Shortly after I learned I was pregnant, I went to a party where I ran into a first-time mom bouncing her infant in her lap. I asked her how things were going. She replied with a slightly manic expression and an air of triumph: "I made eggs today!"
I didn't really understand. Eggs? Is having a baby really that hard? Certainly not. Certainly it would be different for me. Right? I simply couldn't fathom ever being so all-consumed by a baby as to be triumphant about eggs.
Since my child was born in early July, I've had sex with my husband precisely twice.
My point here is that I didn't know how challenging having a baby would be, but there was one thing I was sure of: even if my life was so disrupted by the birth of my kid that I could barely complete the most basic of daily tasks (e.g., eggs), there was NO WAY it was going to disrupt my sex life.
See, I consider myself a very sexual person. I'm in no way shy or retiring when it comes to my sexual wants or needs. It's quite possible that my husband is fantastic about initiating sex, but I wouldn't know because I almost never give him the chance. And when he isn't able to accommodate me (because, say, he's not home), I do not hesitate to take care of myself. We share a modest-but-high-quality collection of toys and, yes, videos. Most importantly, we have frank and honest discussions about our desires, fantasies, and feelings.
I point this out especially because, as a plus-size woman who always wants to be thinner and in better shape, I do not carry my body issues with me into the bedroom.
So as I was preparing for the birth of my daughter, I did my research.
I Thought I'd Have An Active Postpartum Sex Life Because...
"Sex After Giving Birth" is quite a popular topic, and it seems that lots of couples suffer from a complete drop in their sex life post-baby. But as I read, I discovered this prolonged sexual drop-off is basically attributed to four things:
1. Couples being too tired
2. Not having enough alone time (away from the baby)
3. The mothers "not feeling attractive"
4. Hormonal shifts in the mothers
And I tell you what. I laughed in that list's face.
Well, come on.
1. We've all been too tired for sex before...but if you gotta get after it you don't need the bells and whistles. You need like ten minutes. 15 tops.
2. And alone time? Don't babies sleep?
3. This one I dismissed most readily. Pregnancy does not do kind things to one's body, but it's all part of the process. One I believe I am in together with my husband. It is my job to carry the baby, it is his job to find me attractive while doing so. And after having done so. God-awful though they may be, I'd never let a thing like stretch marks get in the way of a good time. .
4. I had no idea what kind of hormonal shifts would happen after pregnancy, but if my hormonal shifts during pregnancy were any indication, "loss" of libido was NOT the issue. Ahem.
I Was So Very Wrong Because...
In the first place, I had a(n unplanned) c-section. On the day we left the hospital, as my doctor was reviewing my at-home care regimen, she casually tacked on, "Oh. And no sex for six weeks."
For the first two weeks, that was fine by me. I was sore and on drugs and had a new baby. But somewhere around week three, my hormones must have shifted because I was suddenly climbing the walls. Despite my new-parent, sleep-deprived, leaky-boobed stupor, I was like a cat in heat. I've never felt quite so out of control of my body in my entire life, not even during pregnancy, because there was nothing to be done about it.
By the time the sixth week rolled around, I practically pounced on my husband. At least, I started off by pouncing on him. The actual sex act itself was totally un-pounce-y.
In case you don't know, let me be the one to tell you: the first time you have sex after giving birth even if you've had a c-section can feel like having sex for the first time ever. And you know what? No one likes that. I mean, maybe you're one of the four people in the world who had a fantastic first-time experience, but my first time was awkward and uncomfortable and slightly terrifying. (I suppose if I squint really hard and put the experience in a larger life context it was maybe a little romantic, definitely sweet, but definitely not "good.")
And it was absolutely the last thing in the world I expected to relive as a married, thirtysomething woman WITH A CHILD. All of the pain, none of the mystique. Awesome.
Of course, I'd read that it could feel that way, but I assumed I'd be different. For one, I've gone six weeks without intercourse before and managed to get back on the horse (uh, as it were) without a problem. For another, I thought that "feels like a virgin" thing would only happen if I'd had a vaginal birth. It makes no sense to have such a hurty hooha given how little action my hooha saw during the whole birth process. And yet. Sigh.
So to restate: the first time I got to have sex after giving birth, I pounced on my husband(!) and then spent the next however-long yelling WAIT! OW STOP! HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! OW DON'T MOVE! OKAY TRY...OW NO.
Needless to say, it was not the grand, six-week long, pent up hormonal release I was hoping for. It was much more like my first time: surprisingly painful, and while perhaps a little sweet, mostly uncomfortable and ultimately unsatisfying. (And my "finishing" had nothing whatsoever to do with a penis.)
Following this episode, I wasn't exactly champing at the bit to do it again. But about a week later we DID do it again, and it was muuuuuch better. Hooray!
And then my hormones took a nosedive.
Oh, it's not like I don't ever want to have sex. I do. But my desire comes in very inconvenient (and short) bouts. And it is immediately overshadowed by The Baby.
Yes. It has happened. I am more often than not too tired for even 10-minute sex. (I swore I never thought I'd live to see the day.) And while in theory I don't have a problem having relations with my husband while the baby's sleeping next to our bed, in actuality it's quite unsettling.
Consider this exchange from two nights ago:
The baby has just fallen asleep. It's sometime after 10 p.m. She will wake again in three, four, or five hours. My husband and I are lying in bed close together. His hand falls on my behind. He gives a squeeze.
Husband: Didn't we used to like sex?
Me: That sounds like us.
My mind immediately fills with sexy thoughts and it feels as though my hormones might cooperate. Could this be the night we get busy? Maybe! Except just then the baby makes an adorable sounding coo/snore in her sleep.
Husband: Oh my God, she's so precious.
Annnnnnnd scene. Hormonal rev-up nipped in the bud. Mommy-mode in full effect. Who can think about sex when there are cute baby coos? My brain cannot process both.
Next thing you know, we're asleep. And somehow, I have become the statistic I never thought I'd be. Me, the self-proclaimed poster girl for Healthy Sexual Appetite, is either too distracted or too fatigued for sex. Ugh.
So yeah, I know this is temporary. I know that eventually, we'll move the baby to her own room. Eventually, she'll sleep through the night. Eventually, my hormones won't be riding the postpartum rollercoaster.
But for now, I just have to look forward to the days when I can be triumphant about making more than eggs.
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