How Having A Baby Changes Your Marriage

After having a baby, you’re often stressed, sleep deprived and not always the nicest person to be around. Just ask your spouse. Research shows many couples struggle in their relationships during the early days of parenthood. How can you get past some of the most common challenges? And what are some signs that you should seek professional counseling to address deeper issues?

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Featured Expert

Episode Transcript

Natalie Gross 0:07
After having a baby, you're often stressed, sleep deprived and not always the nicest person to be around. Just ask your spouse. If marriage feels harder these days, you are not alone. Research shows it's a common struggle that many couples face in early parenthood. So how can you get past some of the most common challenges? And what are some signs that you should actually seek professional counseling to address deeper issues? This is Newbies.

Natalie Gross 1:04
Welcome to Newbies, listeners. Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a three year old boy and a baby girl. We've got a great show today talking about marriage and how it changes after having a baby. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website that's and subscribe to our weekly newsletter, which keeps you updated on all the episodes we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button and your podcast app. And if you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then check out our membership club called Mighty Moms. That's where we chat more about the topics that we're discussing on the show. And it's also an easy way to learn in advance about our recording so that maybe you can join us. I'd like to introduce our panel of guests today. We have Sultana Karim here as our featured expert. Sultana is the owner and psychotherapist at Karim Counseling Services, where one of her specialties is mental health for moms in pregnancy and the postpartum period. We also have moms Lauren Rose and Lacey here to share their perspectives on this topic as well. So thank you all so much for being here. As we get started, please tell us a little bit about you and your family, and also your spouse and how long you've been married since that's kind of relevant to our discussion today. So Sultana as our featured expert, you want to kick us off?

Sultana Karim 2:19
Yes, sure. So hi, everybody. I am a mom of one my daughter is four in I have been married. Oh gosh. So for about nine years, but we've been together since I was like 16. So it's been a long time.

Natalie Gross 2:40
That's awesome. Lauren Tose, what about you?

Lauren Rose Ousley 2:44
Hello. Also a prereq. Thanks for having me on. You also have August, our little three and a half month old with us today. He's learning his voice. So you might just hear some fun jibber jabber as he's hanging out with me. But my husband, Evan and I have been together for five and a half years. Yeah. And we're actually military family. So he is in the Army. We're currently stationed here at Fort Benning, Georgia a couple hours south of Atlanta, we've been a couple of different places. So in this season right now with with August, and we've been married for two and a half years, but we were a pandemic married couples. So we moved our wedding multiple times. And it's funny because people will say, Oh, you had a baby. So soon after your wedding like, Well, we were married for a year and a half. But yes, I guess we did get pregnant right after the final, actual big party.

Natalie Gross 3:46
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here to both of you. Lacey. What about you?

Lacey Komis 3:51
Yeah, I'm Lacey. And I am a mom to four kids. So our age ranges for our children are seven all the way down to 11 months. And my husband and I have been married. We're actually coming up in like 10 days, we're celebrating our anniversary, and it'll be 11 years.

Natalie Gross 4:10
Well, thank you so much for being here. I'm so excited to learn more about you and your relationships. So let's kick it off talking about some challenges that you've experienced as a couple that have really come up since having kids that maybe weren't applicable before having kids. Sultana, do you want to start?

Sultana Karim 4:27
Communication? Because in some ways before we got had kids, like we didn't have to think about the nuances, essentially they have kids and how to like, talk about parenting and what that's going to look like. And just how to maneuver responsibilities as a couple as a family of values and traditions. It only came up after the fact and we're like oh crap. How do we mend both and also have effective communication without feeling resentful of one another because they didn't do something.

Natalie Gross 5:06
Lauren Rose, any thoughts?

Lauren Rose Ousley 5:07
I think specifically even within communication, communicating priorities, because, at least for us it since it is so new, just like what we each need to get done in a day. Or in a week, you know, we'll sit down and be like, Okay, what is our week look like? Because if we don't do that, one of us is like, Oh, I have XYZ to do. I was like, Oh, I thought it was you're gonna take the baby when he got home from work, you know, like, but you still have more to do. So, yeah, like super, just like setting those expectations with one another. Even more than that specific communication is also just sleep, and how we react to one another when we are sleep deprived. And just realizing like we came up with something probably about recently, like a week or two ago, of that was not kind. Like, rather than the whole, someone says something. And then a few hours later, the other ones like, hey, remember when you said that thing? Like I've kind of been thinking about that still. And maybe that could have been communicated a different way, which is great. And we were doing that for a while. But then it felt like we were, like stepping on eggshells, waiting for those tough conversations. So just something as simple as like, hey, like, I know, you didn't mean that in the way that you said that. That wasn't kind, and it'll just kind of check the other person of like, oh, yeah, thank you for calling me out. I love you. Regroup.

Natalie Gross 6:33
Yeah, that's such such great advice there. Lacey, how has marriage been, you know, since pre kids and then subsequently after each kid, does it get more challenging?

Lacey Komis 6:44
So I would say, you know, I don't know that I was ever prepared for the operating on such little sleep. And so all these other areas of life kind of build off of that. So like, you know, the lack of time in a day, or all the communication disruptors, like right now, you know, our oldest is seven, so we're able to tell him like, Hey, Mommy, Daddy, you're trying to have a conversation, you know, but when they're a newborn, you can't do that. So that operating on little sleep, and then trying to work through like, What can I get done today that successful? How can I best communicate with my husband? And then how do I handle the overstimulation? Like, constant noise, you know, kids are making so much noise. And even though a lot of the noise can be happy noise, it's still so much. And when I had my first kid, you know, I didn't have a support system to help me understand what that was. So I just thought, Okay, I need to learn to get over this, you know, I didn't know a healthy approach to that look like to be to admit, like, okay, my son crying 24/7 has, you know, has affected me in a way that I wasn't prepared for. So, yeah, for sure.

Natalie Gross 8:06
Are there any ways that you mamas think marriage has gotten easier since becoming parents or maybe you've discovered like a new side of your spouse that you actually kind of like? Any thoughts there?

Lauren Rose Ousley 8:19
I think in the best way, because we're both sleep deprived, or because we both are dealing with communication, we do have a sense of understanding for one another as well. And so when we do come together, like in the evenings, I feel like there's just this mutual like, like, sigh of relief that we get to share each day this like, like, we're together. And the day was crazy. We all had stuff. We both had crazy stuff going on. And we both had different parenting side of things. But at the end of the day, like, it's you, you know, yeah.

Lacey Komis 8:53
I'm not sure that I would use the word easier, or even harder, but I think I would rather say, you know, marriage is a lot sweeter, you know, because I've seen my husband turn, like, take on the role of a father, and what does that look like for our children and how he loves them, and how he wrestles them in the evenings and how he plays with them outside in the yard and how he teaches them when they need to be, you know, taught how to do what's right. And so, I would say, yes, like, there's challenges with bringing kids into the family, but it's so sweet. Like, it makes marriage so much sweeter, because you learn your spouse on a deeper level. And that causes you to love them even more.

Natalie Gross 9:39
Yeah, that's awesome. Sultana, do you have anything to add?

Sultana Karim 9:43
Um, I would say for my family since we go through a lot of transitions. Because my spouse is similar. He's in the military and he in civilian job is a police officer. So we're constantly in transition. But I would say the biggest thing for us just communicating, like what our schedules look like. Do we have time to fit in? Top like five or 10 minutes for us just to talk and catch up, and then have the moments of us as a family doing things together and planning things together.

Natalie Gross 10:17
All right, thank you all so much for sharing that valuable advice and experience. We'll be right back.

Natalie Gross 10:32
All right. Today on newbies, we are continuing our talk about marriage. And of course, you've already met our featured guest Sultana Karim. Sultana, are marital issues a common struggle for new moms that you work with?

Sultana Karim 10:43
I would say yes. And there's four common struggles that I hear. One is managing responsibilities for caring for baby and household responsibility. The other is having no time to connect as a couple, where you're fostering the relationship and sexual intimacy. Because caring for baby takes precedent. Sleep deprivation, as we already talked about a little bit so far, and then disagreeing on parenting styles. So for example of like, to co sleep or to not co sleep to nurse baby or to feed baby formula? Or what cultural traditions should we celebrate in add to our family?

Natalie Gross 11:25
Yeah, those are big. Your website talks about helping people feel connected to their bodies, their minds and their relationships. So I'm curious, why is it so often that we as moms feel disconnected from our relationships, and especially our spouse, which is arguably our closest relationship? And I'm curious if you know it has to do with because our whole identity just changes after we become a mom, right?

Sultana Karim 11:48
Absolutely, it's a major life change to have a baby, and then caring for a baby if you haven't done it before. And even if you've done it before, baby's temperament, and just what their needs are a little bit different for each baby. And if you also have other life changes, that happens concurrently. So like some people moves, and people get new jobs, the choice of either staying home or going to work and all these other different life changes can have a dramatic impact on your on your relationship. Also not fostering connection with your relationship. Sometimes it can feel like you and your partner are drifting apart from each other because you're maybe not communicating as much. Or maybe you're so invested in taking care of baby and you feel like you have that responsibility to do so. But your partner doesn't feel included in that piece. I always talk about like how we communicate with each other can impact our connectedness. So if you or your partner are obsessively complaining criticizing name calling contempt, it can drive distance between you and your partner. Or if you feel like you have to parent your partner, which is a whole other ballgame because they don't want to, they don't want you to tell them what to do all the time. But at the same time, it may be like you're not doing XY and Z, you often will feel alone in that communication, especially if you're not working together to solve the problem. And you're making all the decisions.

Natalie Gross 13:14
Yeah, that kind of leads me to another question I had, which is like, especially if we're nursing or you know, we are the ones making the milk to feed the baby, a lot of the responsibilities of taking care of this new baby seem to fall on our shoulders as the mom even if we have a supportive spouse or partner. And that can start to feel really overwhelming and start to cause us to resent our spouses. I've heard that from a lot of moms. Do you have any advice for moms going through that on how to really reframe that in our minds? And get past that? Because that's tough.

Sultana Karim 13:44
Yeah, it is. I suggest communicating with your partner about your experiences. And you work together with trying to maybe they have some time with baby and they feed baby, maybe you pump a bottle, you pump or hand Express and let your partner be baby. So you get that break in between. Remember, like, it's a team effort when raising baby. And it's not one way of doing it.

Natalie Gross 14:11
There's some science at play too. I mean, we have all kinds of pregnancy and postpartum hormones that really affect our mood. How does that work? And that can really affect the way we treat our spouse. Right? Is that something you see?

Sultana Karim 14:24
Yes. Yes and. Hormones are usually not the only one that impact our mood, and how we treat others including responses. I believe it's multifaceted. So yes, hormone but combination of like physical and medical factors play a role. So like are you taking care of your basic hygiene like taking a shower or washing your hair washing your face brushing your teeth? Are you eating nutritional foods? Staying hydrated was a medical complication during pregnancy or postpartum that needs to be address? What about also psychological and emotional factors? Did you struggle with your Mental Health prior to pregnancy? Or are you struggling now as pregnant or postpartum? With the perinatal mood and anxiety disorder? Do you have difficulty with transition and changes can also play another role, as well as traumatic experiences? I think on social environmental factors, do you have a support system? And what does a support system look like? Can that support system be there for you for tangible things, such as, during the day you need someone to take baby for a couple of hours so you can have some alone time? Is your environment safe? And how did you learn how to be in relationships was oftentimes, when I talk with my clients, we talk about their childhood experiences and their first first relationships, which are their parents and caregivers, and how did they interact? Because that in tells how we act and interact with our partners and people in our our system, our support system. Another aspect is financial and spiritual factors, as well as occupational, the choice of whether to stay home or being a working parent and the changes in nuances that come with that.

Natalie Gross 16:10
What advice would you give to couples before having kids about how to make sure their marriage is ready for that big change?

Sultana Karim 16:17
I suggest that they talk to each other. Either they work it out together, or they find a couples therapist to help them navigate parenthood as a couple. So who will be responsible for what how to communicate, compromise and negotiate? What does parenting look like for you, including like your values, traditions, ideas about sleep, eating baby, attending for the baby's needs, the CO regulation and fostering connection with baby? What does that look like for you? How to create time for each other as a couple. And understanding the nuances that comes in pregnancy and postpartum. Because, like I mentioned earlier, is not just hormones, it's a transformation that the birthing person experience, as well as the family system. So experience, and how do they cope with treat changes in transition? And how do they support each other in times of stress, it may be there, they need to learn coping skills to manage stress, personally, but also as a couple.

Natalie Gross 17:18
Well, thank you so much for sharing this important information. We're going to take another quick break, and then continue our conversation with our moms.

Natalie Gross 17:33
All right, welcome back, Lauren Rose, and Lacey. Any thoughts on what we've just heard from soltana? Did any of that resonate with you? And I'm especially curious, what kinds of conversations you had with your spouse before becoming parents and how that kind of helped you navigate those early struggles?

Lauren Rose Ousley 17:49
Yeah, definitely relate to what you said. I mean, so many great, great points. I think the biggest one that stands out for me is that support system being that we don't live near any family. And that was actually a conversation we did have before was what will that look like for me living somewhere where we don't have anybody around us? Other than like, good friends. So what's been really sweet is, we knew we were moving to a base where we actually have a lot of friends with little ones also, who kind of moved to around the same time. So I didn't realize just the the level of like mom community, like it doesn't matter who you are, where you are, what kids you have, like, if your mom, your mom, and you just are there for other moms, and that has been the sweetest, sweetest thing for sure. And, and yeah, definitely what started.

Lacey Komis 18:46
Yeah, I think I would just say, you know, we talked a lot about communication. And so my husband and I, you know, before having kids, it's like, Yay, we want to have a kid, but you really don't know the impact of it till it actually happens, right? Like you can read every book and try to prepare as much as possible, but you just don't know. And for us, you know, our firstborn was just a very challenging baby. And I thought, you know, this, this, I like, something's wrong with me, you know, that I'm not the mother that can help him the best, you know, but that's not true. And so in those moments, like talking to my husband and communicating with him about how I feel as a mom and like, why can I not, you know, why does he not calm down when I hold him and things like that, you know, we figured out other things were going on, but just being able to talk with each other and even through my doubt and fear, still just able to try to communicate how am I feeling in that moment was just so helpful, especially for him to know like how to best help me you know, If he could do something.

Natalie Gross 20:03
Did anyone else struggle with that resentment, like I talked about? Or was that just me?

Sultana Karim 20:08
I did. Yeah. Yeah, it was little things that add up to big. Whether it's like he left the dishes out, and he didn't put his dishes in the sink, or he changed the baby's diaper, but then put the diaper in the trash, or didn't wipe away. Because my daughter was a girl. So you have to wipe from front to back. And eventually, we did work through it after I went into therapy myself. And I was telling my therapist about all like, how I disdain my husband. And she recommend I read a book, I forget what it's called. I forget what it's called. But I read the book, it was very much talking about how sometimes we expect our spouses to always read our minds and to do things that we want them to do in the way that we want them to do it. And they have to learn how to do certain things themselves. And talking to my spouse will like after time when therapy and reading that book, talking to him, like, Hey, I read this book, and this is what I got from it. And how can we work on this because I'm angry all the time with you.

Natalie Gross 21:26
So relatable.

Lauren Rose Ousley 21:30
I also think there's a level and I don't know if this is scientific or not. But like Sultana said, we're the ones with the hormone changes. And we're the ones you know, who grew the baby and who we have these instincts, not that the men and our spouses don't have instincts, right. Like, of course they do. Like I trust my husband with my baby 100%. But it's this like gut of, Oh, I know that cry. Like, I know what that is. Or if he's doing something. I'm like, have you tried XYZ yet. And he's tried x and y, but not Z. And that's not his fault that he hasn't, it's just that he doesn't learn that because he's not home all day with the baby either. And so I think also just trying to have that perspective of, he knows he's not the mom. Like, he knows he doesn't have all those same, like, relationships with baby either. And so I think that's to wrap it around. Like, the easier the sweeter parts that we were talking about earlier, is that, you know, we go through so so much. Yeah, they do it in a different way.

Sultana Karim 22:39
Yeah, we allow them to have those times to learn baby, just like we spend so much time with baby, they have to learn it too. And we have to step away.

Lacey Komis 22:49
Yeah, I'm not sure that I would call it resentment. But I just think it's more like when I don't get enough sleep. I'm real short, you know, real quick. So just knowing that in having to apologize a lot, just like I'm sorry, I know, I was too short there. But things that wouldn't normally bother me. Do. And yeah, I think it's just that's motherhood, you know, yeah.

Natalie Gross 23:19
Yeah. Sultana, I think a lot of people think of couples therapy as something you do if your marriage is really in trouble. Sounds like a lot of us have, you know, shared struggles in this and communication is obviously come up many, many times. Are there counselors who specialize in these types of parenthood struggles? And what are some signs that maybe you're fighting a little bit more than normal, so it's time to get that kind of outside help?

Sultana Karim 23:42
It's a myth that you go to couples therapy when it's the last the last straw or go to your relationship and struggle. I like to think of couples therapy as more of preventive and a resource to help families navigate parenthood. I would say any couples therapists but especially those who specialize in perinatal mental health and does couples therapy, would be the best combination of the two. Couples therapy can help couples through adjusting from being a couple to a family of three or even justing when there's additional children into the home. Because routines will constantly change as a new member is added to the family system. Talking about what parenting means based on your culture, traditional beliefs, how to co parent and understand how to work together in stressful situations, whether it's the lack of sleep, or the long list of to do things that must get done for that day. setting boundaries of communication with each other is very important. Finding your identity beyond just being a mom or just being a spouse Who are you in this new role, and finding yourself in that, in making need time for your needs. So both you and your partner have your own separate needs, but also having those time for the photos but also have time for you both as a couple. And then the needs of everyone in the whole family system. Understanding perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which consist of depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, all of these nuances that could potentially happen for a person experiencing pregnancy or postpartum. And then how do you connect as a couple in different ways? There are different ways to do that. But sometimes couples get stuck on. Well, we have a baby, and we have all these things to do. How do we fit time just to be us? Well,

Natalie Gross 25:57
As we wrap up here, does anyone have any advice for new moms listening who may be struggling in this area right now in their marriage and the relationship?

Lauren Rose Ousley 26:05
Yeah, I think at the end of the day, like, you know, your baby, and you know, your partner, and you can get advice from everybody everywhere. And you can read every book and listen to all the podcasts. But like, you just know, we were talking about this at church yesterday, actually, about how, you know, oh, you know, what were some best advice you were given or the way you thought it was going to be before baby, but then, like, I know, I do things differently than I did. I thought it would, because I read the certain books, and we're like, oh, we're definitely going to like be these parents. Like, we're definitely going to follow these like hard and fast rules. But I learned that that wasn't what was best for August in those moments, either. So that's my advice is like, you know, more than you think you do, as soon as baby shows up.

Lacey Komis 26:58
Yeah, just from, you know, the marriage perspective, especially when you have a newborn, they go with you pretty much everywhere you go, you know, we have four kids now. So we went on a date night, the other night, and our 11 month old went with us, and it still felt like a date, because we were, you know, down three kids. So when they're newborn, they go with you, they can usually just sleep and hang out. And so you can still feel like it's a date. But a lot of times during that season, you know, we take advantage of 11 Now, you know, we'll do a later dinner and like, he'll bring it home. And then we play games together. And like we connect in that way, especially if you don't have like a babysitter you can call on or whatever that you know, whoever you might have that watches your kids, like if you're not near family, or whatever that looks like there's other ways to connect. And then I would just say, you know, make time for each other. But don't wait till the end of the day to do that. Because if you do, you're going to be too tired. You know, a lot of times to say I've had a long day, and I'm done but make time for each other. You know, don't wait till the last thing to do that.

Natalie Gross 28:11
Great point. Sultana, Any last thoughts here?

Sultana Karim 28:13
I would say that relationships are give and take. And how do you fill each other's cup and shares breasts love to each other like to talk about like the love languages? Do you know your partner's love language and how they accept and appreciate love? Do you even know your own? Start there and then talk about your partner's but just I would say support each other. If you need help, there is help out there to really problem solve any difficulties that you're having to in terms of communication in terms of boundaries, all these different nuances that I mentioned earlier. There are people that can help you and it's a third party who's not within that relationship that can help guide you in the relationship that you're in so have better outcomes.

Natalie Gross 29:06
Well, thank you so much to all of you Sultana, Lacey, Lauren Rose and August for joining me today. Listeners, you can find out more about Sultana's work at That's K-A-R-I-M Also check out where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.

Natalie Gross 29:38
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parent Saver for moms and dads with toddlers. The Boob Group for moms who give breast milk to their babies and twin talks are parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies, your go to source for new moms and new babies

Disclaimer 30:03
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes early statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Will such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If your questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

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