Have a question for the HDYDI moms? Ask away in the comments or on our Features page.
What about reintroducing intimacy into your relationship with your husband – physical and emotional? How to be romantic when you worry about chores, finance, sleep deprived and the kids are sleeping in the next room? Early “physical” limitations (post-C-Section, vaginal birth, breastfeeding).
Oh yes. The nookie. Those of you rare few who were breaking rules and getting back in the saddle well before your postpartum appointment… this isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us.
So, OK, you drag yourself (with or without babies) to your six-week postpartum OB checkup. Your doctor says all is well, and you’re clear to resume sex. And just as soon as you stop laughing, she actually has the nerve to ask what you want to use as birth control! Um, did she forget that time six weeks ago when she pulled two small people from your body? Hahahahaha!
But sex is a serious topic, people. And one we’re all about here on HDYDI. For as much time as we spend as devoted moms, we are also (among other things) the beloved spouse/partner of some other grownup. And I’m going to come right out and say it: I think physical intimacy is a really important part of that kind of relationship. But, good lord, how is that supposed to happen with two needy newborns, zero sleep, and a body that has been through a war? Here’s our advice…
Talk, talk, and talk some more
Communication can very easily break down in the first weeks and months of being a new parent, especially with two. In addition to the mind-addling lack of sleep (and showers and meals that can’t be eaten with one hand), mama’s got some serious physical stuff to deal with. You’re healing from delivery, your hormones are more volatile than the stock market, your boobs are leaking milk all over the place, and your belly resembles a lump of raw pizza dough. You’re stressed and tired and trying to figure it all out, and sex is the farthest thing from your mind. Well, guess what? It might be lower on your beloved’s list than you think. Maybe you’re on maternity leave but he’s gone back to work already, only to come home and help out with the night shift. He’s tired and stressed too, so maybe postponing the return to the marital bed is just fine with him. Or, maybe he’s more eager than you are. But the only way you can understand each other is to talk about it. If you don’t feel up for it, he needs to know that. If he misses that aspect of your relationship, you need to know that, too. But keep talking.
Make a choice, make a date
You may find that you both want to get back in the saddle, at least theoretically, but motivation is low and timing is poor. But if you’re both in agreement: make a date. Make several. Make the choice to carve out time to re-connect, both emotionally and physically. You don’t need to go anywhere, you don’t need to find a babysitter. Just decide that you’re going to light some candles and sit down at the table for dinner. Turn off the TV, don’t answer the phone. Open a bottle of wine. Maybe it leads you back to the bedroom, maybe it takes a few times. Maybe you just make a totally concrete, un-romantic decision to jump back into bed. That’s OK. You have to start somewhere. The psych majors among us should think about behavioral therapy: set the behavior first, if you need to, and the emotional part will come along. If nothing else, you’ll be glad you made the time for each other. And I’m not kidding about that bottle of wine. I’m all for (consensual) enforced relaxation.
Don’t rush, and don’t expect it to be the same
Everyone has their own timeline. Some people are so looking forward to reconnecting that they go for it right after they get the green light (or some just decide to get that first time “out of the way”…). Plenty of people don’t feel physically or emotionally ready for several more weeks or even months. Don’t feel like you need to rush into anything that you aren’t ready for.
Speaking of getting things out of the way… know that the first time post-kids, nobody’s socks are getting knocked off. Maybe the first few times. It’s unlikely going to be the sexual highlight of your entire relationship, so don’t build it up in your mind. It may be awkward, it may be a little painful, there may be some seriously leaky boobs. Keep your sense of humor about you, and know that it’ll get better/easier.
Another important bit of expectation-setting is this: your relationship with your significant other has now changed. Your lives and priorities have changed. This is neither all-bad nor all-good. It’s different. New stresses, new demands on your time. New ways to connect, too, and new shared passion. But it’s different. As for what frequency of sex is “normal?” There’s no such thing. Some may find the time once or twice a week, some are not entirely sure they had sex for the entirety of September (or October…?). You have to find the balance that’s right for the two of you.
To the partners out there, I offer two important tidbits that I’ve picked up (the studies I, of course, cannot find right now, or I’d provide the links). Tidbit 1: a study was done that showed that women who perceived that their partners did a “fair share” of housework and childcare were more likely to be interested in sex. Laugh all you want, it’s true. We stress about these things, about how many loads of laundry need to be done or whether the dishes are clean. The more you can proactively take this stress off of your wife/partner/beloved, the more amenable she might be. Not in a quid pro quo kind of way, but more as a general stress reducer. Which brings me to tidbit 2: I read somewhere that, in general, men like to have sex to relax while women need to be relaxed to have sex. Think about that. Some men may want to have sex as a way to unwind after a stressful day. But, I assure you, your wife is likely to need a lot more winding down (and maybe a few glasses of wine) before she’s ready to join you.
Don’t forget the birth control
If you’re not planning on trying to get pregnant again anytime soon, please do not neglect your birth control. Don’t assume that breastfeeding will take care of it, don’t ignore it just because you figure you won’t be having sex all that often, anyways. Remember what you learned in sex ed: it only takes one time. Research the methods (pill, “mini-pill,” IUD, condoms, etc…), and pick one that you will be able to use as directed. Or, if you are all about continuing to expand the family, more power to ya!
There you have it, a few words of collective wisdom from the moms of HDYDI. Sex after kids is real, it’s possible, and frankly, it’s important. When you’re ready, go for it!