It can be both a joyful and an earthshaking event for a marriage when a couple discusses whether to have a first child.
Going from two in the family up to three people creates one of those “forever” changes. Having a child together connects you as a couple for life–no matter what happens to your relationship. Beginning to discuss adding a baby to the mix can raise questions about the state of your marriage, such as:
Is our marriage healthy enough, strong enough, and happy enough to support a baby?
How will we maintain our marriage during pregnancy and after a baby is born?
Do we have confidence in our ability to cooperate as parents?
Can we sacrifice some of what gets our time and attention now, and give it to a child instead?
A couple close to me faced these questions and had a crisis of confidence in their marriage, including separating briefly. They prayed, consulted, and realized they still loved each other and could go forward. The process of reaffirming their marriage has helped them become excellent parents.
Many couples can benefit from strengthening their marriages before becoming parents, rather than jumping immediately into their child-rearing years. The Baha’i teachings recommend unity first:
Thus the husband and wife are brought into affinity, are united and harmonized, even as though they were one person. Through their mutual union, companionship and love great results are produced in the world, both material and spiritual. The spiritual result is the appearance of divine bounties. The material result is the children who are born in the cradle of love of God, who are nurtured by the breast of the knowledge of God, and who are brought up in the bosom of the gift of God, and who are fostered in the lap of the training of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Vol. 3, pp. 605-606.
Some actions that can help couples with marriage strengthening are:
Re-visiting positive memories from your courtship and early marriage. These memories will help strengthen your feelings of love towards one another and help you be united.
Taking a weekend marriage workshop or a series of classes. Consider getting a marriage check-up assessment done and ask for help for areas that need strengthening. Every marriage has room to grow, and before adding children you can take the time to deepen your knowledge and build your skills. You can learn to communicate better, express love more effectively, and manage differences. This time of education and learning will give you ideas to apply to your marriage during pregnancy and the early years of your child’s life.
Going away for a romantic weekend. Sometimes a different environment can foster in-depth conversations and added intimacy. Time away can give you the perspectives that you need about your importance to one another and your confidence in being parents together.
Talking to another couple who has successfully negotiated this challenge. Definitely look around to see who can function as your support system. You may find out your friends or family members have gone through a similar situation and can encourage you or give you helpful advice.
Learning how you will parent together. If you have doubts about your ability to parent together, seek out parenting education classes and books to discuss. Consider spending time caring for someone’s children together, and assess the experience. The more harmoniously you rear your children, the happier your home.
Taking the time needed for family. If your time commitments feel overwhelming and very important now, you may question the choice to have a child later. You may think that you’ve just taken too much on. Do some visioning together of your future, and what having and rearing a child will mean. Make a mental visit to the future, and imagine having grandchildren and companionship as you age. What can you change, given the work and community service responsibilities you have now? Can you delegate some of them, or re-negotiate the time commitments? What can you do to put your marriage and family higher on the priority list?
Don’t panic if you start to feel uncertain about having a child together. Take these positive steps forward to a happy marriage and family.
Marriage strengthening through an online course “Creating a Fortress for Well-Being and Salvation” is available through the Wilmette Institute for couples in the early years of marriage. Read more information on the course’s webpage. The discount code is BT20. It will give people a 20% discount when they pay.