Often in movies, the plot revolves around how boy meets girl, or girl pines after boy, and they go around and around in comedic circles until they finally realise that they both, in fact, love each other and can’t wait to get married. Cue upbeat music. The end. That’s a grossly unfair misrepresentation, because, in actual life, the reality is that this is just the very beginning of the story.
I imagine for those who have been married a long time, that early beginning to the story is almost a footnote. And for those with kids? That part of the story is a hazy blur, a distant memory that we sometimes think we might have made up. Did it ever happen? Who knows? Who cares? You’ve become too exhausted to delve into the past.
Marriage may or may not change you, but when you add kids to the mix, the option is no longer there. If it doesn’t change you as a person, it will, at the very least, change your priorities and lifestyle. And it’s not just you alone that changes, it’s your relationship with your spouse as well. What defined you as a couple becomes as distant a memory as those early days of courtship.
Here are some ways you can expect your marriage to change after having a baby. Funnily enough, this will both throw a wrench in your happily-ever-after plans, while simultaneously cementing the “happily-ever-after” part forever. It’s a mystery how this works, but it does.
You no longer do things together as a couple. Instead, you learn how to tag-team like a professional. While one is soothing a wailing baby, the other is getting a bottle made in record time. While one is cleaning up the baby, the other is disposing of the world’s dirtiest nappy lest your home ends up forever smelling like a sewer. While one is dead to the world and catching up on 15 minutes of sleep, the other is keeping baby entertained. And while one is cleaning up remnants of an unfortunate episode of projectile vomiting, the other is making a fast getaway.
You no longer care about your appearance in front of one another. I used to wake up a few minutes before Mr T to brush my teeth, clean the sleep out of my eyes, brighten up my face, maybe rub some scented lotion on my arms and do something about the tangles in my hair. I dissolve in tears of exhausted laughter when I think how ridiculous that sounds.
Less than a month after Baby A’s grand arrival, I became a vision in stained shirts. Yoga trousers are my friends. Spit-up on both my shoulders are the bookends to my days. Now that Baby A is over the spit-up stage, everything has been replaced with unidentifiable blobs of dried food, Cheerios down my shirt and a mere week ago, a blob of dried egg yolk in my hair that I didn’t manage to wash out for 24 hours. Mr T, who used to shave daily, now shaves once a week if we manage to keep Baby A out of his shaving cream.
You’ll snap at each other more than usual. You’ll lose your temper with one another, when, once upon a time, the very idea of that seemed impossible. You’re slowly realising that you will remain sleep-deprived for at least the next 18 years, that you have more pressure and responsibility than ever before, that you can barely get your head around the educational curriculums on offer in schools around town and that you’re expected to figure that out while baby is still in the womb, and that your personal privacy is now lost and gone forever. And the worry over baby? That will never go away. These new realities can put you in a perpetually bad mood, making you cranky and irritable, and who better to take it out on than your spouse?
You’ll fall in love with each other all over again, many times a day. You’ll also pat yourself on the back for choosing a partner who makes such a great parent. And then you’ll look at your cute kid and, in Mr T’s case at least, think to yourself, “My baby is so smart and funny and gorgeous because of her awesome mother.” Hence, the falling in love all over again part.
Hala Khalaf is a freelance journalist based in Abu Dhabi