Our initial struggles, as expected, revolved around adjusting to being parents and lack of sleep. We were snippy, exhausted, and learning way more than we were capable of retaining in our dazed states. Not to say we couldn't use more sleep still, but we are getting a LOT more sleep now and it makes us much more rational and forgiving of each other. Later, we struggled financially. We were dealing with the loss of about 40% of our income (since I quit my job to stay home) and going through our savings very quickly. I began to search for babysitting jobs and for months it seemed as not much panned out. I began praying about it (I really suck at that sometimes), and more babysitting jobs than I could handle began falling into my lap. Between that income and our tax return, we've been able to replenish our savings a bit as well as stay afloat of those things that don't fit into our budget (medical bills, etc). And we've mostly figured out how to actually meet our budget after lots of hard work and cutting out as much as we could. We went from feeling deprived and frustrated to realizing just how much we have and how lucky we are we can make this work, and that attitude shift has really raised our happiness level! It will require constant hard work and attention, but it's a great team building activity because neither of us can do it alone (we both have to be on board). When we do poorly, we have to work together to figure out what to improve and how, and when we do well we get to celebrate that together.
We've brought faith back to the forefront of our life, which somewhat got put on a back burner when we were just merely surviving. We're back to praying the rosary, novenas occasionally, praying before meals, and encouraging each other to stay connected to our faith in whatever way is best for us right now. We figured out a month or two ago that Felicity is much less of a beast if we wear her during Mass and, though I still have to focus on her a lot of the time, that has really helped me to catch snippets of Mass. Luckily the grace is there whether I can pay attention or not! When my parents visit, we leave her with my mom during Mass and that gives us a chance to absorb and enjoy; a nice treat! Our faith lives look different still than they did a year ago and I imagine they will for quite some time, but we're at least focusing on it now and that feels really refreshing!
Probably the hardest thing for us was feeling like we lost "us"; the things that we enjoyed as a couple basically stopped for a while. We didn't have time for cooking fun meals, or energy for hobby dates (me scrapbooking, him working on a game), I couldn't stay awake through shows or movies, Steven was getting home too late for family walks, on Steven's days off we were focused on the baby or on catching up on things that needed to be done... the list goes on. For quite a while, we didn't go on dates, which we did probably weekly until Felicity was born. We did go on a date when Felicity was about 3.5 months old because we were on a family vacation and my parents watched her. That was lovely and SO needed. When she got older, closer to 7 or so months, we began switching date nights with our neighbor, which is the only way we can afford a date night! That has been so amazing for us because it makes for a cheap night out and we fully trust them to watch her, plus their house and family is really familiar to Felicity. It is seriously a dream come true, and the time for ourselves once a month or so is wonderful! We've slowly added back in things that we used to do pre-baby, like board game nights. We haven't had a chance to go to the movies at all since she was born, but we've had some fun movie nights at home where we go to Target for the popped popcorn, grab a red box, and watch a movie after she goes to bed. It's not the same, but it's special and helps us reconnect as best friends and spouses, rather than as parents. We are currently reading a book about remaining spouses after baby and, though it's geared towards couples during pregnancy, it's brought up some good discussion for us about what we are doing well at and ways we can improve.
All the little things that were identifiers of us as a couple changed- even the things we were adamant wouldn't change. Steven and I are huge cuddlers. My love language is physical touch and his is quality time, so cuddling meets both those needs perfectly. We used to lie in bed for hours cuddling and talking. Every night when we went to bed, we'd cuddle, sometimes talking and sometimes silent, until we got comfortable to go to sleep. When we watched shows on the couch, we'd cuddle. Anyways, this was one thing we talked about during pregnancy that we didn't want to change. But that was when we thought our baby would sleep in the cosleeper. Once she joined us in bed, a decision we both thought was best, our cuddling quickly went to almost 0. During the times where she was on the outside of me and Steven would try to cuddle, I was just too touched out. Imagine that- physical touch as a love language and still I was touched out. Once we picked out a few new shows on Netflix, we were able to add some couch cuddling back into our lives. After Felicity moved to her bedroom a little over a month ago, our cuddling quota has been and continues to be filled. It's amazing what a good hug can do for your marriage!
So here we are, a year later, and though "us" has changed, we both feel very content and like we've gotten each other back. It's been a wonderful and also trying year, and we've grown so much as a couple through all of it. I feel like we're stronger than we were, that we understand each other and our needs more, and that we love each other and respect each other so much more than we did just a year ago. There were times I thought we might never feel like we used to. And in a way, we don't, but this really is better. The dynamic of coparenting is so different when you're used to just being spouses, but it can also be really enriching once you come out of the trenches of the newborn and infant days. There's always room for improvement, though! Next on our list is taking an overnight trip at some point- just one night probably, but mommy's not quite ready for that yet ;).