Ten years ago, heavily pregnant, I said goodbye to a regular monthly social group that I knew I wouldn't be coming back to for a little while. 'Make sure you get out as a couple as soon as you can,' was their parting advice. Looking forward to meeting my baby, and anticipating the tired and intense times to come, the advice fell on stony ground.
A few weeks later, my partner's sister arrived to 'take me out and make me feel like a girl again.' I still have no idea what this means, but I let her come with me to the Bumps & Babies group. My first real Date Night with my partner came about when our baby was nearly six months old, and a kind friend from our NCT group babysat while we went out for a meal. We were home by 9.30pm. So out of the habit of lingering over food, and with nothing much to talk about that we couldn't discuss at home, the whole thing felt like a waste of planning.
We were a tired team of two, rewriting ourselves as a family, moving on from the responsibility-free zone that was our life as a couple. The focus of our relationship was no longer exclusively each other. There were many, many challenges; not least the pressure to go out and 'be ourselves.' Our selves were growing into something new, not constantly seeking something lost. When Date Nights were more of a chore to arrange than a treat to enjoy, they added to the challenges.
Having a child undoubtedly changes a relationship, and pressure to get back to 'normal' can make it harder to adjust. Time spent together does not have to exclude the baby, especially in those early weeks when newborns will sleep quietly in someone's arms. Meals out can happen at lunchtime. Couple time may be snatched and precious, but it is the support and consideration that builds a relationship and maintains it through these dramatic changes.
Date Nights still aren't a very frequent occurrence, and they can still take a reasonable amount of planning (grandparent visits, sleepovers with friends, and so on). But now we can enjoy them on our own terms, the experience is finally worth the effort.
Sprogcast 14 is all about sex and relationships, and we interview agony aunt Dr Petra Boynton about how to maintain and nurture a loving partnership after the birth of a child.