Everything is ready for the big move-in day.
The pastel paint on the wall reflects the light of the sun shining in through the large, streak-less window. The white crib sits majestically in the middle of the room--ready to hold, protect, and support your precious bundle of joy nap after nap, night after night. In the corner sits your own glider rocker--extra cushions for extra comfort. All the gifts from the baby shower are here too: the night light, the animals-on-parade art on the wall, the little Teddy Bear, and the music box mobile that hangs just over the crib.
You and your spouse enter the room holding the smallest new member of the family and you both whisper to her: "Welcome home." She coos. You both smile.
One month later...
You and your spouse are sleep deprived, haven't had a date night since before you brought the baby home, and have so many house chores left undone--the laundry is piling up, the kitchen is a mess, and the guest room bed hasn't been fixed since grandma and grandpa's visit--3 weeks prior. You both begin to worry if baby is healthy. You begin to question your own competence as a parent. Finally, you even begin to see your relationship with your spouse has changed too--and this is scary.
When people think of stressors in their life, they usually think only about negative ones--losing a job, dealing with a death/illness, conflict with another person. However, there are also stressors in life that are positive stressors: starting a new job, getting married, and yes--having a child. Having a child means that as parents--you'll assume new roles, new responsibilities, and face new challenges. It requires adjustments to your life and to your relationships.
What happens though is that couples can struggle with this adjustment. Research shows that marital quality drops, often dramatically, when a couple welcomes home a child. In one study, 67% of couples experienced decline in relationship satisfaction during the first three years of the baby's life. That means 2 out of 3 parents will experience this decline in marital quality.
The takeaway for soon-to-be parents (and new parents) is to learn more about this positive stressor and learn to manage its effects. Working with a counselor parents can learn to work together to make baby's homecoming a happy--and less stressful welcome--for everyone.