Keep Your Relationship Strong When Trying To Conceive
“Let’s have a baby!” There, you’ve said it—a one-breath statement that changes your life forever. Having a baby is one of those huge, wondrous decisions that truly alters everything. But in order to grow your relationship along with your family, you’ll need to keep the conversation going through all the many decisions that will follow this first one. Here are just a few of the issues you’ll want to make time to talk about as you embark on this journey.
Shore up your partnership One of the best gifts you and your husband can give your child is a loving marriage. That’s because a solid relationship is not only a foundation from which to grow your family, it also serves as a model for what you want your child to become.
A child learns by "soaking" in its world, much like a sponge sitting in the middle of a pool of water. Think about it: a pair of little eyes on you, watching your every move, and thinking, “so that’s how it is.” Does the thought thrill you, or fill you with dread? Either way, now’s a good time to look at your relationship as it will be seen by your children.
Start by noticing how you and your husband relate to one another. Do you raise your voice when you disagree? Does he sulk when he doesn’t get his way? Is this what you want to teach your child about relationships? Of course not! So if anything is out of sync in this regard, take time to talk to your spouse about whether you are modeling behaviors that reflect the ways in which you want your child to grow. Learning better ways to communicate now will not only strengthen your partnership, but it’s the way to create the harmonious home you want for your child.
How about your lifestyle? Virtually every parent wants their child to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and not drink or smoke. But remember that home is the place where children learn good habits, so be mindful of your own choices. Plus, making these changes carries an extra bonus: studies have shown that they’ll increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Talk to your spouse about ways you can support each other, especially if these changes mean a big shift in your lifestyle.
Finally, remember to address the nuts and bolts issues that come with a baby: childcare arrangements, and changes in household responsibilities, finances, and your work situations. Even if you’re not pregnant yet, once you’ve made the decision to become parents it’s not too early to start thinking about these things. Don’t add to the stress of having a new baby by hurriedly making last-minute decisions. Instead, give these important matters the time and focused attention they deserve. All work and no play... Rahul and Maya sat in my office for their regularly scheduled couple’s session. Even though they had only been trying to conceive for a few months, they already looked worn out and frustrated. “The thing is...” Rahul hesitated, looking over at his wife, who nodded for him to continue. “Well, lately it seems like being together has become just one more thing to check off our to-do list. I miss the fun we used to have.” Unfortunately, Rahul and Maya’s scenario is a common one. With so much energy caught up in getting results, they forgot about each other and the romance that brought them together in the beginning. You can avoid this trap by—even though it sounds like a contradiction—planning for spontaneity. Whether it’s an overnight trip or a longer vacation, choose to throw caution to the wind, (along with your ovulation and pregnancy tests!) and just enjoy being together.
And be sure to keep the momentum going by planning a weekly date night, where the talking agenda can include anything but work, finances and baby-making. You were a couple first; make it a priority not to lose that. Facing the unexpected Hardly anyone imagines that it won’t be easy for them to have a baby. But if it doesn’t happen right away, you may find yourself becoming concerned. And, of course, if you’ve hit a fertility impasse you’ll need to give yourself time to adjust before deciding how to move forward. Now more than ever, you and your spouse need to get solid information and keep the lines of communication open.
Get the facts.
Did you know that if you’re in your twenties and in perfect health, you have a 25 percent chance of conceiving each month? By the time
you’re in your thirties, this number drops to 10-15 percent, so that conception can take up to a year. Knowing the facts, as well as the best times to conceive each month, can take the pressure off, and allow you to recognize when it’s time to seek medical attention. Consider the big picture. Of course it’s impossible to put a price tag on having a child, but if fertility treatment is involved, it becomes important to consider the cost—financial, as well as physical and emotional.
For example, one couple I worked with, whose marriage was already struggling, was considering a mortgage to fund yet another attempt at IVF (in vitro fertilization). Think about the implications of this: of course they’ll be devastated if it’s unsuccessful. But even if they do conceive, they’ll need to consider that they’ll be starting their family with the stress of an added financial burden.
Stay in sync.
Certainly it’s important to have a goal, but it’s equally important to keep your plan to get there flexible. Don’t make assumptions about what works for your partner. Instead, ask questions, share your point of view, and remember that this is a journey you are taking together, one step at a time. Keep your marriage in balance. Whether you’re enthusiastic about beginning natural conception, or are in the process of pursuing fertility treatment, it’s easy to become so single-minded, that this is practically the only thing you want to talk to your husband about. Most men aren’t hard-wired this way, and your one-track thinking can put a real strain on your relationship. One way to give this issue the time it deserves, while keeping it in check, is to see your marriage as your own private oasis, where you and your husband get to decide when to let this subject in, and when to keep it out. Set up some time regularly, even just 10 or 20 minutes in the evenings, to discuss this issue. Perhaps a “walk and talk” date after dinner can be your time to share your thoughts and discoveries with one another. Making time for each other now, and regularly sharing your thoughts and concerns, will help you get in the habit of still making time for each other after you’re parents ... and for the rest of your life.
This article by Marina Lombardo, LCSW, originally appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of Conceive Magazine.