting time, therefore causing me to be more irritable the rest of the day.
I'm not one to take a nap during the day, because I tend to wake up more cranky than if I had just stayed up, so I’m constantly looking for time to just veg out to give my brain time to process the tiredness. This ends up being a pretty vicious cycle, as it has now been a few weeks since the last time I have had a good night’s sleep, and every day is a struggle to find time to let my brain be off for a little while. This is interpreted as my not caring, or not wanting to be involved, and we argue.
That might have made no sense, seeing as how I’m writing this during one of those stretches where we’re trying to get the baby to go back to sleep. However, I was in bed thinking about how utterly miserable I’ve been the last week, and felt the need to at least try to articulate how I’ve felt, if for no other reason then to get it out of my head.
While writing this entry, my wife told me about a conversation she had with our neighbor, who already has two children. She told me that she can’t imagine how couples who are having problems in their relationship can think that having a child will save it somehow. We’ve had a pretty strong relationship, and we’re already snapping at each other frequently. I would imagine if you didn’t have that type of relationship before having a baby, that you might as well sign the divorce papers after having one, because all of your flaws, errors, and selfish desires are magnified a hundred fold when you’re trying to take care of a newborn. Everything is seen through the lens of “How will this behavior benefit the child?” and most everything you’ve ever done for yourself will fail that examination.
The only silver lining in all of this is that it’s supposed to get better after the initial exhaustion. Seeing most couples with children, I believe this is true. However, who knows? Maybe it’s just another façade. No one wants to be “that” family. I get overly pessimistic when I’m sleep-deprived, so please forgive me if I come off a tad gloom and doom. I just know that statistically, most married couples find less satisfaction with the relationship after having a child. I’d rather not end up in that statistic. Only time will tell.
Despite all of the effort, all of the tiredness, all of the arguing, I do love my wife more everyday, and I’m happy that our baby is here. I’m still amazed that we actually have a little girl to call our own, and that she’s actually ours. Part of me is still expecting someone to show up at the door and say “Ha! Jokes on you, we’re taking her back now.” When I look at my wife holding my daughter, I feel nothing by love for them both, and I will do whatever I can to make our lives a better one… even though I’m going to be cranky for most of the first part of it.