Until you become a parent, the perceived bliss surrounding the pregnancy and arrival of a baby seems to be just that: A moment where couples bask in the happiness about their future with a tiny, adorable human who coos and gurgles and makes the cutest unintentional smiles.
But behind closed doors, the welcoming of an unassuming human into the world is also the start of a complete life change for two adults, especially for first-time parents.
This week, Khloé Kardashian welcomed her first child after a few days of intense scrutiny surrounding videos that appear to show Tristan Thompson — her boyfriend and the father of her child — kissing women at a nightclub in October, when Kardashian was in her first trimester. This isn’t the first time the Cleveland Cavaliers star has been under public and personal scrutiny. Earlier this year, Thompson’s father blasted him on social media for being a dormant parent to his now 15-month-old son with blogger Jordan Craig.
It seems obvious that Thompson is self-involved. Instead of nurturing the women he has chosen to father children with, he is busy enjoying other pleasures, like spending time with women at clubs.
As shocking and horrible as it may sound, it seems that men are more likely to cheat during or after pregnancy. Noel Biderman, the creator of AshleyMadison.com — an online dating website for people seeking affairs — let researchers at Columbia, Duke and New York universities look at his 27 million clients’ data. They found that most of those men began cheating on their wives following pregnancy.
“When a first child or pregnancy is on the scene, your sex life goes from 100 mph to zero,” Biderman told Vice in 2014. “Literally, there becomes a period of abstinence. Women feel less attractive so there’s an emotional side to not wanting to be sexually active for some, not all. There’s a healing period of time, and then there’s a demands period of time. Having a newborn is tough. It doesn’t lead to a lot of intimacy.”
Why is this normal? We should prioritize the health of mothers if we want a viable future for our children. Women’s lives depend on it.
As a black woman and mother who follows the harrowing statistics on black maternal health — black women die during childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women — I know that the time to experience heartbreak is certainly not after experiencing the physical trauma of giving birth.
When the baby leaves the womb, things don’t get easier. Caring for an infant takes a toll on a mother’s body.
Beyond a man’s ability to put his family’s needs before his own desires, he should consider the mental health of a new mother. Postpartum, women have an increased risk of experiencing baby blues or depression when a stressful life event occurs. The risk also increases if the mother lacks emotional support from spouses. It’s safe to say that a man can’t be fully prioritizing his spouse or partner when he’s actively courting Becky with the good hair.
There is no advice one can give to a new mother that can adequately prepare her for the agonizing pain of childbirth, the sleepless nights, sore body parts, nursing needs and piled up housework that comes with additional loads of laundry, bottle sterilization, baby food-making and childcare. Those days without showers are real. And the number of websites and blogs catered to moms who are just trying to make it through the day and maybe, you know, shower, are created in digital solidarity for moms who know the grueling, but rewarding, challenge that motherhood brings.
Partners need to be able to meet normal expectations: Deal with hormone-induced mood swings, clean up, be nice — and don’t cheat.