We feel SO seen.
The postpartum period is overwhelming in every aspect, full stop. And for many couples who welcome a new baby into the family, intimacy is low on the daily to-do list. Because you're so wrapped up in making sure this tiny little human has everything they need at all hours of the day (and night), you forget about your own needs—as individuals and as a couple.
In her new book, What About Us? (illustrated by Molly McIntyre) Karen Kleiman touches upon all the ways a new baby tests a couple's relationship.
"When we factor in sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, depression and anxiety, and different personalities, life with a newborn can feel a bit CRAZY," the summary of the book reads. "Couples tend to misinterpret this rough patch as a sign that something is wrong with the relationship, but when couples take steps toward open communication and safeguard their relationship, they can face everything new parenthood throws at them together."
So many new parents face these struggles, and it can be difficult to both articulate and communicate everything you're thinking and feeling to your partner. You're tired, you're emotional, and everything is just...hard.
"Sometimes, the combination of strong emotions in the midst of unprecedented anxiety, the responsibility of a newborn, and overwhelming expectations leads to a disruption of everything you love about your relationship....and while you might not think you have the energy, a good place to start is to talk about what you need," Kleiman tells Motherly.
She says that while many women do embrace the changes of their bodies and lives post-childbirth, it's perfectly normal for that to take some time. Talking with your partner can help you both adjust to your new normal, especially if you're feeling physically or emotionally uncomfortable.
In the comics, Kleiman touches upon some physical changes that can impact both partners' sex lives.
"As many as one-third of women who give birth experience some degree of pelvic floor dysfunction which can create significant discomfort, urinary and bowel problems, as well as, painful sex," she explains. "It is important to get accurate information and treatment if you are having significant physical discomfort after childbirth. In the meantime, try to keep the dialogue open between you and your partner."
What About Us? is a guidebook of short essays, relatable comics, and journal prompts to help you through the stressful newborn stage. Both partners can benefit from learning about one another's struggles, and this book can help you both strengthen your relationship as a couple.
What About Us? by Karen Kleiman, illustrated by Molly McIntyre, published by Familius 2021, will be available on Sept. 14, 2021.