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How Will My Relationship Change in Postpartum?

Updated: Apr 11

Internet forums for new moms have a lot of resentment directed at husbands. Is this true for every relationship, even LGBTQ+ relationships? Many of these new moms are counseled that their feelings are a result of hormones and to just wait it out until their feelings "return to normal." That advice is wild to me. Whether you're in a hetero relationship or not, you should expect some shifts in your relationship AND support from your partner. Read on for some tips.

two moms queer couple with new baby in carrier postpartum LGBTQ family

The first time one of my queer clients struggled in postpartum, I was honestly surprised. I know it's not fair to generalize, but most of the queer folks I know are intentional about their relationships and their family building. I learned an important lesson: no one is immune the tumult of a new baby. Even when you start with a strong foundation, a baby tests the stress points of the metaphorical house. Generally, I think that we struggle less with division of household responsibilities (fuck gender roles). Here are the most common complaints from queer parents:

  1. Feeling like the "default" parent: being preferred by your child when the child is hungry, sick, sad, or in need of middle-of-the-night care.

    1. The other side of the same coin is experiencing grief when you are not the preferred parent. Especially painful when this happens to non-bio parents or non-chestfeeding parents who are processing their feelings about biological relationships and bonding.

  2. Feeling like your partner gets to be the "fun" parent. Usually related to discipline and/or not being the go-to parent for hard stuff like medicine.

  3. Tempers are shorter, conflict is more common.

Based on my experience working with queer families, here is what I recommend:

  • Therapy: working on your relationship now will save you so much grief when you're sleep deprived and less good at words. Find a therapist you can trust now. So many people wait until they are at their wits end to seek help by accident. The most fertile ground is when your relationship is solid and you can fine tune as you are presented with new challenges related to the baby.

  • Relationship Check-ins: many poly families already engage in intentional communication tools like RADAR. If you've never done one before, and especially if couples therapy isn't possible right now, checking in weekly or biweekly on your relationship is a must. Take time to focus on things like chore division, family dynamics, conflict, and boundaries.

    • Chores: speaking of chore division! Many queer couples are more mindful of sharing household tasks because we don't have gender roles assigned to tell us what to do (or we reject them;). That said, I have certainly worked with queer people who aren't sharing invisible tasks evenly, and that is workable before a baby and not sustainable after. Use a tool like the Fair Play deck if you feel imbalance here and don't know where to start. Plan for non-birthing partner(s)/community to do all housework for first 6 weeks.

fair play deck for chores postpartum couples welcoming new baby

  • Bringing Home Baby: If both therapy and relationship check-ins don't feel available to you, consider searching for this workshop designed by the Gottman Institute to help prepare for the changes ahead. Here's a link for the workshop in Chicago for my local cuties.

  • Create a Postpartum Transition Plan: the reality is, even the very healthiest relationships struggle in the first couple of weeks to adjust to life with a new baby. Plan like your life depends on it! Meal trains! Household chore help! What will happen when one of you goes back to work?! If everyone is working, who cooks??! Gets up in the middle of the night....? How can we invite helpful people in and enact boundaries to keep the unhelpful people out?

Final thought: ALL parents must be giving alone time to get to know their baby and bond with them. Like a tightrope walker with a net underneath, you focus a lot less on the task at hand when someone is your baby safety net. Grab a journal or a friend and ask yourself:

  • Often, I see gestating parents struggle with leaving their partner to soothe the baby because they feel like they are "better" at at it. Is that actually true? Have you given them a chance? Why?

  • Do you cling to feeling needed? What do you get by being the best at comforting your baby? What do you lose by sharing that role? What do you gain by sharing that role?

  • Does you partner have as much practice soothing this baby as you? What would it say about you if you walked away and just let them figure it out?

Sending you lots of love as your relationship grows and morphs to welcome another member to your family.

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