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After birthing my beautiful six pound, 15 ounce baby girl, the farthest thing from my mind was sex. The actual labor and delivery weren’t enough to deter me; it was the resulting tearing, swelling, stitches, and swelling. While we’re on the subject, why is it that everyone dramatizes the labor process and downplays the awful pain that accompanies the healing process? I’m convinced that showing young girls pictures of post-birth lady parts would dramatically reduce the rate of teen pregnancy, and probably leave them with post-traumatic stress, but I digress..
I don’t think sex is on the top of any new mother’s “to-do” list; taking care of that precious new bundle, learning his/her schedule (or distaste for any schedule whatsoever), finding time to sleep/eat/soak your goods in the sitz ball, heal, and stay sane all take priority. At some point, however, your partner’s sideways glances, winky-faces, and not-so-subtle hints put the possibility of sex back on the table. “Sex after baby” is a blush-worthy topic for many, even for me, but it’s one all new mothers experience. In order to get a better understanding of the average new mother’s feelings and experiences regarding post-baby sexual activity, I polled as many new mamas as I could round up (read: anyone who would respond to my Facebook posts). In my discussions with the women about their feelings prior to engaging in their first post-baby sexual experience, I heard a lot of similarities: nervous, scared, sad, and terrified, even. Of the mothers I polled, the average length of time between the birth of their children and first sexual experience was 8.6 weeks. Auden* had this to say
“I felt like I’d been hit by a truck for about two weeks after having a c-section (birth). Zane* was still helping me pull up my underwear and pants. I can’t even begin to tell you when the first time we engaged in ‘the act’ was. I felt hideous with the dawning of stretch marks in all their glory, a bonus scar, and excess weight that I couldn’t shed fast enough. All I know is that it was a long, long time.”
So, how was the first time? Dia* described it as “extremely painful” and “disappointing.” She elaborated, saying that she worried the way it felt the first time (post-birth) was how it was going to feel forever. Auden* described it as “awkward.” In anticipation of the pain, Emery* drank a few glasses of wine prior to engaging in sexual activity. While she said the experience was still “physically uncomfortable,” she felt more relaxed after a few drinks. Dia* spoke of her newfound feelings for her husband, as they struggled to regain a “normal” sex life. She explained that she’s “proud of [her husband], and [their] relationship- that it could withstand the hardship without [her] feeling guilty.”
When asked how she would describe her current sex life (one year after the birth of her first child), Elizabeth*said “slower,” and requiring “more work.” She elaborated, saying that with the baby came more responsibility, fewer hours of sleep, and more stress. I think we can all agree that these things aren’t aphrodisiacs, though research shows that sexual activity can alleviate some stress symptoms. Auden* explained that co-sleeping with her child until she reached the age of 18 months made for some “fun, awkward and disappointing (sexual) times…many of which abruptly ended to the sound of a crying baby.” Emery* explained that it took her about one year to feel completely physically comfortable (e.g. no pain) during sex.
Because “sex after baby” isn’t a topic discussed around the office water-cooler, or even between friends in many cases, I was genuinely curious about how the thoughts and experiences of other mothers compared to mine. After interviewing several women, I can say that none of us were particularly eager about jumping back into the sack post-baby. While some of us were more nervous than others, each mother had some level of anxiety and/or apprehension about her first post-baby sexual experience, and rightly so. Some of the mothers spoke about their hopes of regaining their “pre-baby” sex lives. Due to the changes a mother’s body experiences during and after pregnancy, and the new baby-filled life she leads, I strongly believe a mother can’t have the same sex life she once did. There will be a new one. Maybe eventually there will be a better one. After all, enduring early morning wake-ups, public meltdowns, the first fever, and pretty much any aspect of new parenthood provides an incredible opportunity to bring you and your partner closer together.
*To protect the identities of the women interviewed, their names and some identifying information has been changed.