Barring terrible, traumatic situations the most stressful "normal" milestone in a marriage is becoming a parent for the first time. Friends will often ask me this question, thinking it's the seven year itch or when the kids all leave or maybe even the first year of marriage. But research actually supports that it is when you become parents. Why is this? You would think it would be an exciting time, you become a family and have this new baby you both love. What could be so bad about that?
Many things make this a difficult time. First of all on a practical level neither one of you is sleeping much when you have a infant. Sleep deprivation does all kinds of things to us, including affecting our mood, our concentration, our ability to function in general. Add to that the fact that I don't think you can be prepared for how much your life changes in every possible way when you have your first child and you have a recipe for a great deal of stress. Of course, it is a wonderful time filled with this immense love for your child. That is the part most of us remember when we think back to the birth of our children. The stressful parts are the getting up every two hours, indefinitely (which is really stressful, if you had a time frame it would be so much easier!), not having any time when you are not worried, attending to or doing something for the baby and both of you feeling the weight of caring for this new life and doing everything right. Of course, you are not going to do everything right. None of us ever does. But that pressure is there when you are out of balance, sleep deprived and stressed.
How do you get through this time? Being realistic about it and having other parents who you can talk to about how hard it is and who are honest with you about how hard it is really helps. Being compassionate with each other is absolutely necessary. A husband who asks his wife what she did all day when she is home with a baby can't wonder why his wife is angry. And a wife who expects her husband to work all day and then get up every night with the baby is also setting up a bad situation. You each have to keep in mind how hard it is for the other person and try to be partners in making this huge transition easier for each other. It is a lot of work for both of you. Having a contest about who has it worse doesn't do anyone any good. When you both appreciate the contribution of the other that is when you have partnership. You giving that understanding and appreciation to your spouse is what you can do to get your marriage going in the right direction.