and Baby Makes Three©
Most couples anticipate that when baby joins the family, their life will change. That’s true! What the changes turn out to be, and how best to respond to them, is what throws many couples into an unpleasant loop. In and Baby Makes Three© a marriage-strengthening program Anne designed in 1992 for parents-to-be and new parents, pregnant and new-parent couples learn how to recognize the changes in roles and responsibilities in their family, and how to design ways to strengthen the marital bond. In small groups (one to four couples), couples build on the assets they count on in their marriage, plus some education about family systems, as we push through the crisis times that provoke thoughts of the unthinkable (separation or divorce, or affairs).
Here’s an example: Although baby’s birth begins with separation from Mom physically, psychically baby is still very attached to Mom. (Dad is also pretty attached to Mom, and Mom to Dad although for quite different reasons, and in very different ways at this point in the family life cycle.) It actually takes the better part of the first two years of baby’s life for that post-partum, second, separation to be naturally accomplished, not forced either upon baby or Mom.
And so, I hope you ask, what’s going on for Dad during this two-year period? What’s his role? How does he fit into his expanded family? When and how does he relate to his wife? …to his new baby?
We know for sure that Dad, as well as Mom, is likely to be sleep-deprived and exhausted right after baby is born, and for months to come. There’s little time for the new parents to talk together, let alone relate and ‘play’ in the ways they’d been accustomed to. Indeed, it’s the couple relationship that is dynamically changed by a baby’s birth, and when good, healthy parenting is taking place between mother and infant, we inadvertently run the risk that the bond between the parents may be jeopardized.
It’s that rupture which I hope to prevent with sufficient education and understanding in advance of baby’s birth and the new demands put upon the nuclear family. It’s amazing, and reassuring, that just knowledge alone is helpful to exhausted, uncertain, sometimes anxious or depressed, new parents. This joyful, long-awaited transition in a family from couple to parents with an infant can be, and often is, fraught both with rampant hormones and with actual problems. What you are experiencing is real and natural — normal even. And the confusion and uncertainties will pass; so will the sleeplessness.
Husband and wife, new father and new mother, can count on re-establishing time for one another in the months following childbirth. But it does take time. And good humor. And most important, perspective. With one in every two marriages resorting to divorce as the solution to the problems that arise, it is reassuring and very helpful at practical levels to reduce the likelihood of marital discord in every way possible. Anne Ziff’s and Baby Makes Three© guides parents through the process expertly and with compassion.