The quiet before the storm
Not long after I got married (literally like days in one instance) I had been asked very casually on more occasions than I care to recall- “when are you having a baby?” My reply each time, with a polite smile and gritted teeth was, “when Allah wills it”. Although, I assure you what I really wanted to say was “none of your business that’s when!” My husband and I never intended to have children straight away. I firmly believe that a couple should take some time just to get to know each other and strengthen their own relationship before bringing someone else (a very demanding someone else that too) into the mix. Having a baby is the most amazing thing in the world but without doubt it comes with its own challenges, (at times incredibly tough challenges) which if not faced correctly with the right perspective, can have a very negative impact on a couple’s relationship. I asked a number of parents, young and old, new and experienced about what obstacles they faced personally and tips to overcome them and decided to discuss the ones that seemed most pertinent to the success of a couple’s post-baby relationship challenges.
- Post-Baby Blues
After a woman gives birth, emotions fly high…really high…like sky high! This is also referred to as the “Baby Blues”. For those of us who have experienced this, it’s pretty damn tough. The mood swings, welling up at every small thing, literally bawling randomly, snapping at the husband for no apparent reason (which can be argued happens pre-birth as well), yes it’s definitely all a bit crazy. Not only are hormones haywire, but having another little human to look after, whom you are entirely responsible for is extremely overwhelming. (Fathers, not to take anything away from your courageous efforts, but we mothers did just give birth!) Add that to the massive changes a woman’s body has gone through and is continuing to go through, the emotional upheaval doesn’t seem quite so out of the ordinary anymore.
So how do we overcome this? Well, first of all, ladies, stop looking at that mirror and scrutinising every bit of baby weight and stretch mark! Your body has gone through an incredibly traumatic change, and given time (and some effort) you will get back to normal. I know your body no longer feels like your own or is under your control. You may have (in fact most probably do have) post- birth issues, whether it’s piles or stitches that are taking forever to heal or any other problem from the endless list of post-natal issues; believe me, it will get better. You may take weeks to heal or you may take months, or you may be one of those very fortunate women who take days to heal, but you will heal. Go easy on yourself. Don’t bottle up your emotions, however silly it may feel, speak to someone, let it out, hug it out! Most importantly know that your struggles will not go unrecompensed. Your reward is with Allah for every bit of pain you feel, for every tear you shed, so turn to Him and know that He is watching and He will help you get through this, as He has done for so many mothers before.
Now then Dad, we know and appreciate, it’s an overwhelming and bittersweet experience for you too; having to witness the woman you love dearly (or perhaps have to put up and live with for the sake of Allah!) go through a tremendous amount of pain and then eventually gift you a little person to love more than you ever thought possible. You saw first-hand what she went through and what she is still battling with, so be there for her. Give her a hug and tell her she’s doing brilliantly with your child. Reassure her that she’s still beautiful. Listen to her, however silly her complaints may sound or however many times she makes them, be patient with her. Be the emotional rock that she desperately needs you to be right now. As for taking care of your new arrival, that is not solely her responsibility so please do your share as well. Whether it’s taking over a few feeds while she rests or giving the baby a bath and let’s not forget nappy changes, know that every little helps. Don’t for a minute think that your efforts to take care of your wife will go unrewarded either. Not only will Allah reward you immensely for every small effort you make to give her comfort, but you will also rise in respect and love in your wife’s eyes, immeasurably. The true test of your love for her is now, when she needs you the most, so make her your priority and be considerate of her needs.
- Time Out
Everyone needs a break and more so when you have a demanding new-born to take care of. Dads, take over for a couple of hours a week at the very least and give your wife that time to recuperate. or use it to catch up on sleep, it’s really important that they are given this time. You might think that you’ve been at work all week and you deserve to relax on your days off. In that case answer me this, you have your days off but when is it your wife’s day(s) off? Or did we all miss that memo? A refreshed mummy will mean a happy mummy and a super happy wife so it’s in your best interest, trust me!
Mums, I know you desperately need a break but your husband also needs some time out whether its meeting friends or zoning out in front of the Playstation, they too need an outlet, as easy as it is to forget and get all emotionally frenzied about it! You must try to be patient and not make him feel guilty for having that time out, as difficult as it may be when you’re running on a few hours of sleep.
Not only is alone time important but a couple should make an effort to also spend some quality time together, without the baby ideally. If you can, leave the baby with someone every so often (a job for which adoring grandparents and doting aunties and uncles are perfect) and take some time together. Far too often couples neglect each other and quality time alone together following the arrival of a baby and as a result drift apart. Yes it’s difficult to find time for each other especially if you have other children to look after, but where there is a will there is a way. The more effort you put it into your marriage the more successful it will be, naturally.
- Too Many Parents?
In-laws can be a great help but they can also sometimes become an annoying hindrance! At times it may feel like your child doesn’t only have two parents but several, and everyone seems to want to have a say! Without a doubt, majority of the time they will have the child’s best interests at heart, but it can be overwhelming, especially as new parents when everyone offers their two cents worth of advice and insist on its implementation. If you’re living separately and a distance away from both your families (because the wife’s family is no exception when it comes to interference) it is far easier to manage. However, if you are living in a joint family you need to pick your battles wisely. If it won’t be detrimental to the child’s health or Deen then let it go, focus on the more pertinent issues. Whilst saying that, it is your child, your responsibility, especially when it comes to haram and halal, be assertive! The key is to be able to strike a balance between laying firm boundaries with certain things but then not flying off the handle at every minor issue- easier said than done I’m sure. Both parents also need to manage their respective families’ expectations; in particular husband’s mother’s, if you’re living in a joint family. This is an issue that came up frequently in the responses I received from new mums living with in-laws. Guys, as difficult as it is, you need to have a kind, quiet word with your mum and step in if it all starts kicking off because trust me a mum with a new baby has enough on her plate without having to deal with someone unfairly criticising her every action.
- Communication and Expectations
The key element in all of this is clear and concise communication between the couple. There is no way that you will be able to deal with expectations and interference from extended family if you’re not both on the same page. That’s not all; you must have open lines of communication between you in order to manage your own expectations of each other and to avoid taking frustrations out on your relationship. It is far too easy to snap at the person closest to you when in reality it is not them that you’re annoyed with in the first place. So rein it in, ladies in particular!
As for expectations, dads you need to give your wives time with regards to the physical element of the relationship. A woman after childbirth can take weeks, maybe even months, to recover not just physically but mentally too, so be sensitive to her needs, talk about it and go at a pace to suit you both. Remember this kind of talk is allowed and even encouraged in Islam between a husband and wife, so don’t be shy- it’s important!
Mums, I know the last thing on your mind is wearing something other than your pyjamas and looking frumpy to half decent all day. Heck, most days you probably can’t even remember if you brushed your teeth or combed your hair! But, do try to make an effort when you can, when the baby is having a good day. Not only will it be beneficial to your relationship but also to you and your general mood.
- Sow the seeds for a beautiful tomorrow- it’s not all doom and gloom
Despite all the challenges you have faced or are facing or however daunting it may feel, the arrival of your beautiful bundle of joy (often covered in poop, pee and vomit!) has provided you with a shared goal and shared priorities. Your every action now as a parent will define how your child is brought up and the kind of character traits they will pick up. As long as you are both on the same page then you will be able to face any difficulty head on as a couple. Inevitably, the more you struggle and strive to be a good parent to your child the more successful you will be in bringing them up in the manner that you want and in accordance to the Qur’an and Sunnah. There’s no denying that the road ahead is tough, and there is no going back now. But there is plenty of hope, plenty to look forward to and combine that with tonnes and tonnes of Dua- amazing things to achieve. Just remember it’ll all be worth it in the end when your righteous child and their progeny testify on the Day of Reckoning to all the good actions they were taught by you, their parents, grandparents etc. But know that most importantly you are not alone! I’d like to end with something a friend of mine said recently that really struck me. She said that generations of awesome Muslims have been raised in similar if not harsher conditions, so you can do it too Insha’Allah- remember that the next time you’re panicking.
May Allah SWT grant us all the ability to raise a new generation of Muslims upon the Qur’an and Sunnah, who will ultimately be our means of Salvation.
Ameen Ya Rabb.
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