Reflection on How Couplehood Changes with Kids

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It’s 11 at night and I’m preparing for a rare evening with my husband. He’s coming home from a four-hour round trip to pick up a bale of hay for our goats and sheep, and called to say he was stopping to pick up a pizza. I’ve got one kid in bed and the other sleeping on the couch.

I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Do I dare say I’m a little nervous? Except for an occasional dinner out for a birthday or anniversary, my husband and I are surrounded by children every evening – for the past nearly four years. By the end of the evening, we flop into bed exhausted with at least one child sleeping in the middle.

I remember, before having kids, how my husband and I would curl up with one another at night. I would usually lay my head on his chest, and he would curve an arm around my shoulders, and we’d sleep snuggled together. Now, my arms are usually wrapped around a toddler who is separating me from my husband. Our bed seems to be divided into two; in fact, we each have our own sets of blankets now.

I can’t blame our nighttime separation completely on our cosleeping children. Shortly after our oldest daughter was born, my husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea and must wear a mask connected to a loud, air-blowing machine every night. I do not find the contraption, with tubes and its vacuum-like sound, conducive to physical closeness.

It can be a struggle to maintain a close couple relationship with our other half. Every new mother I talk to shares the same sentiment – that they just don’t feel the same connection with their husband that they had before the baby was born. Would the feeling pass? Sure, I say, but their relationship has forever been changed and the closeness that will return will be different. It will be deeper, but it may take some adjustment in expectations to get there.

This year, my husband and I will celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary and ten years together. Despite our lower level of physical closeness, my husband and I share an unprecedented emotional closeness. We may not be holding hands and cuddling on the couch, but we’re able to connect to one another through our strongest attachment yet. I admit, it took quite a lot of work to get to where we’re at. But, as the older couples say, it was all worth it.

Well, I hear the back door open and my husband has come home. We’ll sit in the dark kitchen and chew on our pizza slices, listening to the snores of our toddler on the couch. Then, he’ll sit down to watch a little television, and I’ll finish up something on the computer. And maybe if we’re lucky, we might fall asleep in each other’s arms tonight…until our youngest realizes she’s alone and crawls in to join us. But we won’t be resentful, because as an attached family, nighttime just isn’t the same without the whole family present.

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Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

6 thoughts on “Reflection on How Couplehood Changes with Kids”

  1. I Like this, all I can say, sounds familiar.. and although it is completely rare in my circle of friends and sometimes I have doubts about co-sleeping; I wouldn’t change it for the world. Having my sweet one sleeping near me is a magical feeling – in amongst the tiredness. I just think, wow! she grew inside of me and she is part of us, of course, just seems natural to sleep beside us.

  2. My husband and I sleep in separate rooms. We always have. I miss sleeping with a partner but it just doesn’t work for us (he snores, likes the lights on, I’m a light sleeper, need complete darkness). So I’m glad I have my kids to keep me company in bed. Although once they’re out I think I’m going to be a bit lonely again. Sigh.

  3. Yes, thank you for sharing this. It is extremely hard to figure out a couples life after children. It can be scary and different, but the only way to make it work is to embrace the changes.

  4. I wondered if anyone else did the seperate blanket thing! My hubby likes to sleep with his back to baby and me and his blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cocoon. I think for me it definitely makes me cherish the few moments of “alone” (baby is still with us but asleep) time we have each day. And I’m sure when baby is older I’ll look back and think it was worth it. It’s nice to hear from parents who are more experienced than us that you think it’s worth it too!

  5. We just got another mattress. It’s a twin pushed up against our bed. The girls have been sleeping there for a few weeks now. I love being able to cuddle up to my husband in bed again. Some nights the girls end up crawling onto our bed, and other nights they sleep through on theirs.

    We will have a newborn in bed with us in about 12 weeks. The cycle will begin again, but we don’t mind at all. I actually look forward to those mornings I’ll wake up with all three kids in the bed.

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