Monday, March 28, 2011

Postpartum sex vs. sex before kids

Hoo boy! I started this post in October 2009, based off a different post I was writing about "How to have sex when you're cosleeping". The point in that post came up that "the difference is greater between pre-kids sex and post-kids sex vs. cosleeping sex and separate-bedrooms sex."

So I started writing about the differences between pre-kids sex and post-kids sex, intending for it to be a quick write followed by a speedy publish before I thought about it too hard.

Mm-hmm. So here we are in March 2011, and I'm pregnant with baby #2 and anticipating my next postpartum sex experience. I figured I'd better publish this as a sort of refresher for myself, and I can update sometime after the birth (like, in one and a half years?) if needed.

Without further ado, this is my own take, from my hetero/married perspective after a low-trauma vaginal birth. Your sexual experience may vary.

I wrote before about how to have sex when you're cosleeping and promised that I would write again in a more general fashion. I had come to the conclusion then that it wasn't so much cosleeping affecting our sex lives as it was just having had kids at all, so I want to explore that further.

I am writing under a fierce deadline here, so I refuse to do any research or talk to anyone about this. I am just going to post this off the top of my head, and you'll have to deal with whatever fluff therein resides.

Got you intrigued, don't I?

I dig this topic, though. I think the more we talk honestly about sex, the less that expectations will be raised foolishly high, and the less people will be disappointed with themselves or their partners (or their kids) when having kids changes things, sex-wise.

Um, it strikes me that I need to put some sort of warning flag on this post that it will be TMI and NSFW and all that. I think that should be fairly obvious, from just the title, but I'm trying to intentionally head you off if talking sex will discomfit you.

All right. Here are the barriers to sex post-kids, as I see them:

You need time to recover physically from birth

As Jessica pointed out eloquently in a guest post about the gentle lying-in period that should follow birth,  women's bodies need time to recover from birth.

I had heard that six weeks was the minimum to wait after a vaginal birth before resuming penetrative vaginal intercourse. (I think it's similar for after a c-section, but I'm not doing research, remember?)

Let me go on record here as a scoffer. Six weeks? Six weeks? Really.

What sounded so...very...long to Sam and me before I pushed a 12-pound baby out of my vaginal canal started to seem woefully inadequate when I was faced with vaginal intercourse at the famous six-week mark. To be perfectly honest, I think we gave it a try around 5 weeks, so yes, I suppose I was breaking rules and maybe that voids my warranty here.

But...ouch. Just, ouch. I was not ready. My vagina was not ready. There, I said it.

I had had a "normal" — in the sense of uncomplicated and vaginal — birth. I had a couple small tears in my hymen tissue (no, seriously — pseudo-virgin birth right here, folks!), with a few stitches that had since dissolved. There was no medical reason I wasn't physically ready to have intercourse. I just...wasn't.

It hurt. Everything was still stretched out and sore. I needed more time.

What surprised me was that, even after the ouchy pain went away, intercourse didn't feel good for a long time. About nine months is what I recall, give or take. I was kind of too depressed about the experience to journal it at the time. Intercourse stopped feeling bad and moved to nothing. Well, if it went on for too long, I felt chafing. Use one hand to rub the back of the other back and forth for awhile. Does it hurt? No. Does it feel good? Not especially. Would it hurt if you did it long enough? Yup. That was sex for me, for about nine months. It was a total bummer. There was some excitement from just the idea of intercourse, my memory that it used to feel good, but I had no physical sensation of pleasure from it, and I was so sad about it. I didn't tell Sam, because I didn't want him to know I wasn't enjoying it. If he asked for sex, I agreed, most of the time, but only if I couldn't distract him from forgetting that he'd asked that night. If he didn't ask, I didn't offer. Why would I?

I was even having trouble achieving orgasm for the first time in my life. (I told you this post was TMI — if you don't listen, you deserve to be shocked!) It's not that I couldn't. It's more like I couldn't be bothered. I would tell Sam to never mind, to just go ahead with the intercourse and get it over with. I wouldn't use those terms out loud, but in my mind I was totally the stereotypical Victorian woman, raising her nightgown, lying back on her pillow, and thinking of England. It just wasn't interesting to me, because it didn't feel good.

The good news? It came back. The sensations came back, the pleasure. I almost wept with joy. I think I surprised Sam by saying something like, "Hey, that actually felt good!" Since, you know, I hadn't told him it hadn't been feeling good for a long time. I was never so happy in my life to feel sexual.

You need time to recover mentally and emotionally from birth

What I was mentioning above intersects with this, because it's kind of hard to separate the two. Far from our Greek dualist idea of body below and mind above, of course we're all one holistic being. Our bodies are ourselves, and what we experience physically affects what we experience emotionally and vice versa.

Particularly when hormones come into play.

Your body is awash in hormones following a birth. You're crashing from intense chemicals. You'll notice it physically in the blood that won't stop seeping out of your crotch. Some women have lochia for six weeks or more after birth. It's messy, and constant. It doesn't mean anything bad, but for me it was a vivid red reminder of a traumatizing miscarriage I'd had before getting pregnant with Mikko. I knew it wasn't the same at all, but it played out identically.

I also had this weird reaction to touching my vulva or seeing the stitches down there. I was tender physically from all the stretching that had happened, but I was even more tender emotionally.

I had an intense squeamishness at the thought of looking at the damage. I had a horror of touching the stitches, which I imagined to be black and stabbing into my skin in several sensitive places. Several weeks later, at a time the stitches were supposed to have dissolved, I gathered my courage and had a peek with a hand mirror. I couldn't tell much, but I did see something long and stringy that I thought was a line of mucus. I pulled at it to brush it away, and it tugged the skin with it. I squealed and dropped the strand. I had touched one of my stitches. They were clear, not black, and I had been tricked into touching one!

Every day for the first couple weeks I took a sitz bath, which I grew to believe was something akin to magic. Mikko and I would relax together in a warm, shallow bath. Sometimes I would pour in a handful of steeped herbs from my home-birth package. Sometimes I decided the warm water was enough. I felt the water swirling around the privates I was too afraid to touch and healing them, gently. I imagined the blood flowing to the area, attracted by the warmth of the water, and restoring it gradually.

Remember, again, that my pushing was not traumatic, and my scars not extensive. Still, every time I stretched my legs apart too far, I was rewarded with a twinge of pain to remind me to keep them together. If that's not enough to put a girl off sex, what is?

Besides the emotions attached to the physical symptoms, there are emotions caused by the swirling hormones. You're going through a chemical crash after birth. Remember how all that lovely retained hair started falling out in clumps a few months postpartum? It's because the body transitions, fast, from nurturing life through a placenta to nurturing life through breastfeeding (or not, in which case you'll also be going through the emotional and physical toll of weaning).

You might notice also that as the mother you're not getting nearly as much attention as when you were pregnant. Pregnant ladies are fawned over, their bellies worshiped. Once the baby's out, all the attention diverts to the newborn. And who even knows how shuffled aside your partner is feeling! Even if you're not as immature as I am as to have mourned the loss of that special pregnancy attention, there are a myriad of these big, emotional shifts you have to deal with, right away, while caring for a newborn. Sex can seem like one emotional hurdle too many.

You are caring for a child

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but sometimes partners in particular don't realize quite how obsessed your mind is with the tiny bundle in your arms. It might be a survival thing, the way mothers can be less impressed even with their own, older children once a helpless newborn is in the picture.

But, even as your newborn grows, you're still all day and every day, the mother. It can be hard to break out of that role, and sometimes you don't want to.

You are being touched all day long

Another reason sex can be challenging is that you can start feeling like you're getting all the physical touch you need from your child, and then some. I don't know that this is particular to breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing parents — I imagine most babies end up being held quite a bit — but I could see that attachment parents might have a special insight into going from touching when the adult wishes, to being touched all day long, whether the adult wishes or not.

There might be times when your partner reaches out to do something innocuous and pleasant, like give you a backrub, and you shrug off the invading hands. You're not allowed to deny your baby's needs, but you figure your partner can understand and show some patience.

That can be true, and then again, it can end up extending unhealthily. At some point, the type of touch I was receiving from Mikko and the type Sam was offering finally diverged in my mind, and I could welcome both. But it took awhile for my sensors to reset.

I found also, that with breastfeeding, the sensation in my nipples is completely different now. It doesn't bother me to have them suckled — whew! It does bother me to have them twiddled. It really, really does. And it doesn't matter a bit whether it's Mikko or Sam doing the twiddling. I'm hoping they go back to normal after I wean, but till then, they're just not the same breasts anymore, sexually speaking.

Your body looks different

I never had a bikini body. I thought it would therefore be relatively easy to go to really not having a bikini body. But my postpartum body hurt even my low sensibilities. My stomach, with its stretch marks and lopsided flabbiness, looks like something out of a special effects shop. My breasts got huge. Not necessarily a bad thing there, but another difference that makes you realize just how much your body has been through — and how it will never again look the same as it did before.

You might or might not enjoy visiting The Shape of a Mother, a site where women can send in pictures of their changing bodies. In my weaker pregnant moments, it horrified me to see what I could (and would) become. In my more forgiving, expansive moments, I feel a spiritual connection to all these women's bodies, to the beauty of birth stretching and scarring and marking us forever as mothers.

But, regardless if you're feeling sanguine or spooked, your body is a new one — to you, and to your partner. I never felt Sam recoil at what I perceived as its ugliness (thank you, dear!), but I had to take time to accept the changes and not make the altered bits off limits for touching or loving. Speaking of which...

You and your partner need to adapt to the changes in your body and your lives

As you are going through changes, so your partner is going through the changes with you, but from the outside.

One odd thing to bring up here is that, if you're breastfeeding, your partner will have to get used to the possibility of breastmilk entering into your sex lives, either through leakage or through an inadvertent mouthful. I preferred not to go topless during sex during the early months, because a cami would put some pressure against my nipples and stop the downpour of milk that, in my mind, interfered with the sexy atmosphere.

I don't know what to say about the perceived tightness or otherwise of the vaginal canal post-sex. I did once ask Sam about it, and he told me he couldn't tell a difference. Whether he was protecting my feelings, or whether my Kegels were worthy of celebration, I do not know. Suffice it to say that it is still possible for both partners to enjoy sexual pleasure post-birth, whether vaginal or C-section, but it might take time. A lot of time.

One of the biggest reasons I had sex before I was ready was fear of displeasing Sam. This is not a coercive relationship we're talking about here. If I had refused, he would have accepted it graciously. But the fact is, he had not been through the physicality of birth. His sexual bits were functioning just fine, thank you, and his hormones weren't rampaging, except in normal fashion. I know that, even when six weeks off was sounding way too short to me, it still sounded way too long to Sam! I understand that, mentally — in any other situation, if you told me in advance that sex was verboten for six weeks, I'd be chafing at the bit, too. So I felt I owed it to him to try. This is a delicate balance: pleasing your partner without harming yourself. I can't tell you what's exactly right in your situation. In mine, were I to do things over again, I don't think I'd do much differently, except that I might be more insistent about stopping if things sharply hurt. I did stop us a couple times, but of course, I felt bad for Sam in those instances.

After it felt neutral, I think I would still let Sam lead the way in requesting sex and try to "give in" most times even when I didn't feel like it. It's not like I think that was great sex or anything, but when it wasn't actually hurting me, it wasn't a bad thing to give that to my partner. Fortunately, now I know that eventually the good sensations will come back for me, too, so I'll have that to look forward to instead of wallowing in the fear that it will always feel bad. In the meantime, I think it's reasonable for Sam to expect some sexual attention even in the early months when I don't much feel like it.

My partner's point of view

I was talking with Sam about this article, because I have a habit of publishing posts about our marriage without, you know, getting his input ahead of time. He'll just read them and go, Huh, well, here's what I would have said...

But, this time, you have lucked out. I was supposed to have posted this eons ago (or a week or something equally appalling), but I didn't, and I therefore chanced into mentioning it to Sam, and he gave me some insightful aspects to add. I should do this more often.

Sam was pointing out that, once you have a baby (or once we had a baby), there's not as much time just to cuddle. We used to always sit next to each other on the couch. With breastfeeding, I preferred sitting in the glider, leaving Sam by his lonesome. We actually did make an effort after awhile to correct this and sit next to each other more.

However, we usually are not sitting next to each other alone. Usually there is a very wiggly toddler either wedged between us or squirming on one of our laps.

And when he's asleep, that's not our cuddle time — that's our holy-crap-I-have-to-get-so-much-done time. We are usually lost in our own mental worlds of concentration, making up for time that's been lost to parenting.

And if you have interests outside of parenting (!), something might suffer — well, it almost certainly will, at least in the early days. You have to choose between following your interests, sleep, time to decompress, and time with your partner. The good news is, it's not a permanent situation — or doesn't have to be. You might just need to make allowances that you won't be able to do absolutely everything when you have a newborn or even older kids, and be gentle with yourself and your partner as you try to prioritize time together.

Some links I came across while waiting and waiting and waiting to publish

  • "VII - Happily Ever After The End Part, or LUCKY" at Honest to Betsy, wrapping up her experiences with having a hysterectomy soon after the birth of her third child:

    "In three more weeks I will visit my doctor and surely he will tell me that I've healed spectacularly and that I may now resume my daily activities including vacuuming and also sexual intercourse. I have some pamphlets on this -- about when you can "resume" vacuuming and sexual intercourse.

    And it's precisely the thought of "RESUMING" that has me freaked out just now. I don't mean I'm afraid of vaccuming. I'm not even sure what that is. But I'm a little afraid of having sex. …

    … I'm afraid I might not want to, like ever again. … I'm afraid that when I invariably do want to I'll find that everything will be different. Because I'm different. Because this experience has changed me. Because it is a trauma -- a sexual trauma. Kind of like having a baby is, although having a baby is also wonderful. And oh right, I just had a baby. And, well, you know, resuming can be kinda hard.

    There's something about making love for the first time after having a baby that is TERRIFYING. It's not really the physicality of it. I think it's the realization that there is just no going back to the people you were. If you haven't been utterly changed by the process of childbirth, you've done something terribly wrong. Quite suddenly there are two strangers in your bedroom -- one is your husband and the other is YOU! And there's just no getting back at it in the bedroom, because we aren't the same people. And so there's no RESUMING SEXUAL INTERCOURSE after these events, there is only starting again."

    I'm probably quoting way too much, but isn't that awesome? Go read her whole series for more good stuff.

  • I had a good link to give you about sex after a cesarean, but it's gone dead now. Sigh. Such is the internet.

  • Finally, for more of a balanced view, here are several takes on the subject compiled by Luschka at Diary of a First Child: "Natural Childbirth: Changes In Sex Life." If you haven't yet had your first child, maybe you won't be as scared after reading that there is actually a range of postpartum experiences…

I will end with a true story.

One night, Sam and I were whispering to each other as we prepared to go to sleep in our family bed.

"We forgot to do it," one of us said.

"Oh, that's right," said the other, "we were going to do it."

Mikko, in quintessential toddlerhood, sleepily spoke up from the bed: "My turn to do it."

And this is how children kill the mood quite effectively.

If you're inclined to share, what has been your postpartum sexperience?


Frugal Vegan Mom said...

Wow thanks for this!! My 6 week post partum appointment is next Monday (first baby) and I know my husband is looking forward to it... and I'm nervous, because I know he's already feeling deprived and don't want to disappoint him. He is so supportive and understanding, but it has to be hard for the men to constantly remember what we're going through, especially a whole month later! I'm still bleeding and had stitches also, 2nd degree tear, was never brave enough to look down there though!
I have to go through and read this post several more times and let it all sink in, and maybe forward him portions of it!

sheila sudlow said...

we wanted to have another baby as soon as possible after the birth umm it did work but was very sore 13 months a part a sister came along

Hyacynth said...

I pretty much just want to reach through the computer and HUG you something fierce for writing about this. We have two boys, two years apart, the youngest is 18 months. And for about TEN MONTHS I felt the same way you did about sex. But I thought I was the only person because all of the things I had read said that somewhere around 6 to 8 weeks things were back to "normal" enough to resume. That wording should be banned. I felt SO alone this second time around but I achingly shared it with my husband because I was so so so frustrated. {And I don't have the gusto to blog about it because, you know, hubby's grandma reads my blog.}
So anyway, thank you times one million. Even though intimacy is so much better and now enjoyable again, I'm relieved to not be the only one.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this very honest article! I'm off to read your post about cosleeping and sex.

Melodie said...

I completely relate to this post. I think we tried to have sex about 5-6 weeks in after my c-section and even though I hadn't pushed a baby out it still really hurt and I endured not-fun-sex for about 9 months just like you. It was wonderful when it felt good again.

Elle said...

I had a c-section and my husband and I first had sex around the 4 week mark. Not only was it painful, my hormones were so out of whack and I just wasn't emotionally ready.

Anonymous said...

I STILL don't often feel like having sex (had the baby 18 months ago.) I'm always so damn exhausted. I'm still up at least once, more often twice a night to nurse, and since he's in his own room, I'm UP, not just rolling over to offer a boob.

I get a surge once a month, around ovulation I would imagine, though I'm not tracking so I can't be positive, where I'm willing to have sex. The rest of the time? Really? Are you sure that's what you want? Wouldn't you just prefer know...sleep?

My midwife told me that it took her about 24 months to get back to "normal" with each of her pregnancies, and I've been thinking a lot about that. I'd like to be that old self sometimes

Anonymous said...

I STILL don't often feel like having sex (had the baby 18 months ago.) I'm always so damn exhausted. I'm still up at least once, more often twice a night to nurse, and since he's in his own room, I'm UP, not just rolling over to offer a boob.

I get a surge once a month, around ovulation I would imagine, though I'm not tracking so I can't be positive, where I'm willing to have sex. The rest of the time? Really? Are you sure that's what you want? Wouldn't you just prefer know...sleep?

My midwife told me that it took her about 24 months to get back to "normal" with each of her pregnancies, and I've been thinking a lot about that. I'd like to be that old self sometimes

Molly said...

I know what you mean. I feel the same way- still sore at 6 weeks (what a joke!), afraid to look, zero interest and all the emotions. I'm a breastfeeding cosleeping mama too and it's taken me 18 months for sex to be good, that's when my period came back. And honestly it's only when I am ovulating. The rest of time I'm just tired and touched out. Thanks for letting me now I'm not alone.

Jennifer said...

Um, yeah, what you said! Just thought I would let you know that it was a lot easier the second time around. The first time I had a third degree tear so maybe that was the issue. But with my daughter (water birth) there was no pain. Granted, it still some time for the pleasure part to return. But it's there!

Michelle said...

I'm laughing at the story at the end - my oldest is Mikko's age so I can totally relate! My postpartum sex experience was similar. Sex really started to feel "back to normal" again after my menstrual cycles return - 8 months with my first and 15 months with my second. I also had uncomplicated vaginal births.

Hannah said...

Yup! That sounds about right! Although My husband was in pre- deployment training for the six weeks after I had our baby, but when he came home before deployment right at that six week mark I thought I was ready. It hurt alot. But I think because we had been apart so much, I didn't care, I was just glad to be with him. And then he was gone for 8 more months and I was pretty much healed by the time he came home. But now with expecting #2, he'll be around this time, so this is something I needed to read!

Kelly said...

HAHA I think I just died laughing at the end of that post! :D

I actually denied hubby the pleasure throughout much of my pregnancy because I had previously miscarried and was afraid that might be a reason...I think it was after month 6 or 7 that we 'resumed', and it wasn't often (until my due date passed and I wanted that baby out!).

But I felt so ill and terrible throughout my entire pregnancy that I was a new woman after the Bean was born...I was just waiting for the go-ahead from my midwife at that 6 week mark lol...just goes to show how different we all are (though it wasn't the most pleasant experience the first time...but it quickly got easier and better :)

Thanks for sharing your story!

Anonymous said...

We tried initially at 7 weeks postpartum, after a horrible forceps delivery with second degree tears and it was more than uncomfortable. We waited another two weeks and then kept trying every few days to see if it got better and though it was slow going, eventually the pleasure came back for me. It definitely took months before I felt the inclination to instigate sex instead of grudgingly agreeing to it. I'm hoping that after the next baby it will be better.

Anonymous said...

If I wasn't readin gthis at work i would be sobbing right now.

Thank you for posting this. I had twins (our first children/pregnancy) via c-section 8 months ago and my husband and I have had sex 3 times. And during the pregnancy we had sex 4 times. That's not per week, that's in total.

After the birth at 6 weeks it was so painful, then still painful, and as of a couple of weeks ago, still painful. I am sure I'm now at the point where it's psychological more than anything and I just can't relax because EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

There are a few other factors that contribute to the lack of intimacy, and I won't get into it here, because as I said, I would, like, you know, break down... but just thank you. I connect with everything you said, and I'm just so relieved you said it and I read it. I'm not sure where to from here, but there must be somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Yep - speaking for usfor c-section mamas I woudl also agree. It took me 4-6 months before it felt good again. Word to the wise - I found I had to be on top to be able to relax. Every other position hurt too much, and it took over a year before we could do all of the different ways and means of sex that we did pre-preggo. :)

Momma Jorje said...

I have SO much that sprang to mind, but first and foremost I wanted to point out that in addition to all the physiological issues you mentioned, our hormones are specifically telling our bodies NOT to get pregnant too soon. Nature's way of killing the mood!

Typing one-handed w/sleeping, suckling toddler in arm, so hopefully I'll return to this post. For now... goodnight!

Manager to Mom said...

So glad I stumbled upon your post! I can certainly relate - it's been just over 4 months since we had our DD and things are still quite uncomfortable "down there". That, along with exhaustion, desire to get other things done during non-baby time and (likely) being overtouched do not exactly lend themselves to an urge in this department! Hubby does not pressure me by any means, but I still feel guilty about this at times as though I'm not truly being a wife or our relationship is now lacking a fundamental component. Good to know that (chances are) things will go back to normal - even if it's quite slowly!

Olivia said...

Even though I had a c-section this post fits me perfectly. Uncomfortable, then no feeling at all until about 18 months later (still need to use lube to make it comfortable), and now it's really only around ovulation that I actually feel horny (Oh Mother Nature, you are so cheeky).

I went with the don't offer, don't refuse technique, too. I told my husband that it just isn't at the front of my mind so he would have to initiate. If I didn't have to think about his feelings at all I would have liked to put a moratorium on all sex for the first 12 months. At least the 2nd time around I will know better what to expect so I won't feel so "broken".

My Feminine Mind said...

See I told my husband that it didn't feel good or feel like anything, because he has to appreciate what I go through! Ha ha. But more than that I just seriously need my husband's support In dealing with things, and he can't support me if he doesn't know I'm going rough them. I was sad to when my g-spot...wasn't my g-spot anymore. I thought it was forever gone. But it came back both times! So that was a relief.

Jenny said...

Great post. I know this will help a lot of women! I had an episiotomy and stitches the first time, and that was not fun to heal from in any regard. I recall feeling sort of strange down there for months on end, and not just during sex. With my homebirth I just had some little tears that didn't require stitching, but one of them was to the front. That one was sore for a while. I'm really REALLY hoping that this time I can AAHHHH my baby out a la Hypnobabies and avoid a tear and that'll be one less thing to cause sex problems after the birth. Because you're right, our husbands have needs and this is hard on them too. I feel sorry for Jordan already.

Lana said...

Thank you so much for this! I had a c-section, and we really wanted to get back into things right away, but it just HURT. It hurt so badly for almost a year afterwards that just attempting to try became disheartening. My daughter is now 3 and a half, and I still find myself mostly disinterested. I love my husband, and I enjoy sex, but I feel as though something was broken in the process.

Mandi @ Living the Good Life said...

My experience after a normal, unmedicated homebirth was quite the opposite in terms of pleasure. While I definitely experienced the "touched out" that comes with a (high needs at that) new baby especially one that is breastfed and am still coming to terms with my new body (even moreso after number 2), I truly desired that intimacy with my husband more than we could manage to squeeze into our life.

I also had MUCH more pleasurable sex post-partum. My orgasms were much more intense and the intercourse itself was more pleasurable. On several occasions, my husband and I have discussed sex post-babies and while it occurs with less frequency, we both enjoy it more and on a deeper level. We really feel like the birth experiences of our children took our intimacy to another level. I personally feel like I am much more in touch with my own body after giving birth naturally. Maybe that has something to do with it?

I was also ready at 3 weeks pp after my first but it did take several more weeks after the birth of my second child with whom I had a small tear (no stitches needed).

Stephah said...

THANK YOU. I want to cry reading this. It really is completely different.. as read in Honest to Betsy, "there's no resuming sexual intercourse after these events, there is only starting again".


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

What an awesome, awesome post! I totally relate to your initial attempts. I will NOT do that again (mental note).
I am back to feeling the same (at almost 3.5 yrs post partum), but my desire still hasn't returned - I think that's more a function of being "on" as mama 24/7 though.
And the story at the end had me rolling - perfect!

Jennifer said...

Thank you very much for this honest and refreshing post!! I can related to much of what you mention here and it feels good to know I am not alone.

teresa said...

This is Great! Now I really need to go read the one about cosleeping!

Natural Momma said...

Wow! You said so many things here that are just how I have felt and do feel! I have had 3 babies- let me tell you: MY BODY CHANGED MORE WITH MY 2nd & 3rd kids... I felt sexy still after my 1st- but my girls ruined that feeling. My 3rd is 6 1/2 months old and I feel disgusting. I hate having my husband seeing me nude, especially during sex. Plus my poor husband gets to hear "don't look at that!" "DON'T touch those!"... it is really sad and I can't wait until I can mentally feel good about me again. I had 3 uncomplicated - zero tears or stitches- vaginal births, and all you say in this article echos my 3 experiences...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the honesty and depth of the post.
I had a second degree tear and complications with the stitches so it was a few months before pain was not on the radar. Desire took a lot longer. When it started to come back I found that I needed far less foreplay. Watching my husband parent and all that he did, it did not exactly turn me on, but it did all the ground work.
My husband has been very appreciate of my being less tight, which was a nice surprise.

Anonymous said...

I had a cs with both my babies. I was no were near ready at 6 weeks. In fact I lost all libido for months and months after having each baby. 6 or more months. My husband and I did try earlyish around the 6 or so month mark to have sex. We were not even able to come together and gave up because it was hurting me to much.
We were not able to fiscally have sex till about 10 month with our first and the same after our 2nd baby.
A long wait for my husband!

jenny of all trades said...

This is amazing. I laugh-cried through the whole thing. Hubs thought I was nuts, so I sent him the link. It really summed it all up for me, and I hope he can better understand me because of reading what you've written.
Sigh. So cathartic. Thank you.

Cassie said...

I like this post. I felt not very ready until later than 6 weeks too. We use natural family planning to so the thought of having sex right away with out knowing how my body was going to start cycling was a major turn off because i couldn't fathom the thought of being pregnant again so soon.... And really neither could my husband so it wasn't too hard :)
I felt ok again though after a while though the first time after is so weird. I can't even bring myself to the thought of wearing tampons again... I don't know why I just can't do it.
Thanks for another interesting post :)

KellyNaturally said...

What an awesome post, Lauren! I especially loved the part about breastfeeding & sex. This could even deserve its very own dedicated post - the dichotomy of breasts as sexual and functional post-partum (and for years afterwards in those of us who extended nurse). It's a big deal, and one that doesn't get talked about much; yet there's a lot to talk about there, I think.

Thanks for your honesty. Retweeting & facebooking.

Sheila said...

Yep, post-partum sex isn't easy. For me, it's not psychological -- I really AM in the mood, and I'm often the one initiating. And it usually isn't time either -- the baby sleeps well on his own for the first couple of hours. But physically, I'm just not able to enjoy it. I feel so in the mood, I want to go for it, and then when it finally happens I'm left disappointed. Everything's dry and not sensitive and sometimes painful. I had a third-degree tear, but that was almost a year ago -- you think things would be better by now!

I really think the breastfeeding hormones are a big contributor. I'm ovulating again, and during those few days it actually does begin to feel good again. I get so happy because I remember what it used to be like and I feel "un-broken" again! And then it ends, all too quickly, and it's back to feeling like sandpaper for the rest of my (wonky) cycle. >sigh< I guess, at the very least, that should give me hope that it will get better someday.

Megan said...

Thank you for being so honest! It helps me to know that others have felt such complicated emotions and sensations post-partum!

Anonymous said...

How true is everything you have said here. First let me say BLESS YOUR HEART for your first being a 12 pounder! OMG! You go girl! My first son I had while my husband was deployed at the begining of Iraq. I tore and hemeraged.(sp) I have to say I was really nervos about him returning home and wanting to have sex, but luckily for me I had 4 months to recover before that happened and still felt nervous and like it was too early. I believe it gets better with each child. I didn't tear with my 2nd or 3rd and felt more arroused sooner after I had them than with my first. I am due with my 4th in Sept.
With that said you can always please your spouse in other ways without endurring intercourse. :o) Oh and if you actually do read all of your comments posted here...your sensitivity/arrousal of your nipples during sex before kids will NOT ever feel the same again...I breast fed all 3 boys and can't say that it is the same. Although my husband is perfectly happy with my larger (droopier) breasts. :o) The sensitivity in that way is different.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Anonymous: I absolutely read every comment! Now I'm scared about my nipples… ;) Oh, well! Oh, by the way, believe me, we did do things other than intercourse when that was too painful — but the problem is that not being in the mood made me a less than enthusiastic participant, you know? Still, I gave it a try… :)

Leah Wolff-Pellingra said...

Thank you for this honest post! You nailed it (pun intended :)

With our first one, we pushed it and started right at 6 weeks. I thought there was something wrong with me that I wasn't interested, that it was a have to, that all the "parents never have sex" myths would come true if we didn't have sex RIGHT NOW.

We started having more when we started getting more sleep. And it was great. So, with baby number 2, the pressure was gone. We knew that someday, someway, we'd have sex again. And that someday it would be good. With that pressure gone, we had more time to rebuild the emotional pieces of our relationship. We were 2nd kid parents, blessed with the faith that the lull was such a relatively short period of time in what will be years of marriage.

I mean, seriously, who is having perfect, unaffected by outside circumstance sex in their marriage? If it wasn't a kidlet, it would be who did the dishes, who had a long day at work, who forgot to shower or didn't share the garlic from lunch. Life changes the way our relationships work, and that's as it should be.

Susana la Banana said...

This is awesome! We really do need more people saying yes, 6 weeks pp may be great for some people but 6 months...or 12...or all normal too. So thank you.
I have to laugh at "don't offer, don't refuse..." b/c now whenever I hear someone use that in a weaning context I will think of this whole new meaning! ;)
Oh, and my experience pp with #1 was almost exactly yours, except I did tell my husband about it...and with #2 I was interested MUCH earlier but have had a lot more trouble with general exhaustion and being either way, MY "normal" is that things start to even out and resemble normality after about a year and are probably all the way back to *great* by 2 years pp. Definitely not 6 weeks. Yeah.
And hey, that applies to way more than sex, now that I think about it! levels...household in general...=)

Unknown said...

Wonderful post. Good job... OK I will do one too one day! So important to break "taboos".

I felt like you did after number 1. After number 2 things had been really NOT GOOD between us during pregnancy and the pressure was on to have sex, and soon. 10 days postpartum. And you know what, it was some of the best sex we've ever had, and I had my first orgasm through intercourse that time! Though it did feel too soon on another level... but reconnected me to the incredible pushing urge, the power...
After baby 3 , HE acknowledged that it had been too soon last time, we waited about 3 weeks, and again, a really beautiful orgasmic experience...

Unknown said...

sorry back, had to abandon commenting and bf baby! So left it sounding smug and "we have lots of sex and no issues" it's not true at all and I totally relate to all said here about too soon and hurting, and feeling obliged and not being up for it, and being interupted and too tired from broken nights and feeling touched out- we manage it about once a month (we have 3 age 5, 3 and 1), and I really have to make myself get in the zone! It is a real effort, one more thing to fit into my day...and my body ;))

Unknown said...

@Mandi S.

seems we have similar experiences!

Anonymous said...

Husband here - really learnt a lot from this, thank you.

I never had a timetable in mind for any of our 3 post-partum sexual reconnections. I was conscious that it would take time to readjust after 10 months of carrying a child and then the intensity of labouring. That said I did on all 3 occasions feel a strong need to reconnect sexually with my wife after so long of her being physically unfamiliar and committed elsewhere.

It's certainly a challenge, being the partner who undergoes no significant change, while watching your wife alter dramatically before your eyes - physically certainly, but also emotionally and maybe in her unpredictable feelings towards you.

This change in life was something I was generally ok with. I was looking forward to being a dad and enjoyed my wife being pregnant (on 2 out of 3 anyway). On another level though it is unsettling and being with my wife after birth - just the two of us being husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend for a short time - not parents or carrier-of-baby (even if baby is in bed too!) was a really important moment for me.

Amy Phoenix said...

This is so lovely, Lauren. I felt like I was talking to a close friend. :)

My sexperiences gradually evolved after healing from the first birth and an episiotomy... and 3 hours of pushing. That literally took until I birthed the second child a couple of years later!

I feel like my outlook on life in general has influenced the sexperiences as well. They have definitely improved over time and with subsequent babies.

Hmmm... maybe practice and knowing one's self also. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this! I am recovering from a C-section, although we'd planned and hoped for an all-natural birth. I was really worried that the emotional trauma of not getting to give birth vaginally would damage my self-image, which in turn would kill our sex life. I like to feel vigorous and vital, and after a C-section this isn't the case, plus you almost feel like your body has failed you in birth, and might fail you in bed, too. Breastfeeding has really helped counteract this (fortunately my husband and I don't mind lactation making its way into sex), because here was one thing my body could still do right. I have similar changes in nipple sensation as those you described, but working through that is easier because we aren't trying to have vaginal intercourse right now. Our baby is just under a month, so recovery timelines are still in play, but my incision has healed so quickly that I was feeling sexy again within 2-3 weeks of delivery. We are having so much fun exploring my new body with its changes and scars, just focusing on what we can enjoy without vaginal intercourse. Don't know if this helps anyone, but I would say just do what feels good, and avoid what doesn't. That's what most of us had to do when first learning to have sex, anyway. Like you suggested, it's a kind of starting all over again.

Corey said...

echoing what the others have commented already...thank you so much for your honesty and openness! it took me about 10 months to feel good about having sex after my first baby. my second baby is now 7 months and i'm still waiting to feel like having sex again. birth is such a physical/emotional does take time to recover! and i feel exactly the same way about all the physical touching...with having to give my body to my baby so often, it is hard to give it to my husband...sometimes i just want to keep it to myself!

Anonymous said...

Third degree tears and a LOT of stitches. I had my postpartum visit at 7 weeks, and we had sex that night. It felt surprisingly decent, but I hurt for a couple of days afterwards. Since then, still some soreness (now 3 months PP) and it feels pretty nothing like, looking forward to a return to normalcy.
Thank you SO much for this post. It's nice to know there's an end, and that it's not abnormal.

Kitty said...

I just wanted to say that I read this article and showed it to my husband before I gave birth 7 weeks ago and it really helped the both of us understand what to expect so much better. :)

That said, I think I must be a lucky cow because while I have experienced the "well, I think I can feel him but Im not all that sure" thing, it was not painful. We waited 5 weeks (yes, I know - naughty, naughty) and it was more numb than anything else. Anyway, 2 weeks later and I appear to be turning into a bit of a Nymphomaniac as sex is feeling good again.

I guess what I am saying is that this article gave us realistic expectations and real joy that everything is getting back to normal faster for me than for others. Thanks for sharing this, I admire your bravery and honesty.

'Becca said...

This is a terrific article! I linked to it in my tips for expectant parents. Thanks for writing so honestly and acknowledging how experiences vary!

Unknown said...

Great article! I felt the same way...
But you've freaked me out: "It might be a survival thing, the way mothers can be less impressed even with their own, older children once a helpless newborn is in the picture."
I'm due with #2 unexpectedly and my babies will be 13 months apart. I had to stop nursing before me or my baby were ready. I feel horrible and I'm terrified.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Nikki McNeil: I can certainly understand that fear! And I'm pregnant with my third now and have weaned, so I get that nursing during pregnancy doesn't always work out. The good news is, I wrote this article before I had my second baby, and I totally, totally still felt loving & connected toward my firstborn once the second was born. Love stretches however far it needs to. Even if you feel temporarily disconnected (some people do, and it shouldn't make you feel guilty), the love will come back! Best wishes on the rest of your pregnancy!

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