Baby Proofing Your Marriage

Becoming a parent is a huge shift in your marriage! But it shouldn't detract from the intimacy between you and your spouse!

We’ve all heard it said that your marriage is more important after you have children, not less. Yet, there has been a huge shift in parenting over the last several years in which we are always putting our children first.

The reason our marriages matter more after children is because our marriage is a model of what healthy relationships look like. And parenting children is so much easier when you are a team. And being a co-parenting team is much easier when you have a solid spousal relationship. Always remember that before you were a mom and dad, you were a husband and wife.

While I was working in the Chaplain’s office at Ft. Benning I read And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives by John Gottman. I liked it so much that it’s a book I highly recommend to all parents and parents to be (I even list it on my resource page!)

I value Gottman’s insights on marriage and so I really took some of his principles to heart in preparation for when we had our own kids. And it sure is coming in handy now! Gottman has Six Steps for Maintaining Romance After Children. Who doesn’t want to keep that spark alive? Nobody goes into having children intending to neglect their marriage. But during the new born phase so much of a new parents’ life begins to revolve around the new baby. The new baby’s eating schedule, sleeping schedule. And suddenly the intimacy and closeness between husband and wife begins to decrease. It just happens.

Maintaining the same level of romance and intimacy takes a lot of work. Here are just a few of the steps he recommends for maintaining Intimacy and Romance in your marriage:

  • Soften how you bring up a problem
  • The importance of repair
  • Accepting influence
  • Savoring your friendship
  • Giving Grace

Giving Grace

It is not about avoiding problems that may come up as new parents, but finding positive strategies to manage the problems as they occur. Tensions can begin to run high in the first few months home with a new baby. Neither parent is particularly experienced or confident in their parenting abilities. This insecurity can make emotions run high. New moms have a surge of hormones to top it all off making them even more prone to being emotional. Lack of sleep also contributes to the rise in tensions in the home. Nobody can function at their best when they are being awoken every two to four hours.

So small events may turn into larger disruptions than might be normal. When this happens remember to give yourself grace. And to give your partner grace.

Giving your partner grace can be more difficult for new moms. New moms may not see how the transition for their partner is as difficult for dad as it is for mom. New moms, especially those who nurse are now the primary source of survival for a new born and are often still struggling with postpartum symptoms. But both new Mom and Dad need grace during the transition into parenthood. Grace can help promote intimacy in your marriage because it will prevent harboring resentment. Resentment prevents intimacy because it allows there to be separation within the marriage. Resentment can build up walls. Walls up = no intimacy.

Importance of Repair

Because tensions run high during the transition from a two person family to a three person family, repair attempts are so important. Why? Because we may often hurt our spouse’s feelings. Making and accepting repair attempts is more telling of relationship satisfaction than how many arguments a couple has. But it is not enough for one person to constantly be making repair attempts; the other must accept them. By accepting the repair attempt you are coming back together and creating more intimacy. When you reject your partner’s repair attempt you are putting up a wall between you. This prevents intimacy from growing in your marriage.

Savoring Your Friendship

Remember what brought ya’ll together as a couple to begin with. Most likely it has something to do with a friendship that was cultivated. During the postpartum period sexual intimacy is off the table. So finding old ways to create intimacy is important. At the beginning of your relationship, most likely sex was no the element of your relationship that created intimacy. Most often intimacy is created through friendship which leads to a more sexually intimate relationship. Get back to basics and by spending time together you can help maintain levels of intimacy in your relationship. While you may not be able to find time to get away and spend one on one time with your spouse, spending time together as a new family can help you maintain your friendship. It is a way to create new memories and experiences together.

This is just a way to start maintaining intimacy in your relationship after the newest addition has arrived. If you are looking for more information check out Gottman’s book And Baby Makes Three. He has such relevant information for new parents!

Becoming a parent is a huge shift in your marriage! But it shouldn't detract from the intimacy between you and your spouse!

Mindfulness Techniques You can Do to Reduce Anxiety

Life gets crazy, we get anxious; but using mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety by centering our mind and regaining focus.

There are a lot of coping mechanisms you can use to combat anxiety and depression. One of the newest areas that is being promoted to reduce anxiety is Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state that is achieved by focusing on the present moment. It is a calming technique that involves acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, or bodily sensations.

How does Mindfulness work?

Mindfulness can be a great relaxation technique, which is one reason why it is used so frequently in reducing anxiety. Anxiety is worrying over things that have already happened or something that may happen. Meaning it is a past or future emotion, and your brain power has been removed from the present.

Mindfulness is a method of bringing your focus back to the present. By doing so you reduce the tension caused by your past or future thinking. The present is a finite period of time. The smaller the period of time, the easier it is to cope with the struggles at hand.

For example, a couple of weeks ago my stress levels were going through the roof. We were having issues selling a car we couldn’t afford to fix (it didn’t run), trying to fix a car that did run so it could be shipped, extra blood draws and labs for monitoring my health during pregnancy. I was struggling, no matter how hard I tried, everything seemed overwhelming because there was just too much to do, and not enough time. However, had I used some mindfulness techniques I may have been able to center myself more quickly. Rather than taking a day or two I could have calmed down and relaxed in a few hours.

So the next time you’re getting anxious, overwhelmed, and can begin to fathom solutions to your problems try out some of these mindfulness techniques and see if they help!

Mindfulness Techniques

  • Breathing Exercises:

    • Deep breathing is an excellent way to draw your focus on of worry and into a calming presence. When we begin to get anxious we begin breathing rapidly and shallowly. The logical part of your brain shuts off when overwhelmed, and so we can’t get to a place where we can problem solve. By slowing our breathing intentionally, we create a pattern that automatically pulls our brains out of the anxiety provoking thoughts. When physical symptoms of anxiety dissipate we can begin to problem solve. Deep breathing creates a reduction in the physical sensations that anxiety brings. Centering you into the present, rather than past or future.  It is recommended that you spend at least one minute, but up to five minutes can have an even more lasting effect. If you are having a hard time focusing on breathing, try listening to a YouTube video, or an app that has guided breathing exercises.
  • Grounding exercises:

    • When we are anxious we become overwhelmed and recess into our thoughts, losing track of our surroundings. A simple way ground yourself bringing your back down is to find 5 things you can smell, touch, see, and hear. It is all about using your senses to identify your current surroundings. While yes, taste is one of the senses, unless you’re eating something it isn’t useful as a grounding sense. The way it works is when you become overwhelmed and you begin to recognize those feelings open up your senses. I like to start and encourage others to start with sight. I think it is easiest to start with identifying 5 objects that you see around you. Maybe it’s a stop sign and a tree, maybe it is your dog. Either way it will orient you to the location in which you are in. Then identify 5 sounds you hear- cars going by, the tv, birds singing. Repeat with things you can smell, and things you can touch. This will help bring you back to your present situation.

Mindfulness has a way of restructuring the wiring in our brain. This means that the more we practice Mindfulness when we are anxious and stressed, the less stress we will feel overall. We will be more equipped to handle the challenges that come up against us.

You don’t have to be perfect at it; just have to keep trying. As a counselor, I have worked on this in my own practice with myself. As a military wife, there are so many circumstances that come up in my life that I have no control over, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by it. That is why I turn to mindfulness techniques to regain my focus on what I can control.

You don’t have to be a counselor or being seen by a therapist to manage any anxiety in your life using these mindfulness techniques, or many others.

Have you ever tried mindfulness as a way to manage your anxiety? Did it work for you?

Life gets crazy, we get anxious; but using mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety by centering our mind and regaining focus.

What to do when you Can’t Nest

One classic phenomenon in pregnancy is the desire to clean and prepare the house for baby, but what if you are pregnant and aren't where baby will make his or her appearance? Here are some ways to fulfill the need to nest when you can't do it physically.

I have always been super excited to decorate my baby’s nursery long before we had our first positive pregnancy test, to be honest, well before we even decided to start trying for a baby! I had a secret Pinterest board full of baby nursery ideas for both boys and girls! Of course soon after I found out I was pregnant I realized I wouldn’t be decorating any nursery! To say I was a little disappointed might be an understatement, but I quickly moved past it, and started dreaming about ways I could make a wonderful shared space for baby and I at my parents’ house! But dream is all I can do until I am more than seven months pregnant and starting my third trimester!

Not all pregnant women experience the phenomenon of nesting, but it is the intense feeling of wanting to clean and prepare your home for baby’s arrival. And all women experience at different points in the pregnancy. But I am a prepare-er, so I feel like I have felt this instinct since fairly early in the pregnancy, but without being able to really do much to prepare for her arrival since I had two moves to get through between when I found out I was pregnant and when our little Miss will finally make her arrival! This hit especially hard after the baby showers! I had all this cute baby stuff and all I could do was put it in boxes and suitcases as I prepared to fly to Hawaii.

For Military wives we may not always get the opportunity to nest in the traditional sense, maybe our nesting instincts get sublimated into a pack out and move out cleaning. Maybe we know we will be moving within a couple months of baby’s arrival and so we don’t want to put so much energy into making a Pinterest worthy nursery! Maybe we are living in a hotel waiting for housing at a new duty station when our next bundle of joy arrives. Whatever the case is, we can find ways to direct that energy and make the best out of it!

While I know the urge to nest typically hits the hardest towards the end of the pregnancy, it still has been challenging to be able to do so little to prepare for baby early. So here are some things I am doing to help ease my anxiety before I have a physical place to prepare:

  1. Ordering bigger pieces of gear and having them sent to my parents’ house. By having some of the bigger items already waiting for me it will be easier to set up the room when I get there with minimal rearranging once my bed is purchased (better believe that is the first stop we are making on the way back from the airport!). Since her bassinet and crib (A Graco dream glider bassinet and swing in one; and Graco travel lite crib with stages pack n play) are already at the house I can sleep easier knowing that should she make an early arrival she will have a place to stay.
  2. Lots of online research. I spent so much time researching the best baby items for small spaces. I have known since the beginning of the pregnancy that me and baby would share the one extra bedroom at my parents’ house for just about her whole first year! So, finding products that served multiple purposes, were small/portable and most space effective were so important to me. Thank goodness for Google and Pinterest. It made it so much easier to decide exactly which products I needed. Also, it was helpful to feel like I was picking out strollers and car seats without having to purchase and then transport large items. I now know exactly what I want and can order it as soon as I get there.
  3. Thankfully I am going to be living with my mom and dad, so I can send them hunting for items on island to get for me, so they will be ready for me when I get there. I can go to my local Target here look at it all and then send my mom the link so she can find it at her local Target! She can do that with baby items too! I have sent her to her Target with my baby registry so she can tell me which items are more expensive at her local target so that I can get those before I get there or order online instead of paying for the island mark-up!
  4. And finally, spend countless hours envisioning the space. Since my parents have been there for the last 8 or so years I have spent a great deal of time at their house for vacations even though I have never lived there. So making layouts of the room in my head has been helpful so when I get there, if I am too big to move it all around myself I can direct my dad with how I want everything to be!

So while I may not be able to nest in a traditional sense, I have found ways I can prepare for baby and reduce my anxiety so I don’t feel pressured to have everything done in the first few days upon arrival!

What are some of the non-traditional ways you have nested in preparation for your new addition?

One classic phenomenon in pregnancy is the desire to clean and prepare the house for baby, but what if you are pregnant and aren't where baby will make his or her appearance? Here are some ways to fulfill the need to nest when you can't do it physically.