From pure, unadulterated pain to total ecstasy--in a split second. What a feeling! The minute I laid eyes on my newborn son, my life was as complete as I'd ever dreamed it could be. My husband was by my side with tears in his eyes, wearing a smile as big as a kid would have on his birthday. The depth of love I felt for him and our son was something I'd never before experienced. My dreams, hopes, and expectations had all come together in one miraculous moment.
Experiencing the birth of a child is absolutely one of life's greatest gifts; one of the few times in adult life when you are most likely to let down your guard and allow yourself to be truly intimate with your partner. You become as naked as the newborn child who just entered your life.
As I held Kyle, with Jim next to me, I knew that nothing in my life could ever match that feeling, and I wondered if my husband and I would ever feel this connected again.
That was then and this is now. Fourteen years later, with those memories etched in our hearts, we continue the journey of raising our son. The closeness Jim and I felt on March12, 1988, hasn't since been equaled; and yet, I've realized our relationship has grown and matured in ways I never dreamed possible.
The transformations that have taken place in me and in our relationship have brought us many surprises, and, of course, many challenges with every step we have taken. As we watch Kyle grow, we learn something new every day and discover how to live our lives in the present, not from the past.
I've written this book with the hope of easing the struggle that so many parents experience in their relationships after parenthood. In order to accomplish this I used not only my own experiences but those of other parents. Throughout, I've included enlightening insights from some of the 100 men and women I've interviewed about the amazing changes parenthood has brought into their lives.
As you might imagine, the parenting experiences of these couples were quite diverse. Some grew in all areas of life and became closer. Others questioned their decisions, believing that having children increased the emotional distance in their relationships. Given the opportunity to become parents all over again, a handful said they would not. For them, the stress on their relationship has been too painful; yet, in the same breath they expressed how much they loved their children, in spite of it all.
Almost all of the parents were concerned about the lack of time left in their lives after the demands of childcare. The all-encompassing nature of parenthood caught them completely off guard; they felt totally unprepared.
Think about the feeling of being unprepared for a moment. During the nine months of pregnancy most expectant mothers continue to live their lives as they normally would, doing the things they like to do--going out, traveling, reading, doing whatever makes them happy. As a matter of fact, mothers-to-be often pamper themselves, taking extra care of themselves to ensure the health of their children.
During those nine months before a child's birth, your relationship may even become stronger while they two of you experience the stages of pregnancy as your child grows inside of Mom. You allow yourselves to fantasize about all the tender moments you'll share as a family.
Then suddenly, you're parents! In a flash, you realize there was nothing you could have done to sufficiently prepare yourselves for all the incredible demands now infringing on your time.
Traditionally, preparing for your baby means; painting the nursery, picking out furniture, choosing a name, having a baby shower, going through birthing classes, and reading parenting books. But none of those projects helps you prepare for the changes in your life with your partner. So the question still remains, what can you do to prepare for those changes? The obvious answer is, buy this book or have a kind, loving friend buy it for you. (All right, maybe that's a little too obvious.)
The real answer is: you can't adequately prepare ahead of time for these changes, either personally or between the two of you. Sleeping late every weekend till the baby comes won't keep you from needing sleep during the next six months. You can't store up enough time with your partner on pre-children dates so you won't need to go out again for a few years. Spending time by yourself enjoying all your favorite pastimes doesn't satisfy the need to be by yourself after the baby comes. Telling your partner how much you appreciate him or her doesn't eliminate the need for acknowledgment once you're parents. You certainly can't cram in enough dream vacations before kids so you won't need another one until they're out of the house.
And if you believe you can have mock arguments "before baby" that in any way resemble arguments "after baby," forget it. I can hear it now. "Uh oh, sweetpea, here's that situation we created during one of our make-believe arguments. Remember what we decided, dear?"
"Oh yeah, no problem, darling, I'll get right on it. I'm sorry I forgot."
Give it up. It will never happen.
You can't prepare yourselves for the millions of needs your baby will have, or even the new needs the two of you will have. You see, you have no idea how either of you are going to feel when this child enters your lives. You have no idea what your child's personality will be, or what this precious treasure needs. You have no idea how you or your partner will respond to this new role. You don't even know how you'll respond to each other.
With all there is to learn and all the changes that take place, trials and tribulations are inevitable. Just as inevitable are the shifts in the relationships after couples have children.v Whether conscious of it or not, you're not the same two people you were before you had children. Your values and beliefs change a little or a lot. You no longer look at your own parents in the same way. Suddenly, you may understand why they did what they did, even though you may choose not to do the same things all over again. You may see parts of your partner that you never knew existed. Some of these parts you like and some you don't. New fears show up. Your needs change and maybe you're not sure how to express them--some things that seemed so important before are no longer important to you now. Your sex life shifts gears and you wonder if you'll ever get it back into drive. Everything changes.
The challenge in life now is not just about being a good parent. The challenge is also about learning to be with and interact with your partner from a whole new place--a place where you deepen your intimacy. As you move from the comfortable world of just the two of you to the unfamiliar world of parenthood, ask yourself: am I willing to express to my partner what I'm experiencing in this stage of our lives so wecan move to that deeper level?
This means expressing the joy as well as the confusion, fears, anger, and disappointments--all of which can be felt throughout your parenting journey. Not sharing some of these feelings keeps you from strengthening your love and often makes it weaker.
Give yourselves time to learn about each other in your new roles. The love you share for your children presents you with the opportunity to give birth to an extraordinary relationship with your lover. In addition, you now have the chance to become the example that teaches your kids how to have such a relationship in their adult lives.
As you read this book, open your heart. Explore my words so that they reach the deepest parts of your being. I hope to bring new ideas into your personal awareness and into your relationship, sparking your desire to grow in areas you thought couldn't evolve any further. I hope to make you laugh at times, because laughter is a crucial ingredient for building a loving family. (Let's face it, laughter is a critical ingredient for all aspects of life.)
Keep in mind that with all the changes you go through, growth emerges for the individual as well as for the couple. Now that you're a parent, let this book help you discover your highest intention in your relationship with your partner.
copyright © 1998 by Linda Salazar