Before I had my son I always secretly judged couples who broke up not long after having a baby, wondering why they didn't try harder, or choose their partner more wisely before bringing a child into the world. Afterwards, I understood how damn hard it is to make it work once it's not just the two of you.
I remember feeling real contempt towards my partner when he regaled my labour story to our friends, as if it had been he who pushed an eight pound baby out of his mangina. 'It was like watching your favourite pub burning down. You know it will be rebuilt but it will never been the same again.' Hahahaha.
We were supposed to be in the most euphoric stage of our lives but I just wanted to kill him. All. The. Time. We used to squabble about the usual things but afterwards I lost my rag about the most pathetic things. Why could he not use an electrical item without getting the cord tangled beyond belief? Did the dirty laundry belong on top of the laundry basket? No! Do the dishes belong on top of the dishwasher? No, they fucking do not! Every time he struggled with our son I felt retribution that he understood it wasn't so easy looking after a baby.
In retrospect I had a pretty good deal - I have friends who tell me that their partners barely changed a single nappy or tended to the baby in the night. Man up - it is not women's work to do either of these things. You don't like poo? Well, guess what? No one likes poo you idiot. (Unless you're into coprophilia of course).
I felt like everything was unfair - that he could go to the toilet in peace, or that he still had every Saturday to himself, or that he could decide to go to the pub on the way back from work on the spur of the moment. I had none of these luxuries and I was also doing the majority of the work in the house and with the baby. None of this was conducive to a successful and happy relationship. I was so fed up with all the banal daily tasks that sex felt like another thing to cross off my to-do-list. I started to wonder if maybe I was just some crazy postpartum lunatic who needed medicating. Six months in, I asked my doctor if there was a prescription to put me in the mood again. He laughed in my face before telling me that human sexuality was complicated and to keep up the romance.
I asked him if there was a pill to feel more romantic. Apparently there isn't.
I yearned for the intimacy to return - the cuddles, laughing, hand holding, carefree conversations. I longed for the kind of romance which would give me that tingly feeling you get when you're a teenager falling in love for the first time. I think he just really wanted to get laid.
It eventually dawned on me that the romance we needed was to understand and support each other. To let go of the anger and resentment and replace it with physical affection and kindness, remembering there were many things and adjustments that we were going through individually. Most importantly, remembering all the amazing things that we now had in our lives and how lucky we were.
Relationships are really hard work - especially the greatest ones - and sometimes it seems tempting to walk away from your problems and into the arms of another. The same problems will surface eventually though and the monotony will raise it's ugly head in every relationship in the end. It's how you deal with it that counts and that determines the success of a relationship.
It's important to pick your fights wisely. Does he get on my nerves? Regularly! Do I wish he wasn't the sort of person who loses the shopping list within the time frame of being handed it before leaving the house and walking to the shop? You have no idea!
But am I equally annoying? Probably! Is he a good father? The best. Does he work his backside off to look after us? Yes. Does he cheat on me, hit me or call me names? No. Did he hold my hair back recently when I was throwing up, then get me back into bed (dragging me feet first across the floor I might add) and sing me a song to get me to sleep? Yes.
He cares for me and accepts me for the person I am and so it is only right that I do the same for him. Adjusting to life with a new baby is hard for both parents and we're learning to work as a team again rather than being on opposing sides.
The underlying message to the men? Put the dishes in the dishwasher occasionally and chances are you're going get laid.