Raising a child can bring parents to the height of joy and the depths of despair as it impacts on the marriage in a myriad of ways. How can such an innocent, cuddly baby have the power to change our lives and provoke such emotional extremes? Whereas the partners prior to having a child, focused on each other, they are now focused on meeting the needs of a hungry infant who wakes in the middle of the night demanding to be fed and whose needs are now center stage. The new parents may find themselves talking exclusively about the infant rather than each other. And if a child has special needs, such as autism or other developmental difficulties, the toll on the parents is enormous. Fathers often feel that they are delegated to a less important position as the newborn takes center stage. This may occur even if the infant was planned and desired by both parents. Often couples do not come in for therapy at this crucial time in their lives, due to the demands of time.

A couple whom I had been seeing prior to the birth of their child terminated treatment after the baby was born. This was a planned pregnancy and they were both delighted with the birth of their daughter, however, they ran into difficulties meeting the demands of parenting as well as managing their careers, and having time for each other. The marital relationship has suffered the most. I saw them for three follow up sessions when the baby was four months old and the mother went back to work. Fortunately, they had done enough good work in the prior therapy and were able to use the sessions to tune into each other and get back on track. It is important to prepare couples for the enormous life change that having a child can bring.

Dianne Heller Kaminsky, LCSW, BCD

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