Remember those blissful early days of your relationship? The excitement, the relishing of every minute spent with the person you love? How you’d go out of your way to be alone together? Then along came baby, and everything changed.
To be fair, you probably knew your relationship was changing. Couples often find pregnancy is like sailing into uncharted waters: when do we have sex? How do we have sex? Do we even want sex? This is normal. The massive shock is the severity of the change after baby arrives.
In my mind I saw it like this: a few weeks after my daughter, Florence, was born, we three would be in a lovely routine. Florence would go down to sleep in the evening, and her mum and I would share a valuable few hours of ‘grown-up’ time. We’d do whatever we wanted then: phoning friends; watching DVDs; eating pickled chillies. But mostly we could cram in some passionate sex.
Wrong. There was no ‘grown-up’ time. We could just about have whispered conversations in the small hours, but physical activity seemed completely impossible. For a start, we were both knackered. Secondly, Florence seemed to have a Stop Mum and Dad Having Sex Cry Alarm. And thirdly, Florence absorbed all the best bits of our affection. (As for sex, don’t ask me why, but doing that with a sleeping newborn in the room never crossed my mind. It felt wrong.)
The little ’un got all the hugs and kisses. We were focused on her all the time. It seemed impossible to stimulate random flirtation and develop that into the very action that brought Flo along in the first place. So sex became a rare and precious event.
- Dad’s story – sex with your pregnant partner
- Dad’s story – becoming a dad
- Dad’s story – how being parents changes your relationship
We lost the art of conversation. Before Florence, we talked about everything and anything. After Florence we talked about Florence. Or other babies. Or other parents. Or prams. Or weaning. Even if we had friends round, we couldn’t get drunk and silly like we used to, because we had to be ‘responsible’.
And you know what? All of this was fine. For a while. As time passed we worked out new ways of doing things. Gradually we woke up to the world outside Florence again. It’s not the same as it was – it never will be. But it’s better. And slowly, ever so slowly, words of more than two syllables are being heard at the dinner table.
Top new dad tips
- As soon as you can, invite your mates round to see the baby. They’ll have energy to play, and will happily let you slip away for a glass of wine.
- Parks are excellent from an early age: nippers get used to being around other kids there and know that the park is a Good Thing. And they should Not Cry.
- Babies are great for getting tables outside gastro pubs in summer: not many people say no when asked to move for a howling, pram-bound child.
- Maximise your time with your partner: if baby is sleeping, squeeze in a candle-lit bath together: it might be short, but it’ll be intense.
- Speak to your baby normally. I would read Florence bits out of the newspaper and it worked just as well as her baby books, plus I felt like a grown-up.
Advice from friends and family
Grandma says: ‘Ensure you have time as a couple’
‘It’s important to put aside time for yourselves, or you’ll feel isolated.’ This was sage advice. My partner and I worked out very early on that ‘stolen’ time having a restaurant meal with the baby asleep in the pram can recharge your batteries.
Best mate says: ‘There’s another way to do things’
‘Early morning sex – it’s a beautiful thing.’ And he was right. Florence often had a few hours deep sleep between 5 and 7am, while we often woke up – probably to check her. These golden mornings were some of the happiest ‘quality time’ in Florence’s early months.