Romance after kids

Romance: How To Keep It Alive After Baby

Romance. It sure looks different from the day you married to the day you find yourself rocking an inconsolable babe in the middle of the night. We all know it but until you have kids it is really hard to understand how much it affects your marriage. Although children are a gift, you have to work at it to keep your marriage a priority. Dates are an obvious way to keep the romance alive, but it isn’t always possible to find or even afford a sitter. 

Here are 5 tricks my husband and I have learned along the way to help keep the romance going even when kids make it complicated.

#1 Stroller dates

When we only had one child, my husband and I would strap our son into the stroller and we would walk around IKEA talking and dreaming. It was a perfect date. Our son enjoyed the scenic people-watching and we enjoyed the time *alone*. I know a couple who would load their kids into the car, with their jammies on, and grab take out. Then, they would drive around for a few hours while their children slept and they talked. They would often go to the state border! Whatever it takes to get alone time with your spouse, right?! I have friends who do date night’s in. We’ve done this before. You can get the kids to bed and make a special evening together watching a movie or baking cookies or insert you favorite past time. Find activities that are still doable while kids are sleeping or in a stroller or in a pack ‘n play. The point is to have adult conversations, dream a little, hold hands and date!

#2 Coffee Dates

We now have three kids and limited opportunities alone. We’ve started having coffee dates in the mornings. While the kids sleep, we sit in the family room sipping our home brewed coffee and talking. It’s not very glamorous but it is nourishing our relationship. Each morning, we are bridging the gap that having lots of kids and little time creates. I want to note that rhythm was very important in making this happen as well. Until I could guarantee the baby was going to sleep through the night, getting up early for coffee was not going to help our marriage! It may not be a coffee date for you and yours but find a DAILY activity that you can look forward to that provides adult conversation without the constant interruption of little ones. 

#3 Resource free or affordable childcare programs

Couples need times when the kids have a safe place to be and you and your spouse have a place to be without them! In our area, both our church and a local non-profit offer Parent’s Night Out programs on a regular basis for a very affordable price. These are priority one in the Parker Household! We block our calendars on these dates. We know that our children will be well loved and cared for and we can have much needed time alone without breaking the bank! The kids have a wonderful time and my husband and I come back refreshed, more connected as a couple, and better parents. There is likely similar programs in your area. Sometimes, you just have to know where to look or who to ask.

#4 Schedule Time Together

I remember sitting in a MOPS meeting this past spring listening to a panel of women sharing their wisdom on how they kept their marriages alive while their children were little. The honesty and ideas that came out of that session were gold. The most priceless advice was to schedule time together both for conversation and intimacy. There will always, ALWAYS, be something or multiple little someones clamoring for your attention. You have to make the decision and steadfast commitment to date, get away without the kids, and remain intimate. It will not just happen. Put a big X on the calendar. Schedule reminders. Carve out times to make your relationship a priority. Having kids has a way of removing the spontaneity of all things romantic but please, still be romantic even if there has to be a big red circle on your calendar reminding you to be intimate with your spouse. I know there will come a time when scheduling quality time alone with your spouse won’t be so hard, but until then do what you gotta do!

#5 Ask for help

Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, you and your spouse just can’t do it alone. Family is not nearby but our church and life group have become our framily. If it had not been for the love, support, and willingness of our friends,  I have no idea how we could have cared for our children, when our second and third child was born. We all need a village. Find yours! Plug into a church. Get involved in a small group. Get to know your neighbors. If you’re near family, please invite them into your life and resource the free babysitting! Connect with people who can help you keep your marriage a priority. Swap babysitting with other couples. Watch their kids one week while you have a date, then they can watch your kids while you get a date! You need this. Your spouse needs this. Your kids need this.

Romance with kids is tough!

Jon Acuff said recently: “Toddlers are amazing, but they are also a crisis. They never stop moving, like raptors constantly testing the boundaries of their containment for weak spots. Your life is upside down when you have young kids.” Let’s own the fact that kids make our marriage relationship difficult. You can, however, find ways to stoke the romance flames between spit up, meltdowns, and night terrors. It will get better. And it’s going to take work. Keep pursuing one another. Your definition of romance may need to change for a while but your love for one another doesn’t have to.

Have kids? Here are some tips on how to stoke the romance flames between spit up and night terrors!

Your Turn! How have you kept the romance alive between raising littles and the every day demands of life? Comment below with your tips for finding time with your spouse! 

Read the introduction here: Bringing Home Baby, Again

Read last week’s post here: How to Help Your Child Adjust to Baby

Next Week! 

Having kids does a number on your social life. It brings the spontaneity and late nights to a screeching halt. And if they don’t stop, someone is paying for it in meltdowns and chaos. Join me next week as we discuss how kids change your social life!

Photo Credit: Rhonda Ramirez (header image), Captured Photography by Emily (content photo)

Although your heart multiplies with each darling bundle of joy, your time is divided exponentially. This is why developing a new rhythm that works with your new family dynamic is so critical. It’s not going to come overnight, but you can find a pattern of life that works for your expanding family! Here are 4 tips to help you on your quest for a new family rhythm!

4 Practical Tips for Gaining a Routine After Baby

Life before baby was different. You managed your finances a certain way. You spent your free time doing things you wanted to do when you wanted to do them. Then baby came along and changed the money priority, the activity priority, the leisure…okay there’s no leisure now. It’s another person fighting for your time and attention. It gets even more difficult with the addition of a second or third or more! Although your heart multiplies with each darling bundle of joy, your time is divided exponentially. This is why developing a rhythm that works with your new family dynamic is so critical. It’s not going to come overnight, but you can find a pattern of life that works for your expanding family!

Here are 4 tips to help you on your quest for a new family rhythm

#1 Take it slow.

Take it slow. If you hear nothing I am saying, hear this: I beg you, implore you, plead, admonish, strongly advise that you take it slow. Very. Slow. Receive the meals for as long as they are offered. Eat take out when they stop. Do whatever it takes to stay sane in the early weeks and months postpartum. The mommy guilt can be strong with this one.  We didn’t take it slow and this still lives on as our biggest parenting fail to date. And it happened with every single birth! We tried to bounce back way too quickly. You can read about that adventure here but here’s the short of it: I went back to work too quickly. I literally wore my third child through an entire summer of working because I loved what I was doing so much, but it would take me 5 hours to do what I could do in 30 minutes with a good night’s sleep and good childcare. Neither of which was available. Bless my little heart! Please. Learn from my stupidity. Take it slow.

#2 Look for natural emerging patterns

As life begins to stabilize, take some time to observe your family and your daily activities. Observe what is happening on a daily basis without any amount of mind power. For example, our dinner was consistently on the table about an hour later than our normal dinner time. So dinner time changed. When we brought home our third child, my husband started taking the older two children to school on his way to work. It was meant to be a temporary fix out of necessity, but it turned into a new rhythm for our family.  Often these patterns will appear to be failures. Did you notice that you have cooked grilled cheese every Wednesday for a month? Instead of looking at it as a nutrition fail, look at it as a pattern that you and your family can rely upon. Grilled Cheese Wednesday it is! Instead of beating yourself up over things that are not the same, celebrate the new constants that are forming. Find sustainable patterns and rock them, momma!

#3 Be Willing to Experiment

Getting your children on the same schedule is not easy. It will require some give and take and some serious trial and error. Coordinating naps was such a beast for me. For a while, I was putting one child down for a nap just in time for another to wake up. I treasured the one-on-one time but I didn’t have any time for laundry, rest, or creativity. I was exhausted. Through experimentation, I was able to get all three kids on the same schedule. Remember how my husband was taking the kids to school? We added early care so he could get to the office earlier which meant he arrived home earlier. All the mommas say “hallelujah”! We also simplified our menu. We made a list of easy to execute meals and a list of all the grocery items needed. We posted it to the fridge and followed it as best we could. Even now, we have a 7 day menu that we repeat every week. We literally eat the same thing each week. Tuesday really is Taco Tuesday in our house. Is it boring? Yep. It’s working now, too. As the kids return to school in a few weeks, that will probably change, but heeding the advice of tip #1 above, I will be taking it sloooooow!

#4 Ask for help and Don’t Feel Bad About it

I recently heard an interview with Shauna Niequest where she said of seeking help: “Most of us have a deep well of people who would love to care for us but we don’t let them because we don’t think they’ll catch us.” When I had an unexpected C-section with my third child and everyone got sick at the same time, I reached out because I was so scared. I just couldn’t handle it. I HAD to ask for help. The most amazing thing happened when I did. Friends and framily came out of the woodwork to help bring meals, clean my house, and take our kids on adventures so mommy could sleep. One precious woman would text me every week and say: “I am on my way to Kroger. What can I pick up for you?” Do you know how humbling it was to ask for help? It took some major pride swallowing but the gift of love and support was so overwhelming it made dying to my highfaluted opinion of myself truly worth it. Having a baby is life-altering. Give yourself grace.

Although your heart multiplies with each darling bundle of joy, your time is divided exponentially. This is why developing a new rhythm that works with your new family dynamic is so critical. It’s not going to come overnight, but you can find a pattern of life that works for your expanding family! Here are 4 tips to help you on your quest for a new family rhythm

Change Happens

I am not a loud person. Having three kids, however, has made my house a loud place. The laundry piles up weekly and that drives me nuts. The minute I say I have mastered a system for the dishwasher the dishes mysteriously appear overflowing in the sink. Dear precious mommy, be okay with the laundry piles even though you swore that you would do a load a day. Give yourself a break if you are still depending on take out when you really thought you’d be well on your merry organic way by now. Family rhythms are as unique as musical rhythms. Sometimes the tempo is fast and upbeat and other times it’s slow and purposeful and sometimes it just feels like a toddler banging the keys!

There’s a time and place for all of it. Keep going, my friend. One day you’ll look up and notice that your family has found a new normal. You’ll think: “This is who we are and how we live now. I love us.”

What about you, friend? What have you done after the addition of a new family member to help create a routine, a rhythm, a breathing pattern? Do you think the dynamic is different with adoption or foster care? Comment below!

Read the Introduction Here! Bringing Home Baby, Again.

Next Week!

Bringing home a baby is hard on the siblings too! They have to get used to another person in the house that is interrupting their sleep or crashing in their room or possibly taking over their room and now they have to share their toys! It can be overwhelming for a little tyke. Join me next week as we talk about how to help the rest of the family adjust to life with another sibling.

Photo Credit: Captured Photography by Emily

Devin’s Birth Story {part three}

This is part three of my son Devin’s birth story. You can read part one here and part two here. 

I had been assured that I would only be separated from my little fella for a few minutes; long enough to sew up my incision. And true to what I’d been told, I was wheeled back to the recovery room and my sweet Devin was placed on my chest.

So many feelings and sensations swept through my body and heart. Here this beautiful creature lay near to my heart and yet I couldn’t feel my toes!

I tried to take in every inch of him. His beautiful dark hair, his long fingers and toes, his eyes… were closed! Oh how I wanted to see his eyes. But he wouldn’t open them! Were they blue like his brother or brown like his sister?

We began to try nursing but for one reason or another, he wouldn’t latch on. Hindsight I really believe he was just tired and not interested but fear swept over me as rumors and half truths of connections between c-sections and difficulties in breastfeeding I had heard and read about filled my mind. I had breastfed my first two. It was something that was very important to me.

In addition to his disinterest in nursing, his breathing was hurried and irregular. The nurse told us that it was probably nothing but they wanted to take him to the NICU just in case.

And just like that, he was gone. My heart was hollow.

I was stunned. Devin was born at 8:02 and before 9 he was no longer in my arms. Shortly after this departure I was moved to my permanent hospital room. As they rolled me down the hall, I wondered when I would see him again. I would swing between thoughts of he’ll be fine to what if something is really wrong? What if he doesn’t make it? When I made it to my room, I was greeted by numerous nurses who helped move me to my bed, started checking my vitals, and helped me settled in. Marshall left to go see how Devin was doing and we learned the results of the chest x-ray. There was fluid on his lungs.

The most difficult reality was that I could not physically go to my child.

My body was numb from my stomach to my toes. I felt so defeated. The tears were silently falling in steady heated streams down my face.

The next few hours were a blur of checking vitals and my incision and waiting. I felt so alone and helpless.

Then I met my next angel: Kim. She was the nurse tech. She was such an amiable person. We talked about Devin and what was going on. She shared that her daughter had experienced a similar plight and like music to my ears she said: “Would you like to go see him. We can wheel you down there?”

I didn’t know that was possible. I was overwhelmed and so excited. I was going to see my baby boy! There was a glimmer of hope.

It took some time, a lot of assistance and a wheelchair but we were off to the NICU to see my sweet little guy. We had to wash our hands in this special sink and our phones aka cameras had to be placed in ziplock bags (all this to prevent spreading germs). They rolled me to his space and there was my baby boy.

Deep breath.

There were wires and machines connected to different parts of his body. They were measuring heart rate, oxygen level, blood pressure. A lot of measurements! When I look back at pictures it doesn’t seem that bad but in the moment….oh my…seeing your baby hooked up to machines and you can’t touch him or hold him…it’s a dreadful feeling*.

In the NICU
In the NICU
Sweet baby boy!
Sweet baby boy!

<3

We lingered for about an hour and then made our way back to my room. We were told he would need to stay in the NICU overnight and so we made our peace with the situation and made plans to start pumping to provide him what milk we could and work on recovery for me. Our first night of Devin’s life was spent every three hours pumping milk for Marshall to take down to our sweet boy to receive. Marshall was able to feed him my milk along with some formula in a bottle.

Marshall fed him first.

I felt guilty for being jealous. I shared this with a few friends and was thankful for the affirmation I received. My dear friend reminded me: I grew this baby inside of me for 39 weeks. I underwent major abdominal surgery to bring him into this world. And yet another one of the most important things in the world to me didn’t happen. I was not able to feed my son. My feelings were valid.

When morning came I was hopeful for good news that my son would be returned to me. A phone call confirmed that he had a very good night and was waiting to be seen by the dr in the NICU. This was exciting news for me. We made plans to visit him. Most of the measuring tools had been removed and he was swaddled up looking so beautiful. And then I was able to hold him for the first time since those early moments of his life. I cried, I swooned, I found healing. There he was so perfect. The hospital dr walked in and shared that he was doing well and pending approval from our pediatrician, Devin would be moved to our room. We were hopeful we would see our baby boy no later than noon. We made our trek back to my room and I started working on trying to get some exercise walking around as suggested by the drs and nurses.

Noon came and went and no baby. Phone calls, questions and still no answer as to why my son could not be brought to me. I did my best to keep busy pumping and moving my body but the stress and the recovery got the best of me. The colustrum (milk) I had been successful in pumping was dwindling. Each time I’d mention it to a nurse, she would assure me that it was normal to wane but in my mind I felt like they were lying to make me feel better. I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt the most horrendous bring-you-to-your-knees pain. I began crying and trembling uncontrollably. I wasn’t sure if it was the pain in my body or my heart but both felt broken. And my baby was not with me. Adjustments with my medicine helped with the physical pain and tears relinquished helped with my emotional pain.

We continued to wait and wonder. My dear friend and angel Leigh Taylor aka Devin’s baby nurse (if they would let him leave the NICU!!!) had written a verse on the whiteboard in our room:

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8

cc

Oh how shaken I felt but those words brought comfort. In the midst of all this we had made arrangements for Dominic to come by. Surely by 3 he would be in our room! We FINALLY got word that he was coming this way. We waited and waited and just couldn’t wait any longer so we asked again where he was. We learned he was now in the nursery being examined. At this news I completely lost it. He had been under watchful surveillance for nearly 30 hours in the NICU and now they were examining him. Of course I know there’s procedure and protocol but in that moment all I could think about is all the moments and hours and time spent without him.

And then Leigh Taylor wheeled him in and I saw him and the tears came and all the thoughts and words and hurts and anxieties I had been feeling spilled out onto LT’s kind ears. “I know this is so small compared to what many face in childbirth but this is so hard!” And she listened without judgment speaking only to affirm that my feelings were valid. And when I continued to struggle to feed my child, my dear friend went in search of the head of lactation to help me figure out what was wrong. When this woman walked in the room, the presence of Christ came with her, and the stress and fear melted away. Within minutes of her arrival, my son was nursing like a champ.

In that moment as I held my son, truly held him, and saw his beautiful eyes, God began redeeming the time lost in the past 30 hours. He was mine, he was perfect.

We had a few more challenges before we left the hospital and even some major sickness that hit our house after coming home…all shook me…all tested my faith and trust in God. But God remained faithful. He redeemed every moment that I felt broke me. From an unwanted delivery route to an unexpected stay in the NICU to challenges with breastfeeding….God redeemed every moment and brought angelic creatures into our lives to remind us of our Heavenly Father’s unwavering love and faithfulness to his children.

perfect little one
perfect little one

Devin is six weeks old today. He’s nursing like a champ, sleeping through the…well…we’re still working on that one. Our family is complete and whole and continuing to trust God in all things especially when they do not go as planned because as I believe with all my heart:

Life. Is. Beautiful.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

* My son was in the NICU for 30 hours. The most excruciating 30 hours of my life. I can’t imagine the difficulty others I know have faced in being separated from their child for much longer than this. I now understand and honor those strong parents who have braved the NICU with their baby for days, weeks, and months. You are my heroes!