Let’s face it, marriage is hard. The initial dating stage, romance & courtship is all fun and games…usually. You don’t have fights over bills and kids and when you think you found the right one, your head is usually in the clouds and you walk around with a permanent smile. You get married, play house, talk about your dreams of children and picket fences. You pick out furniture together and settle in. Then you get the big positive sign on the stick and you think life couldn’t be better.
9 months later when you are as big as a cow and really don’t think you will make one more day, your precious baby will arrive. It will be a day you will never forget and it will trump any day that has come before it. Including your wedding day. You will never forget that day for as long as you are alive and you cannot begin to imagine loving another human being nearly as much.
Weeks go by, months, maybe a year. You are tired and you may start having fights whose turn it is with the baby. My husband would say he had to go to Home Depot and I would say, “You are taking the baby, right?” I couldn’t remember what it felt like to have 30 minutes to myself. So he did. But, for the most part, new moms are exhausted and on call all of the time.
Moms with special needs kids will remember the first signs, first signals that maybe something isn’t right. You may begin to fight with your spouse about therapy- how often, what kind- are we doing PT and OT? Should we be fighting for more services? You may be too tired to reconnect, physically and emotionally. Every ounce of your being is spent taking care of your child. You may not have time to go to the gym and you think- let me get this under control and THEN I will take care of myself. You may be depressed. You may be angry. You may be all of these things and your relationship can be taking a nose dive, quickly.
10 ways to stay connected
1. Take turns. There will always be therapy appointments, IEP meetings, tons of evaluations and doctor appointments. Not everyone can be everywhere, all the time. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you share the load. You are both committed parents and if only one person is pulling their weight, there needs to be a discussion around this. No one can do this alone. If you are a single parent, look for support from family or friends.
2. Take care of yourself. I know this is easier said than done but it is true- if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else. There more you take care of yourself, the better you will feel emotionally. Map out sleep and exercise for the week the same way you would schedule a speech or OT appt.
3. If you are depressed, seek help. Consider medication. I know so many special needs mom who have started medication for anxiety or depression or both and it made a world of difference. At the very least, see a therapist. Cry, scream, talk about it- just get it out.
4. Have sex even when you don’t want to. You will feel reconnected and remember the reasons why you love each other in the first place. It will also release endorphins. Win-win.
5. Be kind to one another. It is so easy to take out the stress out on each other. Try not to do it. Apologize if you do.
6. Give each other a certain amount of time per week for alone time. It can be as little as 1-2 hours and it can make a world of difference. I know a one hour massage can recharge me very quickly.
7. Be there for your spouse. I think a lot of dads think they need to be the strong one and hold it together for the mom, but dads need to break down too. Moms need to give them the time and space to do that.
8. Find doctors you trust. It helps when you have someone you trust leading the way. A lot of fights come from not knowing, uncertainty. When you feel in control, it is not nearly as overwhelming.
9. Celebrate everything. Milestones, birthdays, anniversaries. Find the good where you can and make a big deal out of it. Take pictures of the good days, video the first words and look back on them during the darker times.
10. Say “I love you” every day. It may be the most effective way to stay connected.