You start out as a happy thriving couple. You go to dinner, movies, friends' weddings, parties, you have sex, you make eye contact, you laugh at your spouse's jokes. Life is pretty great. So, why not make the couple into a throuple!
"Let's have a family together"
This is the greatest thing you will ever accomplish as a team, and a potential reason for the demise of that team. Yes, I may seem like a pessimist, but I promise, I'm a realist. There are many divorces that occur because raising a person tests every amount of patience you have, and depletes your mental sanity on numerous occasions.
Adding a baby to any semi normal couple is still a jaw dropping, eye opening, cry-on-the-phone-with-your-mom kind of event.
I was very adamant from day one that we remain a couple, and individuals, above all else. I felt that our son would be better off if we were sane, rested, and happy as humans and as a couple. So, being a bit hardcore, I set up rules that we pretty much still follow, in order to have a well rounded adult life as parents. Let me warn you, it's not easy. What is easy, is falling into the lazy, "we are just parents" trap. You are not just parents. Ever.
1. Date night. This is most effective after the meals stop being delivered, after the parents and in-laws stop cleaning and doing the dishes, and after the initial newness wears off and you are just fucking exhausted already. So, about three weeks! This does not mean a fancy dinner that requires two hours of prep time; it means leaving the house with your spouse to have a meal. You can discuss how exhausted you are, how frustrated you get when your little angel won't sleep at night, or just sit in rare and beautiful silence while being able to eat a full meal, in one sitting.
2. Get referrals for good sitters asap! Like, I mean before your child is even born. Start asking friends for referrals and get to know the sitter. This is really critical if you don't have family nearby! Having a good sitter on standby is like skydiving with a parachute... You actually have to have it.
3. Go away overnight at least once before your child is 6 months old. I feel like this is where I have to resuscitate people. I know it seems overwhelming to some parents, but it probably saved my marriage. We weren't on the verge by any means, but if we went six months with no break... Well, I'd be picking out curtains for my new studio apartment. We went away over night very early. I won't say how early, because people tend to think I have no soul. I will say that my mom stayed with him and it was glorious. And if you don't have a mom/dad or mom/dad-in-law, make a pact with a friend. Two of my best friends watched our son overnight before he was even 6 months old. I'm not saying you need to be as crazy as I am, but you trust your friends... and they don't want to see you in a looney bin just because you don't have grandparents around! Us parents have to stick together! So when when they come knocking on your door raising money for their kid's sports team, DO IT. Buy the damn candy bar. You owe them.
4. Learn to recognize your spouse's "I wanna go buy diapers and not come home" face. You will see it, I promise. I had that look when AK was about three months old, we were back to our work routine, and we had yet to figure out that he had acid reflux, eczema, and an allergy to dairy and soy. GOOD TIMES. I really thought that moment in time was a permanent condition. I was very close to losing my shit.
So, if you see that look, tell your spouse to go nap at a quiet friend's house, or get a massage, or, hell, go sleep in the car! They will do the same when you have that look. And you will have it.
5. Put the baby in his or her own room to sleep at night, and for naps (we waited two weeks, but that may be extreme). AK was a loud ass gremlin baby, so he had to go. Try hard. When a baby becomes comfortable with their own bed, they sleep better, and it becomes habit. So if they sleep in your bed, they will be comfortable, and it will become a habit. I don't think I need to keep going, you get it. I sure hope you do! I mean, you will have a four year old in your bed before you know it. Are you asking for a divorce? Because the small cracks do eventfully cause a rupture.
6. Routine!!! I have found, with my whopping one kid, that babies and toddlers love routine. There is comfort in stability for them. Once we started our nighttime routine (at 3-4 weeks) of feeding, bath, snuggles, reading a book, and then into the crib, our life became semi manageable. That kiddo went to bed the same time every night since he was about one month old, whether he slept through the night, and with or without a nap. We were so strict that my own momma thought I was a lunatic (yes, she said that). Other than teething and colds, my almost two year old still goes to bed at 6:30 (ish) every single night (and I hate to say it out loud, but he consistently sleeps 12 hours). Now, maybe we got lucky. Or maybe it was the routine. If we wanted to repeat this adventure I'd place my bets on routine (but we don't).
7. Go out alone. This was really key for both Jen and I. We both love to be alone. It's almost impossible to work, raise a baby, spend time with your spouse, AND have alone time. But you have to try!!
Go to Target by yourself. Even if you're buying huge post pregnancy pads, diapers, dog food, a nasal sucker thingy, and frozen pizza, you will feel like a new person! That will be the best 45 minute trip ever. Oh, and buy a candy bar to devour on the way home. Nothing feels better than a secret sugar fix. *once you have a toddler this means even more to you!! (You'll see)
8. Tell your OCD side to simmer down!! Stop trying to keep a perfectly neat and tidy house 24/7. Just give it up. It will consume you. I'm happy to provide more details, but as I've hinted, I prefer to stay married.
9. One parent always carries more of the burden (or good times) in some respect. Don't beat yourself up. And it will vary everyday. Atticus sometimes prefers Jen when he's sick. She got up with him more for the first year of his life. (I'm a comatose sleeper). He sometimes prefers playtime with me. I love to chase him, read in weird voices, and throw him in the air. My point is, you will not be number 1 all the time. Learn to take those hits with ease... so when your 'baby' is 12 you aren't butt hurt when they don't want anything to do with you.
What's most important the first year is survival and adaptation. Just let your new life sink in, mourn your exciting old life, and fall in love with parenting. You can't do that if you tucker yourself out cleaning, feeding, crying, wiping, bathing, arguing, soothing, folding... Take some time to do nothing, or maybe, just maybe, look at your spouse without wanting to kill them for not hearing the baby last night (personal experience). I'm pretty sure you are both doing your best. But remember, no one is their best ALL the time. So cut yourself, and your better half, some slack!
These are all just my experiences and advice. What works for my baby may not work for yours. Try it, or don't.
But do make time for yourself and your spouse, that I can promise you is a MUST!
Enjoy the ride y'all!