Thursday, September 5, 2013

Postpartum sex, the second time around

Postpartum sex, the second time around == Hobo Mama
A long time ago, I wrote a quite depressing post on how postpartum sex after Mikko's birth kinda sucked, for a long time. I used words like "chafing" and "neutral" and "no physical sensations of pleasure." It was about nine months after Mikko's birth before I started enjoying myself again.

I thought I really should do a baby #2 update for you, since things were completely, entirely different this time around. Go figure, right?

Warnings once more: TMI up the wazoo & likely NSFW. Let's be blunt, shall we?

I'll go through the topics I covered last time to contrast and compare.

Physical recovery

Once again, I had a vaginal birth without medications or interventions. Well, definitely this time, since Sam and I were the only ones there! I probably pushed too fast in my excitement and surprise that a baby's head was coming out of me before the midwife had arrived, so I did have a little tearing that needed stitches. However, not many, and the pain down there was just sort of twingey. My bidet (!!!) helped a lot with those early days of soothing, and I had postpartum compresses pre-frozen for myself that I lurved. (I should really post my recipes for those sometime!) However, I was quite lochia-y and otherwise feeling worn out from the birth for a couple weeks. My uterus was very stretched out, making it a bit hard to breathe from the pressure on my diaphragm. (I had to lift it up and push it in when I walked for the first week or so.)

Anyhoo, I was much more hesitant this second time around to even attempt anything in the pantsal region (that's a term; look it up) until at least the prescribed six-week waiting period was up. I'm not even sure when exactly we did first re-attempt the horizontal mambo.

I do, however, remember tensing up, bracing myself, waiting, waiting … and … it felt GOOD!

I was so surprised. I had no trouble reaching orgasm during that portion of the fun. There was an initial tweak of pain upon first insertion, but then it was all back to normal (normal = sex feels yummy). Woo!

Mental and emotional recovery

Last time around, I had some weird mental block about my lady bits being messed up and not wanting to see or touch them. On the one hand, I knew they were even more messed up this time around due to my midwife's comments as she stitched about the weird dangly tear I'd given myself. But on the other hand, I wasn't as concerned about it. I don't look down there often, after all, and I figured everything would right itself as it healed — well enough, at least. I mean, my belly is a lot different looking post-births, too, but it still functions to, you know, hold in my intestines and all.

I think, too, I was more prepared for the onslaught of newbornhood. Then, too, we had a very docile, sleepy newborn this time around (thanks, Alrik!), so I wasn't quite as strung out and stressed. When you are, sex can become a distant priority.

Fixation on the child

Postpartum sex, the second time around == Hobo Mama
As I mentioned last time, who has thoughts to spare for a spouse when a teensy bundle of adorableness is front and center? However, perhaps again because it was my second and I knew what to expect, I felt like my relationship with Sam didn't have to stretch as much. Plus, we knew what was in store and knew that things would even out eventually.

Being touched out

Ok, this one was still an issue, but it was mostly Mikko's touch that was causing me problems. I was tandem breastfeeding and finding myself in the midst of raging nursing aversion for the first time in my experience. So, even when Sam touched my breasts, I'd have the impulse to grit my teeth and/or toss him across the room. (I did do the former, resisted the latter.) This let up when Mikko weaned, about a year postpartum.

But breasts aside (a phrase I never thought I'd say), I didn't mind physical touch otherwise, and sexual touch from Sam ended up being welcome. This makes perfect sense, considering it felt good this time around.

Body image

After the second birth, I was floored by how dumpy my body remained. I'd heard and seen women continue to look four months pregnant for weeks after a birth, but that hadn't been my experience after Mikko's birth, so I had no reason to believe it would happen after Alrik's — until it did. I looked pregnant. Only, it was this flabby, squishy tummy that was in no way the firm pregnancy mound. I found this acceptable in a biological fashion but somewhat disturbing to see on my own body and in my own mirror. Even as the swelling went down and my uterus returned to its normal size, I was fatter than I'd ever been.

That said, I've done so much thinking and growing when it comes to body image over the last several years that I didn't let it eat me up inside the way I would have a decade ago. I knew I was still myself, more stretch marks and flab to show or not. I knew Sam valued me for who I am, regardless of size or shape. In short, it didn't much affect how much or how often I wanted to indulge in clothes-off hanky panky. So there you have it.

Helping your partner adapt

I said before that there's a delicate balance at play when one of you wants sex and the other doesn't. Who gives in, and what sorts of compromises do you both agree to? I still believe firmly in being open about what does and doesn't feel good, and each partner honoring the other's wishes and needs. And patience. Lots of patience.

Fortunately, Sam and I have been much more in sync this time around, so compromise hasn't been an issue!

Partner time

Last time around, I asked Sam what he thought was different about postpartum sex vs. sex before kids, and he said a huge factor is how little couple time you have to snuggle and hold hands and hug without its turning into a little-boy-filled hug sandwich (every. time.).

Postpartum sex, the second time around == Hobo Mama
Heh heh heh. It's all true. (Credit:

This is still true, and amplified with two. In fact, I find it more challenging to fit in sex at all considering we're cosleeping with two kids, and all four of us are on slightly different schedules. Sam, Mikko, and Alrik go to bed at the same time while I stay up to work a little. Sam gets up way early. Alrik gets up early-ish and still usually takes a long daily nap. Mikko and I get up around the same time. That means Sam and I have zero time when it's just the two of us awake. But: That's our choice for now (due to work-from-home and homeschooling constraints), and I anticipate this continuing to change and morph. For instance, Alrik's coming close to dropping his nap. That should put both boys asleep for a longer period at night than either of us adults, so Sam and I might end up with either evening or morning time alone.

For now, we steal time for sex. We'll put on a long and engrossing DVD that both boys will watch, and sneak upstairs. Or I'll wake him up (with his permission) when I come to bed later, and we'll head to the couch together. We've even thought about hiring a regular booty-call babysitter (but not telling her that's why).

We're willing to put up with the inconveniences for now, because overall our schedule is working for us. I know of other cosleeping, multi-kid families who find other ways to manage things and have more partner time, so — it's definitely possible. But: It's not your fault or necessarily even a problem if time for sex when you have young kids (especially very young kids) is hard to finagle. They grow; things change; hang in there.

Final thoughts…for now

So there you have it: Much much much much much better experience this time around. If you thought my first post was depressive, now you know that things might not be so bad postpartum. If you thought my first post described you to a tee, then at least you know that things might (probably will) look up, and that if you have another baby, it doesn't have to be the same experience all over again.

As for me, we'll see what happens if we have baby #3!

If you're in the mood to share your in-the-mood stories, what was postpartum sex like for you? If you've had multiple births or differing birth experiences, did you have varying postpartum recoveries each time?


Lindsay said...

I think I bounced back sexually more quickly the second time (and lost weight more slowly) too. I wonder if that's common. I wonder if anyone has researched that. You know,
Mama, Hobo, Ph.D M.D. and Mommy, Crunchy Con, Ph.D, "A comparison of sexual bounceback rates by number of pregnancy" Journal of Maternal Medicine, page 69.

Olivia said...

I wish I could say that sex the second time postpartum was better than the first, but it really hasn't been. I didn't have to deal with a c-section this time, but I still have almost zero libido and my aversion to having my breasts touched is worse this time. When my husband touches my nipples it takes me right out of my sexual thoughts and makes me want to slap his hands. *sigh* Even french kissing kinda grosses me out right now. I'm seriously wondering if I'll need professional help to truly enjoy sex again, or if the root of the problem is breastfeeding hormones.

My son is 16 months now so I still have hope that my desire returns as it (mostly) did after my daughter was 18 months.

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