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Feeling Disconnected From Your Husband After Having a Baby: What to Do

Holly is a mother of two and has been refining the fine art of marriage with her husband for 10 years.

When we found out that I was pregnant for the first time a few years ago, it felt like my husband and I had never been closer. There was something so bonding about the trials of trying to conceive, holding hands and our breath through the first ultrasound, and arguing over names before one of us (me, it was me) finally dozed off.

Our shared joy over finally becoming parents together mixed with the anticipation of the beautiful memories we were about to make as a family failed to clue us in on the tense reality of dirty diapers piling up in the bathroom waste basket and 3 a.m. feedings on worknights.

It's safe to say that with each new baby comes new strains on any relationship and most of us know that going in. My mom-friends had warned me. I honestly expected some level of postpartum anger and even my jealousy of my husband's ability to slip away for a luxurious trip to the mailbox when I felt tied to a rocking chair for ten hours a day. But, what I really wasn't expecting was how disconnected I was going to feel from my husband.

Although now I'm beyond that era of my parenthood journey (spoiler alert: my husband and I are still married and close), I reflect on that time in our lives as a lonely one. Since hindsight is 20/20, I can see clearer now that we're out of the woods. Here's some advice from my own experience of feeling disconnected after having my baby, along with expert backed tips on how to navigate marriage and relationships postpartum.

Reasons for Feeling Disconnected From Your Husband After Having a Baby

Obvious Reasons

  • You're both overtired and moody.
  • You don't get the quality time together that you did before.
  • You are experiencing the affects of postpartum depression and anxiety.

Less Obvious Reasons

  • You're touched-out and overstimulated.
  • You worry he doesn't like you anymore because you've changed.
  • You're expecting too much from your relationship—and your partner—right now.

Each of these issues is explored fully below.

Reasons for feeling disconnected after your partner after giving birth.

Reasons for feeling disconnected after your partner after giving birth.

The Effects of Being Overtired and Moody

What it Looks Like

It's 7 a.m. and he's crabbily throwing a PB&J made with stale burger buns into his lunch bag before he kisses you goodbye while you cry into a rancid spit up stained pillow, convinced he hates you and that the baby was a mistake, and also how did the milk vomit get all of the way up here?

Why It's Happening

Combined, the two of you don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times the little mini-ya'll woke up last night.

How to Navigate It

By acknowledging:

  • How absolutely crushing sleep deprivation can be on your cognitive function: ie your ability to reason. This means that if you've both been woken up a bajillion times through the night, then neither of you is going to be feeling peachy or even remotely reasonable the next morning, so this isn't the time for in-depth discussions.
  • Neither of you are your best selves, so you can't expect the best of yourself or your partner right now, and that's okay. This is temporary and you need to be willing to just get by for now. Forgive him for his cranky tone and forgive yourself for batting his hand away when he tried to roll over and hug you (interrupting your solid minute of sleep), and move on.
  • Most of the feelings you're both having are illogical now. Are you hurt because he gave you one kiss instead of two when he left for work and now you're convinced he's cheating? That's illogical.
You Don't Get the Quality Time Together That You Did Before

You Don't Get the Quality Time Together That You Did Before

The Effects of Not Spending as Much Quality Time Together

What it Looks Like

Friday nights used to be a time to get dressed up for drinks with your other married friends, followed by a weekend of daytripping and adventuring. Nowadays, Friday is a panic-drive to the pediatrician because your baby has red spots on his butt or a panic-drive to Target for four different brands of formula in the hopes that your baby will accept please God, just one of them.

Why It's Happening

Life is different now, plain and simple. Babies create a wake of change and the time you used to spend with your partner isn't exempt from that because for both of you, baby is the star of the show now.

How to Navigate It

  • Know that you're not alone in experiencing less time together as a couple now that you have a new baby. My husband and I didn't go out alone together until our first was nine months old and even so that would last about an hour before we had to return to a screaming infant and a frazzled grandma
  • Understand that less quality time together doesn't equate to less love for one another, nor does it mean you have less opportunity to show your admiration for you partner. As Bringing Baby Home Educator Amity Kramer writes about maintaining connection after baby, "It might mean that you sit, without your phone, and watch the new episode of their favorite TV show together, or send a loving text message in the middle of the day, or tell them one thing that you really love about them before bed..."
  • Be conscious of your phone use when your partner is near. Even now as our kids are no longer babies and time together is starting to become more feasible, my husband and I find ourselves staring at our screens when we could be catching up with each other on how our days went. Those moments of conversation and eye contact are an excellent way to make sure our time together is quality.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

The Effects of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

What it Looks Like

You've got the morning jitters but you still can't seem to make it out of bed because you're obsessing over whether or not your baby is breathing normally and when you finally drag yourself to the bathroom and take a look in the mirror you feel like Beetlejuice is staring back. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly one in seven women experience postpartum mood disorders and those who don't are still likely to deal with the less disruptive but still annoying "baby blues."

Why It's Happening

A perfect storm of hormones, sleep deprivation and the mental stress of caring for a new baby can bring on postpartum depression and anxiety which can cause you to withdraw from your partner and egg on the feelings of disconnect.

How to Navigate It

  • First and foremost, don't be embarrassed or scared to admit you're struggling with your mental health. So, so many of us (myself and my husband included) have experienced periods of poor mental health and others (also like myself) deal with these problems long-term. You're not alone and you're not a bad mom for going through this!
  • Ask for help. Tell your partner you're struggling. Seek counseling (I'm all about online counseling, the more accessible mental health care becomes, the better) and talk to your doctor about how you're feeling. If you haven't gone already, this is something your OB will want to discuss with you at your postpartum check up.
  • Know that this too shall pass. Although I've dealt with anxiety and depression my whole life, it was definitely more overwhelming and concentrated in that first year or so of motherhood. Now that I'm further out from that time in my life, I can say with confidence that as baby grows and you regain a sense of individuality things will get better.
You're Touched-Out and Overstimulated

You're Touched-Out and Overstimulated

The Effect of Being Touched-Out and Overstimulated

What it Looks Like

The baby is always [fill in the blank] marathon nursing/grabbing my hair/crying when I put him down/sweating on me/barfing on me/peeing on me/pooping on me/biting me/scratching me/screaming in my face

Why It's Happening

Babies know nothing but survival and you, mama, are survival while simultaneously trying to ensure that you also survive! By the end of the day the last thing you probably want is for your partner to cuddle too close or expect anything you know, intimate when you feel like you've been skin-to-skin with your lovechild for an eternity.

How to Navigate It

  • Get a shower whenever you can. This always helped me feel like I was putting space between the work of infant motherhood and my own skin and in turn helped me to feel more open and loving towards my husband. Perhaps because I had the dried milk washed off and knew I didn't smell like a cheese factory anymore.
  • Put baby in a stroller and invite your husband to go for a walk. When my first was a baby, he wouldn't let me take him out of his carrier which pressed him up snug against my chest and let him hear and see everything I was doing. It was very special but omg, sometimes I was just so tired from literally carrying the weight yet knew that putting him down would result in tears. Our happy-medium was a short stroll in his stroller for a little fresh air, change of scenery and a break from the up-close-and-personal while getting a few smiles and words in with my husband.
You Worry He Doesn't Like You Anymore Because You've Changed

You Worry He Doesn't Like You Anymore Because You've Changed

Worrying He Doesn't Like You Anymore Because You've Changed

What it Looks Like

You're reflecting on the tight clothes you wore on your first date, the freedom with which you made plans on a whim pre-baby and how simple going to the grocery store used to seem.

Why It's Happening

Repeat after me: your life has changed and thankfully you've changed too.

I'm not quite sure why, but this came as a surprise to me and my husband, who seemed to envision easily tacking on a newborn to our usual weekend escapades which I could no longer keep up with. It may take your husband time to accept this but as your baby grows and looks to him more as well, his pre-baby life and who he once was is going to fade into the background too.

How to Navigate It

  • Be patient with yourself. Before I had kids I loved going out to dinner on weeknights and could go out for a 9 PM movie without first mentally counting how many hours of lost sleep that would equate to. You will find that as you unfold into your new role as a mother, the things you enjoyed or tolerated before your baby came along are perhaps not so enjoyable or tolerable anymore and that's okay. Overtime you will find new outings and hobbies that you can enjoy as a mother.
  • Don't compare yourself or your relationship pre-baby to the way life is now. Instead, embrace the changes. I found that reading And Baby Makes Three by Drs. John and Julie Gottman helped equip us both with "tools" to build up our marriage even through the trials of new parenthood.
You're Expecting Too Much From Your Relationship - and Your Partner - Right Now

You're Expecting Too Much From Your Relationship - and Your Partner - Right Now

You're Expecting Too Much From Your Relationship and Your Partner Right Now

What it Looks Like

You're worried that your marriage is in shambles because you guys haven't had a date night since the babymoon and you're expecting a really grand gesture from your husband to make up for it even though you 100% forgot it was his birthday last week (and you're still beating yourself up about it).

Why It's Happening

You're projecting your new insecurities about motherhood and your postpartum identity onto your relationship and your partner and expecting them to magically fix everything. When they can't, you feel discouraged and disconnected.

How to Navigate It

  • Cut corners and accept that not everything needs a tidy solution. When I first became a mom I was so overcome with stress about the dishes, which were constantly piling up and which I expected my husband to do every evening when he arrived home from work. It became a point of contention and disconnect between us. The fix? Paper plates. That whole first year of our new baby's life was paper everything and it curbed an argument about who, exactly, should be doing the dishes. Cutting corners as a new parent is key to expecting less of yourself, your partner and your marriage and therefore surviving!
  • Allow space for both of you to have feelings, even the not-so-pleasant ones. Now, more than ever, you need to be each other's safe space, not the emotion-police.
  • Put expectations aside and focus on how you can show up for each other every day. Before we had kids my husband and I had much higher expectations for our relationship. We were intimate every night, had regular date nights, cooked fancy meals for each other and were generally nauseatingly romantic and flirty. These days I'm stoked when he brings home my favorite combo order from Burger King and sends me an "I love you" text on his lunch break. It's the little things now.

More Sources for Navigating Marriage and Emotional Disconnect After Baby

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Holly Howard

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