I Love Him, But I’m Beat

Dear Mamas,
This is a little embarrassing but I need some feedback. My husband and I just had our first baby. Everything’s great but I’m really exhausted from breastfeeding and taking care of her all day. She is five weeks old and when my husband gets home from work I just want some space! I know that sounds bad but the last thing I want to do is get “romantic” if you know what I mean. I love him but I’m beat. Is this normal?

Dear Rene,
Taking care of a new baby can be physically and emotionally exhausting, no question there. And to add to that you are in the post-partum period, also known as the fourth trimester. Your body has accomplished an incredible feat–made a human being–and is now working hard to keep that baby fed and get itself back to it’s pre-pregnant self. This is no small thing. Some kind of fluid (tears, blood, milk) seems to be leaking from every orifice of your body, your hormones may be wreaking havoc, your back is killing you, you’re sleep deprived and you’re adjusting to the fact that you are now a mother. That’s a lot to handle.

Many new moms crave some time each day to have their bodies to themselves. All day long they are holding, rocking, walking and nursing the baby and never get to just lie down and rest with no one touching them or wanting something from them. Everyone needs a little peace and quiet in their day and new moms don’t get much. So it’s not surprising that when your husband comes looking for some intimacy and cuddling at the end of a long day, it may sometimes feel like it’s just too much.

On the other hand, it’s important to think about what he’s going through. He may feel like he has been pushed away and misses the relationship the two of you had pre-baby. Before the pregnancy, he was first on the list when it came to physical contact, attention and affection. Lots of dads feel a little left out during their wife’s pregnancy and the first few months of the baby’s life. He sees you engrossed with this beautiful new child and may wonder if he can ever compete. He might be a little jealous. Nobody did anything wrong, it’s just what happens, but getting your relationship back on track is part of the work that goes along with becoming a family and adding a new member.

So now that the baby is here it’s up to you guys to make sure that as you add the new roles of mom and dad you don’t let go of the old roles of husband and wife. They are different and I’ll be writing more about them later. In the meantime, talk to him. Let him know how you are feeling and assure him that you’re just a little overwhelmed and tired. Make sure he understands that you still love him and want to be with him. Let him know what he can do to make things easier for you and also help him step into his new daddy role.

Show him your tricks for getting up a burp, demonstrate how she likes to be held (they are all different in this department) and clue him in to what works best when she starts crying. Let him feed her from a bottle once a day. The more comfortable and confident he feels about taking care of her, the more connected he will get to her. And that will make it more likely for you to get a break!

Then if possible, get some additional help during the day so you can catch a nap or go for a walk by yourself. Ask a good friend to come and stay with the baby while the two of you go out together for a couple of hours. Stay close to home so you don’t get anxious, but take the time to grab a quick meal or even just a cup of coffee alone together. Make it a habit early on to reinvest in your marriage. Think of little ways to let him know that he’s still your sweetie, keep talking, and try to relax and recover.

But if, after a few more weeks, you’re still feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, check with your doctor to make sure that everything is healing as it should be.

Good luck and check back to let us know how it’s going.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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