My dear baby is now two and a half weeks old. I am extremely, extremely fortunate that my parents live only an hour from where I live, so I am still here, recovering and getting used to managing the baby while my husband commutes for an hour to and from work every day to be with us.
Here in Malaysia, we have this thing called a confinement period which lasts for 44 days where after giving birth, the mother is on a strict diet to quicken the healing process and strengthen/restore the body after labour and birth (and speed up the weight loss). It also includes daily routines of massages, heat therapy, herb baths and scrubs and so on, all basically to restore and refresh the body.
For those who are fortunate, like me, the 44 days (or sometimes a bit more or less) are spent at the parents’ house so that there is that support system in place to help take care of you and baby as you get back on your feet. I know many others who spend the confinement period by themselves, or who actually opt for a professional service.
Anyhow. Life has definitely not been the same ever since Fahim came into our lives. My husband and I are grateful that we’re spending this first month with my parents before we bring our son home and finally learn to adapt with a newborn by ourselves in our lives. If anything, these past two and half weeks have given us a glimpse into how our lives have definitely changed.
Right off the bat, we have noticed, for example, that we cannot do laundry once a week anymore but rather once every two or three days. The trash also has to be taken out daily due to the dirty diapers. We noticed that eating together at dinner is now a luxury and no longer a given, as there are nights when we’d have to take turns eating and holding the baby.
Recently, one night when Fahim was sleeping incredibly well, my husband and I had a talk. It was actually the first real conversation we had since Fahim was born, and I felt so relieved after I was able to get everything off my chest. With everything that was going on, plus exhaustion on both sides, it took a while for my husband and I to be able to sit down and finally talk.
Some of these topics we had actually covered while I was still pregnant. Specifically, only points #3 and #4 were discussed recently. So if you are pregnant or are planning to have kids, definitely start these conversations earlier rather than later. These are just some of the important topics to cover, so if you have more, feel free to share. 😄
1) Division of Chores
This one is a big one. Especially if both of you are working. You probably have a system in place already after marriage, but a baby comes with a whole other set of duties. There’s feeding, changing diapers, doing laundry, bathing, putting to sleep. Divide housework and chores with your spouse, and do this sooner rather than later. If anything, just get the discussion over and done with to focus on other, more fun stuff.
For me and my husband, we already worked out what the rough routine would look like when I go back to work, just to be prepared. He would, for example, do the laundry but we both would fold them (before this folding was exclusively my task because I have an OCD with how to fold clothes). He would mind Fahim while I cook, then would do the dishes while I put Fahim to sleep. Basically we’ve figured out a tag team approach, but I’ll definitely share more once we have the actual routine in place.
Some husbands expect their wives to handle the baby 100%, and for some marriages, this works perfectly well. But if you have a baby who doesn’t sleep at night, this can turn into a war zone veryyyy quickly when one spouse is dealing with stress and severe sleep deprivation. So it’s important to talk about expectations and work out a compromise sooner than later.
My husband, for example, asked for a 4-hour stretch of sleep at night. This is his minimum to be able to function the next day, and he actually told me this even before we got married. 😆 I, on the other hand, can function after pulling off an all-nighter and having several short catnaps throughout the day. So during the day, if Fahim fusses after he’s been fed, usually my husband would take him and let me rest, because the night shift would be on me. Of course, if Fahim is super fussy at night and I can’t handle him alone, I’d still ask my husband for help.
A first baby is a first for both parents. Despite all the books and articles and videos and resources we’ve read, Fahim is new to us and we’re still learning with each and every day on what to do and what not to do, what works and what to look out for. It’s incredibly important to give each other words of encouragement and support. Tell your spouse if he/she is doing well, because sometimes your spouse may not know.
Often, my husband would remind me to be patient with the tantrums of a newborn. But he’d also tell me that I’m strong and that I’m doing well as a mom and a wife. At times when I feel stressed, this gives me such a boost and are just the words I needed to hear.
To me, this is a big one, and I understand that not all couples can touch on this topic. But believe me, if you don’t start talking about these things with your spouse now, it’d be much, much harder to start in the future. The first weeks with a newborn is an emotional time, especially for the wife. Things like caring for the baby and breastfeeding doesn’t come “naturally” – they have to be learned, and the learning curve is unforgivingly steep. Emotions run high, and you need your spouse to be there to support you.
Last week, when Fahim was sleeping one night, I laid down beside my husband and told him I missed him. Which confused him, because he was there, and he was always around. But I opened up. I said I missed sleeping beside him, because now we’re sharing the bed with Fahim (easier for me to nurse him by side-lying), it’s definitely not the same as before. I missed having a relaxed dinner together, where neither of us are anxious, wondering if the baby would suddenly wake up. I missed spontaneous dates to the movies and relaxing in front of the TV watching CSI whenever we came back to my parents’ house. I said I loved Fahim, and wouldn’t trade him for the world, but my heart still mourns for the relationship with my husband which may never be the same again.
But I also love seeing my husband as a father. The way he would repeatedly kiss Fahim on the cheek. The way he would WhatsApp me daily when he’s at work, asking if Fahim was okay and whether he was sleeping well. The way he still chose to sleep with us, even when Fahim’s cry at night would disturb his minimum 4-hour sleep. The way he would carry Fahim around to lull him to sleep. The way he would gently pat Fahim’s forehead and recite prayers for him.
… There’s a reason why statistics say that marriage quality and satisfaction goes down after the birth of the first child. Raising a child is hard, from the moment the baby leaves the womb.
But there’s also nothing else like it. My baby is half me, half my husband; a whole other person who, insyaAllah, I hope will grow into a very kind, loving person like his father.
While sharing emotions wouldn’t change anything, it was still a relief to be able to express them and have them acknowledged. And while we both know that married life would never be the same again, probably until the kids are way older, it’s nice to know that if anything, we’re in this together, always as a team, as partners. And while I miss my husband terribly, I finally am getting to see a side of him as a father, and I love that, too.
Maibreakstheice is a blog where I like to tackle life questions through my personal experiences and, where applicable, through my knowledge as a graduate in family counselling. Keep your eye out for updates every Tuesday, or subscribe via email to receive updates straight to your mailbox!