By Lizzy Francis
Erica Gellerman and Jordan Fremholz have been together for nearly 14 years and welcomed their baby, Henry, 16 months ago.
Ex-pats who live in a small town outside of London, Erica and Jordan were lucky to have a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy and birth, but struggled to communicate well once their child arrived and resentments creeped in.
Here, they talk about how they overcame the relationship speed bumps, the Friday date nights that keep them sane, and their secret to maintaining a great relationship after kids.
Erica: Honestly, pregnancy for us was pretty smooth. We were so lucky. We had no hiccups, no complications. We’re really fortunate, because we’re so far away from our family, so it was great to just not have anything go wrong out here.
Jordan: Yeah, it was an easy, healthy pregnancy for you. We kept denying that you were pregnant and kept trying to live our life like nothing had changed.
E: Yeah, we really didn’t get ready. We didn’t even have a nursery set up when Henry came around.
J: Yeah, there was definitely no nesting around here.
E: The physical recovery after birth was a lot easier than expected. I’m putting myself in the bucket of having a very fortunate experience. It was easy.
The mental adjustment, though, was pretty hard. Maybe it’s because we didn’t do any of that nesting stuff before. I’m self-employed, so also, I was all the sudden not working.
Even though I had known that I wouldn’t be working going into it, trying to adjust to not working and just spending my whole day with a brand-new person was really challenging.
J: I was still working full-time.
At the time, I didn’t get very much, if any, paternity leave. I just had two weeks off, so it was a big burden on Erica – especially at night, because she had to get up every two hours for nursing and I really couldn’t help with that.
E: And again, our family doesn’t live nearby, so it was challenging.
J: It was a lot on you.
E: Yeah, it was.
J: I did figure out ways I could help later on, after a few discussions.
E: It wasn’t the smoothest transition, but those bumps in the road the first few months made it so that it feels a lot smoother now.
Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents frankly talk about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their relationship.
A baby raises the stakes.
Couples have less time to devote to one another, emotional intimacy can dwindle, date nights — at least for the first months — are nearly non-existent, and sex is often a non-starter.
Couples must adapt.
Here’s how they do it.
E: We started getting the hang of being parents after about six months. That was the marker when all of a sudden our baby didn’t seem so fragile. He could do things.
J: He started moving around. He could roll at that point. He was a lot more mobile and stronger. We definitely felt like, “Okay, good. We made it through the tough times.”
E: Yeah. And by then, we had kind of figured out our new routine. Our new schedule meant we weren’t having a lot of time to ourselves. That had become our new normal, rather than us wishing for our pre-baby life.
J: We learned how to give each other breaks. Like on the weekends, I started letting Erica go out for three-to-four hours, then it would be my turn to go out for a few hours.
E: And right around six months was when I left for four days to go to a yoga retreat. So, that, I feel like gave us a lot of…
J: …yeah, the yoga retreat at a manor was pretty awesome. She was looking forward to that for a long time. It was great. And it was good for us too – for me and the baby to hang out together.
J: I remember very clearly Erica said she was really resentful toward me. Because she wasn’t sleeping at night and I could. So she just felt jealous. She was like, “Okay, I’m kind of resentful of you, which isn’t a healthy place to be.” We wanted to figure out how to close that gap and figure out how I could help out at night and do more.
E: I realized that I would drop subtle hints or say something once if I needed something before we had kids. Like: “Hey, Jordan, I’m feeling tired.” And he would get it and it would lead to action. But then Henry came along and I would say something once and he wouldn’t necessarily hear it or understand what I was saying.
J: It would go right over my head.
E: And vice versa. I think we learned in those first three months after having Henry that our communication was going downhill really quickly. I would say something and he wouldn’t hear it. He would say something and I wouldn’t hear it. We were like two ships passing in the night. We just didn’t connect.
J: I came home from a trip to Korea after a week. I was exhausted with jet lag and went straight to bed. She had been with Henry for a week and was even more exhausted, so she was pretty mad and went straight to bed. I wasn’t picking up on her queues.
E: But my communication wasn’t forward enough.
E: We had to learn to not say important things to each other while one of us was busy doing something else. That sounds so obvious, but we were so used to being able to juggle a conversation while doing things before.
So now, we have to be really intentional about when we have certain conversations and when we bring things up. And now I know that, sometimes, I have to say things to him three or four times. It can be as simple as what we’re doing that weekend. He has to do that for me as well and that’s okay.
J: Something else that helps is that we do Friday date nights. We try to be more strict about carving out that time.
Once he goes down for the night, we have a nice date night.
E: Yeah, it doesn’t happen every Friday, but we’re pretty good about it I think. And it’s not necessarily always getting a babysitter either.
J: Oh, definitely not. We’re all about finding fun stuff to do around the house. We’ll barbecue out in the back or play Yahtzee.
E: And we don’t put any rules on it, like that we can’t talk about the house or Henry or anything. But we just naturally don’t, because we have other things that we’re doing during date night.
J: Oh, we also started working out together. In the morning, we get each other out of bed and do a little workout in the living room before Henry wakes up. That’s been a lot of fun.
E: We realized we needed to be intentional about date nights probably around six months after Henry was born. Three months after that, we added in working out.
J: And when we can get out of the house we go and walk around the city at our own pace.
E: We love to go out for dim sum in Chinatown or just get dinner in our old neighborhood. We like to go back and remember our old lives before we had our baby.
E: I hate to give you a boring answer, but we haven’t had scheduled sex or anything like that. And I don’t think it’s been…
J: …well, there was definitely a long break, because after you gave birth it took awhile for you to be able to do a lot of that stuff. But after that, it was…
E: …back to normal, I’d say.
J: We try to go to bed earlier to make time for it. Our baby right now wakes up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning so we try to be in bed by 8 o’clock.
Lizzy Francis is a writer who focuses on marriage, parenting, and relationships. For more of her marriage content, visit her author profile on Fatherly.
This article was originally published at Fatherly. Reprinted with permission from the author.