Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother


Babies Are the Ultimate Relationship Testers


We both snapped. Exchanged some mean words.

The baby is down the hall shrieking like a wild animal caught in a forest trap. He isn’t going to sleep in a foreign crib and that is final.

My husband and I leave him to see if he will settle, but his screaming escalates.

Naturally, I want to ring my husband’s neck, as though it is entirely his fault our child is not closing his eyes.

We are staying at a very pregnant friend’s home and the last thing she probably wants to hear is the horrific wailings of another person’s baby just days before she will have a crying newborn to care for. We are panicking to remedy the situation.

See, we were among the thousands of Ontarians left without heat and power just before the holidays. Like many others, we decided it best to pack up our stuff and haul our butts somewhere warm.

We had to cancel our holiday plans, we were exhausted, and our spirits were limp.

Naturally, we did what all happy and in-love couples do when things are going horribly wrong—we fought.

Pre-baby, we might've laughed about being powerless. Maybe we would’ve booked a hotel room and ordered late-night cocktails in the hotel bar, enjoyed a lazy breakfast in bed, thanks to room service. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, our happiness as a couple is now largely dependent upon the happiness of our rosy-cheeked child.

When baby’s not content, neither are we.

To anyone who claims babies bring couples closer together, I’d say that yes, these small wonders offer many magical moments of bonding, but those are often cruelly bludgeoned by the endless—and tiring—demands of parenthood.

At times, raising a child can feel like going into war without any protection, and realizing that your mate is standing opposite you on enemy lines.

Research out of the Gottman Relationship Institute in Seattle found that approximately two-thirds of couples grow dissatisfied with their romantic unions within three years of having a child. 

Whereas new mothers tend to feel dissatisfied in their marriages immediately after bringing baby home—likely due to childbirth demands, hormone changes, round-the-clock nursing, and the sudden shift from working outside the home to being at-home with baby—it takes a few months before dissatisfaction hits new fathers.

Truly, becoming parents is the ultimate test of survival for partners.

Just when things are going smoothly, your child throws you an unexpected curve ball, just to keep you on your toes.

It is a gross understatement to say that parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever do.

It can wear you down—and it will—but it will equally lift you up. 

You are responsible for another person’s life. A life, people! And there is nothing bigger than that.

But, eventually you will make it through the latest patience-testing hurdle (for instance the four-day vomit-fest; severe teething pain; strange unexplainable crankiness; the sudden return of sleep deprivation or a gut-wrenching series of diaper bombs), and the storm will calm.

You breathe again. You hug it out. You leave your war posts and meet in the middle. You apologize for saying mean things, and feel the love again. Your child is happy and so are you.

You bask in the perfectness of the moment and marvel at the fact that you made this delicious little creature. You are giddy from the intoxicating love you feel . . . the love is almost too much.

You couldn’t feel closer. You are a family—perfectly imperfect.

In this spectacular life of love, chaos, and curveballs, can anything be better than that?

I really don’t think so.