Baby as Glue?

“I fell in love with my baby, and out of love with my husband.”

I read this Tweet back in November, which was associated with an online parenting magazine (as opposed to Parenting Magazine) article, and was shocked that a woman would be bold enough to admit this. I’m not shocked that she was a woman, but that this author was admitting to something that appears so blasphemous.

There seems to be a refreshing trend with the advent of blogging. The anonymity of sitting behind a keyboard has allowed some people to admit to things about which they were previously ashamed. Of course some people take this honesty to an unhealthy extreme, but that’s not the point here. Once thrown out into the open, people seem more willing to embrace admissions and no longer feel shame. Kind of.

This was highlighted in a TED talk given by the couple who started babble.com. Being good marketers the couple labeled their talk “Let’s talk parenting taboos:” taboos like how fathers don’t really bond with their children until they are late into their infancy (the children are late into their infancy, not the fathers). And this author strikes at the heart of another taboo: you can not talk about the division a child can bring to a relationship.Can a child help forge a stronger bond for the couple charged with rearing the child, whether that couple are the birth parents, adoptive or otherwise? As a sample set of one, my wife and I can attest that our having children saved our relationship. IMPORTANT: we didn’t have kids to save our relationship, but we realized a few years into parenthood that if we hadn’t had kids we most likely would have gown apart.

The child is not glue. It’s navigating the struggles that a child presents, which, after successfully navigating those struggles, brings you closer.

And the very first struggle? As the father, the one who witnesses your spouse (partner or whatever adjective you use) physically grow and change before your eyes, and go through whatever other emotional roller coasters that mother nature so humorously presents, you think, “Cool. So the kid’s going to be born and we’ll get back to being a couple again, but we’ll just have this cute little kid to tote along too.”

There’s the cruel joke. Men, as narcissistic as we can be, are totally kept in the dark during the most influential period of bonding that a mother can have with her child: carrying the child. Because everything is so internalized for the mother — literally and metaphorically — we men have absolutely no idea what kind of bitch-slap we’re in for.

In hindsight it’s obvious that my wife’s vision became as myopic as it did when she first cast her gaze upon her newborn first child. Yes, he was my child too, and there were those shared moments of looking at each other with that “holy crap, look we created” shocked look, but I didn’t have the same immediate closeness to this being that I could see in my wife’s eyes. I could see that for this immediate moment this little boy was the primary love of her life.

Of course this was the case. Of course I didn’t feel as close to this infant. Of course he had replaced me on the totem pole of relationship status. This little guy had been literally growing inside her for the past nine months. She had felt his every move for the prior five plus months. He had already been keeping her awake at night.

Me? Blissfully unaware, I was getting a full night’s sleep up until the day he was born.

I was very lucky, however, that my wife has always had a very strong sense of self as well as a strong awareness of the others around her; she didn’t just get lost in the ether of motherhood, though she did soak in the few weeks she had off from work to relish the time with her newborn.

Me? I was now walking around, totally sleep deprived, wondering what the hell had just happened, and in a classically male fashion, wondering “What about me?”

Gosh, when you write something like that on paper (or a screen in this case) it looks so petty.

Months passed and the three of us found an equilibrium. Many accidental events helped us find that equilibrium, but one of the greatest things we did to find a new solid footing for our relationship was to talk.

Funny. Communication helping a relationship? Who knew.

I came clean with my wife, telling her how I now felt like she had no emotional space for me, and she honestly opened up about how difficult it was to now feel the pull from work, from me, and from a little being whose actual survival actually depended on her. When I reminded her that I was here too, that while I didn’t have the biological features to nourish the child there were other modern methods for me to handle those requirements, she relaxed as she was reminded she was not alone in this journey.

Other challenges have arisen over the last eleven years, and we can only imagine what challenges lie before us, but from that time of honesty until now, while we’ve often had to remind each other about this, we’ve approached this parenting thing as a partners, which has helped us grow stronger as partners.