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damage control

The question

We had a baby last year. After she was born, my husband and I started arguing a lot more and pushing each other away. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was starting to lose feelings, but really, I just wanted to feel wanted and be treated the way I was in the beginning. I ended up leaving him and running off with a guy. Then, I realized I didn’t want to be with that guy, but home with my husband after he told me I could earn his trust back and fix things. Do you think it’s possible to go back to the way things were?

I might be a dad. Should I support the child even though I’m not certain of being the father?

Why do I feel guilty for breaking up with a toxic friend?

I’m pregnant, but my husband’s ex is an anti-vaxxer. How do I keep their son away from my newborn?

The answer


I’m not the first to observe it, but it’s a common mistake many make – thinking having a baby is somehow temporary and eventually you’ll go back to “the way things were.”

No going back. Going back is no longer an option. Once you have a child, you are in terra incognita (i.e. somewhere you’ve never been before), and there’s no return.

There’s good news and bad news associated with that.

The bad news, as you’ve clearly experienced first-hand, is as writer Nora Ephron once said: “Having a baby is like tossing a hand grenade in a marriage.”

It’s hard to know where to begin when affirming that statement. Maybe with sleep deprivation.

I remember my wife and I playing what I call “baby chicken.”

You’d just have drifted off, deliciously. Passed the “absurd thoughts” phase of pre-snoozing, gearing up for some serious REM, when all of a sudden: “Wahhh! Wahhh!” The baby does what babies do in the middle of the night – caterwaul.

But you continue to lie there, eyes closed. You pretend you’re still asleep, the baby’s cries unable to rouse you. Hope your spouse finally cracks and gets up and deals with the matter.

It’s a shame. You wanted to be good, you set out in life to be good, but have now officially become an awful person. Of course you love your partner and want to be helpful, but you’re just so tired all the time.

Speaking of helpfulness, division of labour famously becomes an issue. Perhaps you both led busy lives before your “bundle of joy” (or what Martin Amis calls “heaven and hell in a diaper”) was dropped hand-grenade-like into your midst.

Now you have a creature on your hands that needs 24-hour surveillance.

And so the questions begin. Who’s going to fetch baby food, who’s going to stay home from work, who’s going to change diapers, who’s going to take the kid to the park, and so on ad infinitum.

The good news? Some of it may seem a little counterintuitive, but here goes:

I feel as if the fact you ran off for a time with someone else might be a good thing, in the long run. Perhaps less wonderful in the short term, but you got it out of your system, whatever “it” might have been. It sounds like you realized that whatever you might be going through with your husband could be worse with someone else.

Which is not a bad building block for a relationship! I’m sort of joking, but also somewhat serious. I challenge anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship to claim they’ve never said to themselves, “Well, my partner is far from perfect, but I might wind up with someone much further from perfect?”

And you gave your husband another gift, in a way – the opportunity to show you he had the ability to forgive whatever you might have got up to with some other dude.

These are good things! (Again, I realize this is counterintuitive. But still.)

The other gift you have both given one another is a child, and that is not trifling. Really – and I know it doesn’t always work out this way, and if it doesn’t, I forgive you – the onus is on you to set aside your troubles and put (as a family court judge might, and perhaps if things don’t go your way, someday will) the child’s needs first.

If you can’t manage it, you wouldn’t be the first. But since you asked your friendly neighbourhood advice columnist, I’d urge you to try.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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