Imagine you are dating boyfriend X. You are with him for a year then along the way, charming man Y catches your eye. Y buys you gifts, takes you out, spends his money on you, remembers to buy you flowers and praises you, things X no longer does. You are most likely to find yourself spending more time with your new found love Y than with X.
This is a scenario Tom Ochieng, an engineer and father of three, compares to a woman’s fixation on a new-born to her husband.
On the other hand, Simon, who requested to withhold his second name because of the sensitivity of his comments, says: “Sometimes I leave the office or the bar after hanging out with friends and all I want to do is get intimate with my wife, but when I reach home, she is still looking after the baby.”
So, it looks like the bouncing bundle of joy does not only come with sunny days but with dump ones, characterised by sleepless nights from the baby’s late night cries, hiked financial expenses, less couple time, invasion of privacy and interrupted sex life.
Although this is not a drive against having babies, babies do affect relationships in several ways.
Jean Nuwagaba, a counsellor at Kyambogo University, says the post-birth period calls for change in the general lifestyle of the new mother and father.
Depending on the timing of the delivery, psychological preparations, the couple’s individual perceptions and reactions to the circumstances after birth, a baby will either bring togetherness to the couple or drift them apart to a certain extent.
So, some of the aspects couples have to work around after the baby include:
A baby is considered vulnerable by many, and naturally requires lots of attention, particularly from its mother. Her attention will shift from whether daddy’s shoes are polished to whether the baby’s feeding bottles are clean.
“The baby needs more attention than the man. The time she used to spend doing things for him, she now uses to attend to the baby,” explains Margaret Kisakye, a mother of two.
Andrew Kigozi, a father of one, and Mark Ssengendo, a father of three, attest to this, both saying the attention of the woman is divided between the baby and her husband.
“I find the shift in the woman’s attention from her husband to the baby natural and sometimes unconscious,” Ochieng says.
When the baby is born, some women like Maria Arinaitwe, a mother of three, move to their own rooms with the baby. If the man is not understanding, he is pushed to think the woman does not care about him anymore.
However, Simon says not all men feel left out as is widely assumed.
“When the baby is still young, it definitely needs more attention than me. Besides I could use some space while my wife takes care of the baby.”
On this, Ssengendo advises that it would require the man to have patience and understand, this is a new addition to the family and it is here to stay.
“If the man gets involved in taking care of the baby, he adapts and easily fits in with the baby,” he adds.
In addition, Hope Nankunda Mwijuka, a counseling psychologist with Healing Talk Counseling Services, encourages women to continue showing their husbands love and care even after the baby.
“Know what he loves to eat and cook it for him. As you prepare for the children, you can also prepare him his favourite meal. Eat with him even when he comes home late. When doing shopping for the baby, you can buy him something too,” Mwijuka advises.
Less couple time
According to Ssengendo, when a baby is born, things remain as they were before, only that couple time is reduced.
“For example, you cannot head for the beach with a one-year-old baby because the wind will affect it. You cannot leave your two-month-old baby in the house and go to Ange- Noir. Even when it comes to attending a wedding reception, you cannot stay out until 1pm with the children because they need to keep warm,” he says.
It is after the baby is one year old that some parents enjoy couple time again, because then, they can leave it under the care of responsible adults.
Nevertheless, Kigozi differs, stating: “As a father, you are compelled to be closer to the baby, and you cannot be closer to the baby without its mother being present. She is around most of the time so you actually end up spending more time with your wife and the baby.”
“After giving birth, a woman requires two to three months to heal and during this period, she is not able to have sex with her husband.
Most times, men do not consider that women need time to heal but rather conclude that their wives are not willing to have sex because the baby has taken all their attention,” Ochieng explains.
Wilson Kateeba, a father of four, says some women who have had a C-section require six months to completely heal before they can get intimate with their husbands again.
Both men agree it requires a man to have a great degree of maturity and self control to come to terms with this, lest he is tempted to cheat on his wife.
When the husband is supportive, Ssengendo and Kisakye agree it brings the couple closer and strengthens the relationship.
Nuwagaba says the gap can totally be bridged, with the father getting involved in taking care of their new addition.
“Fathers can take interest in changing diapers, carrying and rocking the baby, bottle feeding, to fit into the adjustment. Couples who work together into the adjustment benefit because this strengthens their relationship.”
When we had our first born, we found ourselves in a situation we had not planned for. I was all over the baby to a point that when my husband arrived home, I would only later recall he was around. When I would ask to make him a cup of tea, he would say: “No, it’s okay I will sort myself out.” After some time, I realised I had dropped him off somehow and needed to pick him up, so I started giving him attention too.
However, when our second baby came, it was an extremely positive experience. May be because it was a boy. My husband was active looking up baby items on the internet and we travelled to the UK for shopping. He would pick me for antenatal visits and drop me home. When the baby came, he was all over him even more than I was. Our second born drew us closer. He would forego his sleep to hold the baby through the night. He did things I never expected him to do and his priority changed from friends and soccer to me.
He began asking for my opinion when making decisions and I got to have a say in the home. He even bought me a car with a personalised number plate. We now plan together and celebrate our good moments. The second born improved the care he used to give me as well as our communication and relationship has grown stronger.