by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post is the partner post to one Jeremy wrote, 9 Tips to having more and better sex after baby, on The Leaky Boob as part of a giveaway celebrating Valentine’s Day and expressing love beyond one day. Find the giveaway information and widget to enter at the end of this post.
Sex after baby. Everybody wants it, many fear it’s a lost cause, some dread it, others predict doom and gloom, a fair share are too exhausted to consider it, a few hop right to it, plenty think about it nervously, untold numbers want to figure out how to get more of it or how to want to want it at all. Talk swirls around of lack of sex killing a relationship, a partner’s sexual needs, pressures of duty and obligation, what a woman wants, what a man needs, and how it seems like babies have an internal radar as to when their parents are getting it on no matter how strategic the timing. That last one is probably true. There are conflicting stereotypes; the fatigued and uninterested burnt out mom, the demanding and sex-obsessed dad, the sex kitten always available MILF, and the lazy-boy uninterested burnt out dad who doesn’t even take a second look when his partner stands in front of the TV naked before asking her to move. In our sex obsessed society it’s no surprise that one of the biggest concerns about life after baby is if there will be a sex life after baby.
And now I will say what probably nobody ever expected anyone to say about sex after children:
My sex life drastically improved after having children.
I don’t mean it’s always what I want it to be or always great but it is so much better than before we had kids. So is my marriage in general. Blaming having children for a couple’s sex life going down hill is missing reality: it’s not the baby’s fault. It’s also not the fault of breastfeeding, where your baby sleeps (we have had our kids in their own beds and rooms and with us), or giving birth.
I’m no expert but I’ve been having sex “after baby” for the last 15 years that included giving childbirth 6 times. No expert but certainly experienced. Which is incredibly awkward to write considering I know that some friends and family read this blog, including my mother-in-law. Though she’s probably figured out we have sex by now…
But because I’m an advocate of sex not being a shame-filled topic and instead need to be open honest conversations with information sharing, I’m going to share my voice of experience on sex after baby anyway. Even though I’m pretty sure several coworkers and maybe even my boss read here too. We’re awkward talking about sex because of shame even when there is absolutely no reason to invite shame to the party.
Shame sucks, you guys. In so many ways it sucks life out of us and ruins relationships, experiences, and allows oppression to continue. Shame can prevent us from living whole heartedly, as Brene Brown says. And shame can definitely ruin sex. So for this conversation, we’re kicking shame to the curb, inviting honesty, and embracing vulnerability with a serving of humor.
Welcome to parenting where you will be faced with levels of honesty and vulnerability that one can only handle with a decent sense of humor.
First, 5 ways sex changes after having a baby
1. Bodies. The obvious, physical changes. Not good, not bad, not ugly (kick that body shaming talk out of the room, it so ain’t sexy), just changed. Unless there is some damage that happened, and it does happen, while a woman’s body will change with childbirth, it should still function and experience the same sensations as before but it will be different. After the initial nervousness, many women discover that sex actually improves after baby. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the birthing partner is the only one that experiences physical changes, studies show that men also experience physical hormone changes during pregnancy. Same sex partners likely experience this affect as well.
2. Availability. Sex won’t be as readily available after baby. Time taking care of your kid(s) will cut into time you could be having sex. There will be an ebb and flow to this, with certain seasons of your child’s development taking more time than others
3. Energy. Kids are work. LOTS of work. Wonderful, rewarding, special, fulfilling, and very draining work. And you’re learning on the job, a job that is 24/7. There are times when it will be down right exhausting and more often than not, you won’t even get a break when it’s most fatiguing.
4. Priorities. It’s likely sex is going to move down on your list of priorities a bit, at the very least, a new person has come into your life that will shift all your priorities by a position or two. Sex isn’t likely to rank as high and honestly, sometimes sleep will be more important to you.
5. Creative. Because of points 1-4, sex after baby often has to become more creative. Bodies have changed, availability a little more complicated, energy levels waxing and waning, and priorities rearranged, can make having sex more interesting. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad. It’s all in what you do with it and you’ll have to get creative.
Secondly, 5 ways to ruin sex after baby.
6. Stress. You know how great stress is as an aphrodisiac? Nothing gets you more in the mood than feeling like your overwhelmed and anxious, right? Stress doesn’t help with sex, not with wanting it, getting it, or enjoying it. Stressing about sex is pretty much the worst thing you could do if you hope to be having it. But how do you just stop stressing about… anything? Let alone sex? You’re going to have to identify why you’re stressed, develop a strategy for reducing the stress, and ask for help. In other words, pour a glass of wine (before anyone freaks, a glass of wine is fine even for breastfeeding moms but it’s never ok to be buzzed or drunk while caring for or cosleeping with children), sit on the couch, and without any blaming, communicate this stress with your partner. Get vulnerable.
7. Impatience. Being impatient creates stress by the way so read point 6 again if you’re dealing with stress. Like my kids thinking I’m taking FOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRREEEEEEVVVVVVVVER going to the bathroom while they wait outside the door for me to answer their 172nd question about when we get a dog and I answer yet again that I don’t feel we’re ready for one at this point in time, what feels like a long time may actually just be the postpartum version of peeing, wiping, pulling up your pants, and washing your hands. Asking = pressuring when you’re trying to pee or find your libido. The 6 week wait suggestion for resuming sexual activity after giving birth is just a suggestion, not law. Listen to your body and respond accordingly, if you need more time, take it, and if you need less, great. This goes for both partners, plenty of women are impatient with themselves after childbirth, frustrated that their sex drive hasn’t “bounced back.” Impatience with how long it may take to even want sex, adjusting to this new version of sex, or anything else related can ruin the whole thing.
8. Comparing. Oddly enough for there being such a lack of honest conversations about sex, there is sex everywhere. Or what we’re told is sex. TV shows, film, porn, magazine ads, etc., make it seem like everyone is having way more and way sexier sex than you are. This puts so much pressure on pretty much everyone that it’s not unusual that when we do talk about it sometimes even in real life it seems like everyone is having way more and way sexier sex than you. Some people are, great for them. (Come on now, be happy for them.) Lots more are probably way closer to what you’re experiencing, specially if they have young children. And don’t compare to stereotypes. Who cares what women are supposed to like or do and what men supposedly want, just be yourself. Comparing your sex life with anyone else, real or imaginary, won’t help the spark in your own sex life and could very likely deflate it entirely. Same thing goes with comparing your life with anyone else, real or imaginary.
9. Forcing. Sometimes I hear people say that if you don’t want to have sex you just have to do it anyway. Phrases like “take one for the team” (I just threw up in my mouth a bit writing that), “suck it up, it’s your duty”, and “if you don’t do it, he/she will find it elsewhere” seem to be acceptable forms of sexual coercion in our society, particularly within committed relationships. Coercion isn’t sexy. Obligated sex isn’t sexy. When someone feels forced or manipulated into doing something they don’t want to do, they don’t feel safe and this will undermine true vulnerability and relational security. Not only may it ruin your sex life, it may very well ruin your relationship. Sometimes it is worth trying to have sex even if you’re not in the mood but only if the context is completely safe and free of pressure and expectation of duty.
10. Imbalance. If one partner gets to be done “working” and experiences changes of environment and interactions and the other doesn’t, monotony and frustration are likely to hit. If one partner feels more responsible than the other for child care and home life, having to be on and available 24/7 can deplete their resources. Imbalance in the relationship and the responsibilities or a woman feeling there is a lack of support from her partner is like the antithesis of sex appeal, more than body changes, fatigue (though that’s a big one), and even feeling pressured for sex. Support in their parenting journey ends up being sexy, according to a study of new parents. Coparenting and equal responsibility can ignite the fires of passion and doing chores together provides plenty of opportunity for flirting that made lead to something more later and a shared work load means more energy and one not exhausted from carrying the burden alone.
Lastly, 6 was to help your sex life after baby
11. Space. Before kids finding some time alone to relax, read, be creative, hear your own thoughts, pee alone, take a shower, and sleep didn’t seem like a complicated challenge each and every day. After kids, it’s likely these things will. As much as breastfeeding releases hormones the help with reducing stress and promote bonding, constant touch and interaction, even with an infant, can be draining. When partners help each other find space in their day and week, a few minutes to a few hours to recharge, it helps each find room for even entertaining the idea of sex. But if a partner is “touched out” and hasn’t had time to themselves, they often won’t have anything left to give and sex can end up feeling like a burden. Want better sex? Make each partner getting the space they need to remember their whole selves a priority, respecting whatever that looks like according to individual personalities and preferences.
12. Masturbate. Whenever I mention this one people get uncomfortable. Self pleasure isn’t something to be ashamed of and it can greatly help relieve sexual tension and frustration, allowing for a more gradual progression of coming together. For women that have given birth, masturbation can go a long way in discovering what works for you now and adjust to the changes of your body. It can also help develop confidence. If you know what feels good to you, if you know you can find pleasure sexually, sharing that with your partner can translate into really, really great sex. The only time self pleasure can be a problem is if it replaces sex together for a long period of time or if it becomes dependent on tools that somehow create unrealistic expectations of sex with your partner.
13. Intentionality. With the shifting of priorities it is likely you’ll have to make an intentional effort to getting to those that end up bumped a little lower on the list. Including sex. Some couples find putting it on the calendar helps but others find that too rigid and too much pressure. Even if you like a more spontaneous approach, being intentional can help make your sex life after baby great. It may not be that you have to be intentional about sex as much as intentional about finding ways to cultivate the connection you have with your partner. Take time to decompress when you need it but also take time to turn off screens (TV, smart phones, computer, tablets, etc.), take a break from chores, and intentionally focus on each other. Regular date nights (when baby is still really young, take baby along), mini dates at home (we call them couch dates), no-sexual-pressure massages, cooking a meal together, are just a few ways you can be intentional in keeping your connection going outside that can help make for great sex.
14. Flirting. You may be in a committed relationship (or not…) and you may have a child or two (or six…) but your flirting days are far from being over. Want great sex? Flirt. All. Day. Long. Except for sometimes if your partner feels like it is pressure. Carrying over from the previous point, intentional flirting with your partner communicates how they are on your mind, that you see them as more than just your coparent. Even now, 18 years after we met, when Jeremy flirts with me be it with a flirtatious touch, glance, low comment only I can hear amidst the ruckus of our children, a sexy email, a tantalizing text (one of my favorites is just a simple text message saying “I’m thinking of you right now…”, or “I’m looking forward to being alone later”, or even more sexy “I was just remembering that thing we did the other night…”), or a sweet and thoughtful gesture that, though simple, he knows I will appreciate. And I flirt back. Let me be clear, this isn’t a ploy to get sex, that will be seen through faster than a projectile spit up and backfires as manipulative and pressuring. Flirting has to be genuine, you really want your partner’s attention and to let them know you want to be with them because you want to be with them, not because you want to get laid.
15. Communication. Look into each other’s eyes, listen and talk. About everything and anything but especially about sex. Don’t be alone together, be together together. And if sex isn’t really working, listen and talk about that, vulnerably without shame or blame. This may be more scary than the prospect of sex after giving birth to an 8 pound tiny human but it can be just as rewarding.
16. Humor. There are bound to be bumps along the road, learning to laugh at the experiences together (not laughing at each other unless that works for you without jeopardizing the safe space you share for vulnerability). Laughter helps release tension and pours endorphins and stress reducing hormones into your body. A shared communication of happiness, laughing together bonds and connects. Along the parenting journey there will be moments where the options are clearly laugh or cry. When you can, choose laughter and the distress will giveaway to calm. With your partner, humor can serve to provide support, flexibility, and understanding. Laughter is sexy.
Of course sex after baby is going to be different because everything after baby is different. Regardless of your parenting decisions: stay at home, work from home, work out of the home, breastfeeding, formula feeding, cosleeping, separate sleeping, babywearing, or whatever, your life will change with having a baby. Your schedule, cooking, sleep, housekeeping, your purse, underwear, expenditures, priorities, entertainment, bathing opportunities, and pretty much everything else about your life will change. Let’s stop being shocked that things are going to be different after having a baby and let’s start working to enjoy the seasons of life as they roll. It’s not that having children takes over, it’s that when you add so much love and someone so wonderful to your life you suddenly really begin to understand what it means to love beyond yourself and beyond how love makes you feel. Having children has taught me so much about being truly be present in my relationships, to not be looking just for what I get out of them, and to understand the value of vulnerability, letting go of shame, and humor in living beyond me.
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Arm’s Reach is the generous sponsor making it possible for Jeremy, aka: The Piano Man, to speak with Jessica at 4 different MommyCon events in 2014, presenting their “Sex After Baby” talk. Jeremy will be speaking in Chicago, Denver, and two other cities TBA. Motherlove is also the generous sponsor making it possible for Jessica to speak at MommyCon events in 2014!
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Happy Valentine’s Day and BEYOND!
If you are looking for the widget to enter our huge Valentine’s Day giveaway, then look no further. The widget is right below this text. A couple of reminders before you go crazy with the widget:
1. Due to the varied shipping restrictions of our many, generous, sponsors, this giveaway is for US participants only. We apologize for having to leave out our international followers. We just can’t figure out how to better manage a giveaway of this magnitude.
2. Don’t forget that these same sponsors are also offering discounts and promotional codes just for TLB followers. Don’t miss out! Check them out at the giveaway post.