First comes love, then comes marriages, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.
So the saying goes. Then it’s happily ever after, right? Right?!
If only life were that simple and linear. I don’t have to tell you that it’s not. It’s full of bumps in the road and U-turns, and even though Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest may tell you otherwise, no couple has the perfect relationship or family – they just show you what they want you to see.
Marriage is hard, and it’s even harder after you have kids.
Nobody really tells you that when you get married or if you take marriage prep classes (and even if they do, you probably don’t listen or believe them at the time). Just like a wedding is one day and marriage is meant for life, birth is one(ish) day and raising a child is for life – and so with that comes a lot of change! Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and part of preparing for your baby’s arrival should involve giving some thought to how this change will affect your marriage and having a conversation with your partner. Here are some thoughts from me and other moms on marriage after kids.
Probably the biggest key to life after a baby (and marriage in general, I suppose!) is communication. Your spouse is not a mind reader, and neither are you, so if you want something, tell them. As one mom says, “If you want sex, say it. Everyone is too tired to guess.” On the flip side, if mom doesn’t feel like sex right away or physically can’t (which is totally normal postpartum), find other ways to be intimate that make both of you feel loved. Remember that her body went through a huge transformation physically and emotionally, and it may take her a while to be comfortable and confident in her own skin.
Look how perfect! The photo, not the marriage. No marriage is perfect, don’t be fooled! It takes work, but like anything that does, that makes it rewarding. (We were just babies ourselves here! I think we both have substantially more grey hair now….)
Don’t just assume one of you is going to do the housework. Would you like your partner to do some chores you used to typically do? You need to ask him and have a discussion – don’t just assume he will. And dads, don’t just assume because mom is home that she will be able to do all the housework and cooking, because taking care of a baby takes A LOT of time (watch this video to see just how much!).
“I found that discussing expectations for each partner for chores/activities helpful because the parent at home often gets the ‘well, what did you even do today’ talk (well, I kept an infant alive so think I did pretty stellar) but deciding ahead of time or having that discussion if it’s a strain is necessary,” says one mom. “If you can discuss or make strategies ahead of time, that is great.”
If you are both too busy for housework, consider hiring a house cleaner, even if it’s temporary. If it alleviates stress, it is worth it! If you can’t afford someone, ask family or friend for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I always say it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.
Tell your partner you appreciate them. This works both ways. Don’t come home from work and ask a mother what she did all day. And don’t discount how hard dad works at his job and then has to come home and help maintain the home and care for the baby and you (postpartum is hard for dads, too). And if something is bugging you, talk about it and don’t sweep it under the rug: the longer you leave something, the more the little things grow into big things and lead to bigger arguments or resentment.
“Always remember to continue working on your relationship as a couple because one day the kids will move out and it will just be the two of you again,” one mother reminds us.
Put down your screens and actually spend time together. We recently made a pact to put down our phones and computers for at least an hour in the evening so we can either visit or watch a show together that we like. For us, this is sometimes the three of us, but that’s what works for our family. Maybe it works better for you to do this after your baby or toddler goes to bed. Maybe you’re open to doing “date night” or “movie night” with your little snuggled in your arms. There is no right or wrong answer – just that you spend time together.
“I am a firm believer that our marital relationships need a reboot every once in a while, as in you need to do something that is specifically meant to help build your relationship in a good way, whether that’s taking a course or class together, or for us, a week camping with just the family to reconnect without handheld devices is a must,” says one mom.
Taking a class or going away may not be possible when your little is a newborn or infant, plus it will depend what help you have around (do you have a trusted babysitter? Do you have family or friends who can watch the baby while you go out for supper or play volleyball together?). Start small and as your child gets older, it will become easier to do the bigger things (I promise: it does get easier!). Remember, in the scheme of things, this is a small window of time. It’s for now, not forever. Your baby will only be so little for so long, and when that time has passed, part of you will long for when they wanted to be held in your arms. Try to be patient – one of the many parenting lessons our children teach us.
Respect each other’s parenting styles. Just because dad doesn’t do things exactly as you do, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as good. Realize that as long as you both have the same values and end goal, you might reach it a bit differently. Then again, if one of you is opposed to spanking and the other thinks this is a good discipline tool, you need to have a discussion.
Remember that your children are watching you, and children model the behaviour they see. So, tell your spouse you love them and what you love about them. Show them affection through words, hugs, and kisses – and of course do the same for your children!
As a married couple and family, do we do all of these all of the time? Nope – we are not perfect! But we are happy and solid, in case anyone is wondering if that’s why I wrote this blog (my mom might wonder!). I wrote this, as always, to help other moms and parents, because we’ve all been there in tough times, and to remind those who are there that they are not alone.
Is the above a fool-proof plan for a perfect marriage? No. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, nor a perfect plan. But as long as you both remember your life will change after a baby and vow to keep working on your relationship, you’re on the right track. It’s a work in progress, and you will have ups and downs, but hopefully you can continue to navigate the journey together.
HAYLIE LASHTA BScKin, MPT, Certified Pelvic Floor Therapist
Owner and Operator of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness
As the owner of a successful business, Haylie Lashta knows all about the struggles that come with trying to balance work and family.
“Balance doesn’t come daily. It’s a balance over time.”
And because she is a mom, she has a unique understanding of many of her clients: in her work, Lashta prides herself in helping raise awareness around pregnancy and postpartum pelvic pain, noting there is no reason to be experiencing that kind of pain.
Lashta graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelors of Science Kinesiology with Great Distinction (2009), and Master of Physical Therapy (2011). She has been practicing in Warman since 2012, and opened Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness in the fall of 2014. In 2016, it was a finalist in the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce ABEX Awards for New Venture, and in May of 2016 Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness was a finalist in the Warman & Martensville Business Excellence Awards (WMBEXA) for Best New Business, Business of the Year and Marketing categories.
“As a physiotherapist that works with women who are pregnant and women’s health (pelvic floor physiotherapy) and a mother myself, I find that often women have many questions while pregnant. ‘Shouldn’t I be sore? Isn’t it normal to have pain while pregnant? A little bit of pee when I sneeze/laugh/stand up is ok, though, right?’”
Lashta says the answer to these is no! In clinic, she works with patients to determine the cause of the pain and how to treat it, sending patients home with a plan.
“My motto is if I am able to do something in-clinic to help a client to feel better, then I should be able to provide a home exercise to help keep it that way.”
Read why a healthy pelvic floor isn’t just about strength
Some days are heavier work days, and some days are heavier family days, “and I do my best to find some time for me, which doesn’t always happen. It’s why my fantastic husband is currently renovating our bathroom, to give me a soaker tub,” she laughs, half joking.
Lashta is due to give birth to their second child this June.
Being a business owner means her maternity leave will look different from someone who is employed because even though she will receive a mat leave (different than the first time), she will still need to do work for the business weekly, if not daily.
“This is important for my identity. I will always work because it’s a part of me, and it fulfills me.
In addition to working extensively in pregnancy and postpartum physiotherapy care, Lashta’s practice also focuses on infant development, general orthopedics, urinary incontinence, and pelvic pain.
Working with women’s health means that Lashta has completed continuing education courses for assessment and treatment of urinary incontinence as well as pelvic pain.
“Every mother just wants to take care of their new, beautiful, perfect newborns. I can help you so that your body can do the things you want to now, as well as still have fun with your children as they get older (yes, even jump on a trampoline!)”
Lashta is currently taking her Level III Orthopedic Upper Quadrant Course for the spring as well as an IMS needling course fall of 2017.
Being that Haylie works extensively with the perinatal population, she identified a need for an exercise class to help address issues within this population in the area. Being a physiotherapist, Lashta is easily able to modify exercises to increase or decrease difficulty for each client as needed. She runs a postpartum fitness class for moms no matter where they are postpartum (and may just continue to offer this after she and baby #2 adjust to their new lives). A lover of baby carriers, Lashta will happily wear your baby while you focus on the class!
Lashta is proud to be raising awareness for women surrounding available Physiotherapy options for women who are pregnant and post-partum, as well as urinary incontinence and pelvic pain in all ranges of the lifespan.
Haylie Lashta is a physical therapist and pelvic floor therapist who works extensively with pregnant and postpartum women at Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness.
When we think about pelvic floor, we often think of doing kegels as a way to strengthen it to avoid incontinence.
However, strength is only part of the equation, says Haylie Lashta, owner and operator of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. She is a Physical Therapist and Certified Pelvic Floor Therapist who works extensively in women’s health, prenatal and postpartum care, and infant development.
When she sees women with symptoms, she often asks, ‘Who told you to ‘strengthen’ your pelvic floor?’
“Often we hear this from friends, family members and other healthcare providers after discussing for a few minutes some symptoms you’re having,” she says. “But does anyone check to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly? I find often no, this is not the case.”
She says part of the problem is women are expected to know what to do for kegels because of what we read in magazines like Cosmo, where kegels are described as squeezing the pelvic floor.
The problem with that?
When we compare this ‘squeeze’ of the pelvic floor to another area of the body, says Lashta, it’s like squeezing the muscles of the arm without actually moving the elbow.
“Does that impart strength? Sort of, but not really. A functional pelvic floor and the proper contraction is thinking of drawing the pelvic floor muscles up and into the abdomen, which will lift the muscles that are essentially like a sling between your pubic bone and tail bone,” she explains. “But we can’t just contract – no other muscle groups do we go to the gym and just hold for as long as we can, pause then repeat, so why do we do this in the pelvic floor?”
For the pelvic floor to be functional, it must be able to lift up and in, as well as relax down and out. An active relaxation is like taking that sling of muscles and letting them fall down and away and it often feels like work, notes Lashta.
She says a good analogy for comparison is to imagine your elbow is stuck in a bent position. You describe that you are having difficulty reaching and grasping things, particularly as they are falling off a table, and someone tells you to strengthen that muscle by contracting as hard as you can for 10 seconds, pause and then repeat 10 times in a row.
“Over time, the elbow will begin to bend farther as the muscle tightens and doesn’t lengthen, and your ability to catch falling objects will often get worse,” says Lashta. “So what does this muscle actually need? It needs first to lengthen to achieve full range of motion. Then it will need functional strengthening and coordination with the rest of the surrounding muscles to ensure that it can do it’s job all the time.”
If you experience any pelvic floor pain in pregnancy or postpartum, seek help: Lashta says it’s not normal.
“There is no reason for pain during pregnancy or postpartum – that’s like saying a runner ‘signed up for’ knee pain.”
And remember that it’s not just about strength: it’s about the ability to relax your muscles as well.
Haylie Lashta graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelors of Science Kinesiology with Great Distinction (2009), and Master of Physical Therapy (2011). She has been practicing in Warman since 2012, and opened Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness in the fall of 2014.
Just because the dad didn’t carry a baby for nine or 10 months and give birth to them doesn’t mean the postpartum period isn’t challenging for him as well.
And I should say, this isn’t just dads. This goes for any spouse who didn’t give birth. For ease of writing, though, I will refer to dad/him.
Not sure about going to work with Daddy.
Not giving birth is part of the reason the postpartum period is difficult for him. As the mom, you’ve had time to mentally but especially physically prepare for having a baby. Your body has gone through many changes as you’ve grown and nourished your soon-to-be-born baby. While it may not feel as real as it did once your babe was placed in your arms, there was a certain realness to it that dads just don’t get to feel until that baby is born. And then WHAM! Baby is here and everything changes.
Men can feel the pressure of “a new mouth to feed” in various ways: mom may seem vulnerable and in need of protection and care; dad comes home from work and sees housework piling up; if he and you are like my husband and me, he has received numerous texts on the bad days, saying things like, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this…” or “I’m tired” or “I’m over-whelmed” or “I don’t know what to do” or “The dogs are whining, the baby is crying…” My husband said he could tell what kind of day I was having by the number of text messages he received from me. The more he received, the more I was spiralling.
One of my favourite pictures of my boys. Our baby isn’t even a month old here.
Men feel a lot of pressure: if they are fortunate to have had time off, it likely wasn’t for very long, and then they are back to their full-time job, while also having to take on more responsibilities in the home, while on less sleep than usual. Combine that with getting to know their new baby and trying to support their partner emotionally, and it can be draining.
Because the mom spends the most time with the baby, it can be an added challenge for dad to learn how to soothe his infant. I remember in one of my less shining moments half-shrieking at my husband to just hand me the baby whenever he cried because he likely needed to nurse. While this was mostly true, it wasn’t very helpful or conducive to getting him to take an active role in nurturing his son. Fortunately, he likely chalked it up to my being tired and emotional, and he didn’t seem to take it personally. There were times it was only him who could settle him: we went through a phase where the only way our baby would go to sleep was if he was placed in his carseat and rocked faster and higher than I could physically handle, so it fell to daddy. One of the sweetest moments was when I needed a nap, and my husband needed to let a potential tenant into our condo down the street. Without any help or instruction from me, he managed to wrap our son in our mei tai and wore him to the meeting.
We were fortunate that my husband has always had some level of flexibility with his work. If I felt I desperately needed him, he could be there. Not every father is so fortunate, and that would create added stress and worry: how powerless would you feel if your partner was sobbing on the phone, but you felt you couldn’t go there to be with them?
We didn’t hire a postpartum doula after we had our son, but I see now the benefit this would have, even for dads (honestly, just like how a labour/birth doula can be a huge support for dads, not just moms). A postpartum doula is a safe person to question, to listen to, to seek advice on things like baby care if inexperienced. There is no prior history between a postpartum doula and a new father, and there is no agenda besides making the postpartum period as pleasant as possible for everyone. The doula might be able to see both points of view of the mother and father and help them understand each other. My husband once confided to me that he was stressed, too: he pointed out that I had fellow new mom friends and many other friends to confide in who could relate. He had almost no one. Sadly, that’s not an uncommon feeling among dads. There just aren’t the same type of supports out there for new dads, but they need support just like mom does – especially because he is expected to have the strength to support mom!
What was good is my husband felt safe telling me this. Having open communication so you can both talk about your fears and stress will keep the relationship healthy and moving forward. Let dad know you still love him even though things have changed! And let him know you appreciate how much he is taking on and how hard he is working. No, he may not understand exactly what you are going through each day with the baby, but you also don’t understand exactly what he is going through each day at work and then coming home to his family. Both roles are important. Both roles require love and support from the other partner.
Remember that it isn’t just the mom who may be struggling during the postpartum period. Dad may be, too, so it doesn’t hurt to ask how he’s doing, send over a meal so it’s one less he has to worry about, or offer to come by and do the dishes so he can instead spend time with his partner and baby.
I knew before I became pregnant that I wanted a doula. I knew the stats on how much a doula could help me achieve the birth I wanted (and conversely, navigate my birth if it didn’t go the way I wanted). With the help of a good friend, I selected four and met them for interviews.
I met two of them outside of my home: one in a coffee shop, one where she worked. The other two came to my home. All lovely women, they were a good mix: one taught yoga and was a registered massage therapist. Another also taught yoga and did placenta encapsulation. Two sort of fit the stereotype many think of with doulas: a bit on the hippie-ish side. The other two didn’t fit that stereotype at all. One taught pilates and was also an esthetician. The other has four of her own children, including a VBAC birth, so vast personal experience.
I was drawn to two of them: the pilates instructor who had years and years of experience and had attended nearly 100 births (she doesn’t have any of her own children, which didn’t cross my mind at the time, so I guess it didn’t matter to me, or I might have asked). The doula who had four children was my last interview and our chat lasted two hours. I felt like I was talking to a friend. I wanted to hire her immediately.
Related: Why silence is golden: the importance of choosing the right caregiver, part 1
When I talked it over with my husband, he wondered if it was because she was the last one, and said people are often drawn to the last choice, in part because we remember it best. In the end, I hired the pilates instructor who had two doulas apprenticing under her. Our rationale was I liked her, we were getting 3 doulas for the price of 1 (one of whom was also a massage therapist, which seemed like a good idea when labour would become painful), and she had a ton of experience.
I continued my relationship with the other doula. She lent me two of her books and ended up being the teacher at the prenatal classes we decided to take. When I spoke up about the importance of hiring a doula at this class, I felt a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t chosen her, even though she didn’t seem bothered at all by it. We kept in touch, and I eventually asked the doula I hired if she could be the backup. All of this signalled to me I should have trusted my heart and my gut.
My son and I were always drawn to her warm heart. Here she had just snuggled him to sleep.
As I grew closer to this fourth doula, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that she was the one I should have hired. When the doula we hired forgot our first meeting, that nagging grew stronger. I tried to ignore it, but eventually I said it out loud to my friend who had helped me choose the four to interview. I needed to say it to someone in a safe space and just get it off my chest. Admitting it was another sign I should have followed my heart.
It’s as if the universe was listening. My water broke and contractions began nearly four weeks before my estimated due date. The doula I’d hired was on vacation, so it was my backup I texted, called, and who attended my birth. And when she texted my friend to say I’d had a beautiful birth and delivered my baby boy, our friend replied, “It was you she wanted there all along.”
I know I still would have had a beautiful birth if the doula I’d hired had been there. She is a lovely person, I loved my prenatal pilates class, and it was through that class I met one of my best mommy friends, so I can’t say I regret that decision. It worked out in the end anyway – funny how that happens.
Choose a caregiver with your heart, not with your head. After all, matters of childbirth and parenting are mostly matters of the heart. It didn’t matter who had more or what experience or how many doulas for whatever price; what mattered most was the connection I felt, and it was undeniable. Who has a two-hour visit with someone they just met? People who will become close friends who text each other regularly, try to have coffee together regularly, and tell the other they love them regularly.
Listen to your heart. The heart doesn’t lie. It will guide you to the right decision when choosing a caregiver who will be sharing in some of the most beautiful and intimate moments of your life.