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Let’s Talk About Sex, (after) Baby.

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Let’s talk about you and me.  Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be… Okay, those are obviously Salt-n-Pepa lyrics, but I have found postpartum sex to be one of the least talked about (and trickiest!) parts about returning to life as you knew it after a baby.  If you feel uncomfortable talking about sex, or if it’s just an unsavory topic to you, please stop reading! It’s totally fine.  Because I guarantee you, I am about to really get in to it…

Sex After Baby is a topic that eight or nine months ago I would have never even thought I’d be ready to discuss.  It’s symptomatic of how insecure and strange I was feeling about my own sexuality and our sex life at the time, and I was so worried about what I thought it meant about me and our marriage.

Let me back up a little bit.  I feel like the angst about sex starts well before baby arrives, during pregnancy.  I will tell you that I was NOT one of those pregnant ladies who just felt “so feminine and sensual”.  I actually ended up having a really enjoyable pregnancy with Marlowe, and loved my bump and the feminine feeling it gave me– but this didn’t translate at all to my desire for sex.  While I had always enjoyed a healthy sex life with my husband, my pregnancy threw it a little off of its tracks.  We still had sex, but it was less frequent– and as my due date approached, practically nonexistent.  There was just something about having sex while feeling Marlowe moving around in my belly that felt bizarre to me and really turned me off.  I still felt really affectionate towards Kyle and wanted him near me all the time, but intercourse seemed like a no-go.

I mention this because I knew a couple of people during my pregnancy who were all about sex when they were pregnant and it ended up making me feel like a total asexual weirdo.  It really worried me that I was somehow not like other pregnant women– even though I know now that this isn’t the case at all.  I did have one friend who told me that when she was pregnant with her kids she dutifully had sex with her husband regularly anyway, wishing she could have been on her iPhone catching up on emails while it was happening (ha!) and that made me feel a little better.

And then– just as you are feeling like a beached whale, your child comes out and destroys your vagina. Like the majority of women, when I birthed Marlowe I tore. Badly.  Let’s suffice to say I needed a lot of stitches and the healing process was worse than the birth itself.  She’s lucky she’s so cute.   Of course I began to heal, like everyone does, but by the time the famous “six week mark” came around I was totally NOT ready to hop back in the saddle.

My OB/GYN has this joke that he makes with all his postpartum Moms at their six week checkup.  He’ll breeze in the room and announce “Let’s check you out– your husband already called me six times this morning to see if you are allowed to have sex yet!”  It’s hilarious (and by the way I’m sure has really happened more than once), and it also really speaks to that expectation that the six week postpartum mark designates the time that women are “supposed to” start having sex again.  But I will tell you that even having this appointment gave me anxiety.  I felt so exhausted, emotionally raw, and my body felt like it was still majorly healing from my birth– the last thing I could think of was sex!  This made me so insecure and overwhelmed that I wasn’t living up to the normal expectations of a postpartum Wife– and that made me feel even less sexy. I also felt so drained from having my baby on my breasts every couple of hours– after going through nine months of my body belonging to another person, and now having that tiny person on me all the time– I was feeling like I couldn’t handle any more physical contact.  Even talking about having sex again reduced me to tears.

So we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally it was nine weeks postpartum and I thought my husband was going to spontaneously combust.  I will give Kyle a lot of credit– he never put pressure on me in any way– but a wife is a wife and I knew the signs.  It was killing him.  So we had sex.  And it was TERRIBLE.  It’s important to me not to mince words here– I think women being honest with each other is really important.  I had heard tales of “the first time after baby” and it sounded painful, but what I experienced was even worse than what I had imagined! In my opinion, having sex for the first time after birthing a baby feels like having sex for the first time ever.  It’s awkward, emotional, and extremely painful.  I was shocked and immediately started asking around to all of my friends who had had children.  “Oh yeah,” they all told me, “It’s the worst.  It took us a year to get back to normal.”  Now I was panicked.  A YEAR?!!!!! Like a year as in twelve months– three hundred and sixty five days? They must be exaggerating.  They told me that practice makes perfect and that the best way to feel better was to get back to having sex consistently.  Great.

I talked to my gynecologist as well.  He told me that when you breastfeed, your body produces hormones that can turn down your sexual drive as well as make it more difficult for your body to tell itself that it is being turned on.  Or in other words– your body isn’t making any of its own lubrication.  He said that it majorly contributes to the pain of sex post-childbirth, and he recommended buying lube and using “a lot of it”.  Great.  He gave me a number for the amount of times we would probably have to have intercourse before it started to feel better.  I forget the number now but I think it was something like six or eight.  He told me to call him if it wasn’t improving.  All of this information was just so crazy to me.  It seemed like an even more full time job to re-activate my sex life than it even had been to get pregnant! And whereas with the struggle to conceive I was completely dedicated and on top of it, this struggle to get back in the saddle with our sex life just felt so….Meh.  I’m going to be really honest and say it: I didn’t care.  I love my husband beyond words, and find him extremely handsome, funny, smart and adorable–but I had a newborn.  I was an exhausted emotional wreck just trying to find time to take a shower more than twice a week.  The idea of working hard at having sex felt the same to me as riding a bike to China for a hamburger.  Not interested.

And that was a major mistake.  Nothing terrible happened, but I can look back now and realize that the number one thing that would have helped us as a couple transition faster and more easily in to our life post-baby was to focus much more on us.  On our relationship and on what mattered to both of us.  I think if I had taken all of the advice about postpartum sex as I received it, things would have improved much more quickly.  As it was, we did begin to have sex more consistently, and it did become better eventually, but surprise surprise– guess when we were finally “back”?

A year! A year postpartum, just as I had been told.  Of course the sex was better before that, but it was when Marlowe was around 12 or 13 months that I noticed we were completely back to our old (great) ways.  A year now doesn’t seem so long.  When you become a parent, that time kind of flies by, and I wish that I hadn’t put so much pressure on myself and on us to be back to our normal sex life right away.  I wish I hadn’t worried so much about what was expected and had focused more on how both of us were feeling at the time.  So my main message is this: there is no normal.  It’s OK to have mixed feelings about your sensuality and sexuality after welcoming a child, and it’s OK to allow yourself time to process those changes.  It’s also OK if you literally can’t wait to have sex as soon as those six weeks are up! Get it, Girl!

Here are my tips for the more hesitant new Mamas:

  • Lubrication is your friend.  This one is all-natural and you can order it online (aka a 17 year old boy isn’t going to ring you up at the register).  Go crazy with the lube.  Trust me.
  • Wine.  Share a glass of wine with your partner.  It’s one glass, enough to loosen you up, and not enough to make you hungover when the baby wakes up in approximately 43 minutes.
  • Take a bath.  In my opinion there are few things more relaxing than a bubble bath and a nice glass of wine.
  • After the first few times (ouch) find a week where you guys can plan on having sex every day.  Yes, every day.  The key to postpartum sex is getting to the point where the sex isn’t built up at all.  You’re not worrying about when it’s going to happen, or how it’s going to happen, and it just becomes something that you do together again.  Not a special event.  This trick really helped us get back on track.
  • Fake it ’til you make it.  I’m not talking about faking orgasms– that is entirely up to you.  What I’m talking about is putting on your sexy persona as if it’s a beautiful silk robe.  Just try it on, see what it feels like– how you feel with it on.  Pretend to enjoy your sensuality and your sensuality will follow suit.
  • Give yourself a break.  You created a human.  You brought a new and perfect life in to the world.  You are not how you have sex, or who you have sex with.  You are not what your body looks like– you are what your body has accomplished. Allow yourself the power and confidence of somebody who has done something truly remarkable and luxuriate in that feeling.  The rest is details.

 

xoxo

EAM

 

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Photographs by Nina Suh for Love And Lemonade Photography

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47 Comments

  1. CS says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My experience almost to the detail. Seriously, the more we talk about it, the less alone and alienated we feel.

    12.10.15Reply
  2. Stephanie A says:

    Thank you so much for this…..I am engaged and getting married this summer and we don’t have any children yet….but I found this SO HELPFUL and informative (Never feeling as if it was TMI haha…..quite the opposite actually). This really, truly helps and i’m glad to know it’s ok to be scared, ok to be unsure and ok to not be ready for it but I will definately keep all of these tips in my memory bank for the future!
    Ps. You honestly have the cutest baby EVER!!

    12.10.15Reply
  3. Sara (Kirkabans) says:

    Yes! Best article yet. So true and so close to home. Having a baby is no joke and going back to being a wife after is so odd. Great advice. We’ve found our sex is almost better. 😉

    12.10.15Reply
  4. Sil says:

    Loved reading this. Very insightful. Thanks!

    12.10.15Reply
  5. Shell says:

    I am currently 4 months PP and I do not feel ready. My lady parts are still really uncomfortable at times which totally sucks. This was my second baby so now I feel like damaged goods in the sex dept

    12.10.15Reply
  6. Kendra says:

    Thank you so much for talking about this! It’s like you just wrote my exact story – from the way you felt while pregnant, to the stitches, to not being interested afterwards. I was feeling so alone in this because no one ever talks about it. I was actually hoping my doctor would tell me I needed to wait longer so I’d have an excuse. Even the exam hurt! I wish more women would talk about the difficulties after having a baby.
    Your blog has brought me so much comfort and you have helped me more than once as I overcome my insecurities as a new mom. Your response to someone about the decision to stop breastfeeding helped me more than you could possibly know. I was a sobbing, emotional wreck when I decided to stop but your comment about having more of a relationship with your pump than with your baby echoed in my head and got me through it. And your joke about postpartum boobs made me laugh out loud.

    This blog is such a gift and I just had to say thank you.

    ❤Kendra

    12.10.15Reply
  7. Olga says:

    Thanks for this. I literally just had my first time a few days ago. And I think it was worse than the first time ever. Glad you wrote this.

    12.10.15Reply
  8. Alyssa says:

    Eva, I don’t have kids yet, but really hope to someday and I wanted you to know that your honesty and frankness are so refreshing in the blog world. I became a fan of yours when you were in Saved! and I can say that your blog has made me an even greater fan of yours. Thank you for discussing things that some may find uncomfortable and in doing so, creating a space where an honest, open dialogue can begin. Thank you.

    12.10.15Reply
  9. Jay says:

    I’m a guy and read this out of curiosity. I am in the process of divorce, but have found someone amazing during the process.

    If we ever decide to have kids, I want to be there for her in all aspects.

    Thank you for providing this insight. Reading things like this help to improve my understanding of her needs. I’ll look forward to other tips on various topics.

    12.10.15Reply
    • Kendra says:

      👍

      12.10.15Reply
  10. Maddy says:

    As everyone else is saying, thank you. No one really talks about this stuff and I am in the thick of going through this now (we have a 12 week old). I really appreciate this post.

    12.10.15Reply
  11. Rachel says:

    Thanks for your honesty. I really enjoyed your post!

    12.10.15Reply
  12. Julia says:

    YEP! Just yes to everything. Wonderful article on such an important topic. Thanks for writing, thanks for sharing!

    12.10.15Reply
  13. Elizabeth says:

    I LOVE you!!! Thank you for being so raw and honest with your readers.

    12.10.15Reply
  14. Christina says:

    I am 2 1/2 months PP and I totally agree with all of this post (so far). Thank you for your honesty and helping me realize I’m not the only woman feeling this way!

    Love it! Keep up the awesome work!

    12.10.15Reply
  15. Amelia (4resh_AIR) says:

    Thank you for frankly discussing a topic that none of my circle of girlfriends seem comfortable talking about. I think women are shy to talk out of a fear of being “abnormal”. Great post!

    12.10.15Reply
  16. Azalia says:

    Bravo! Thanks for opening up the discussion. I mean how could it be desireable to get jiggy with it after one’s vagina is taken by aliens and replaced with something entirely unrecognizable 😳
    When I was pregnant my husband REFUSED to be intimate. He said it was weird knowing his little princess was in there .. He was like.. “Nope, I’m good thanks!”
    By the time my six week postpartum visit came, the poor guy was beyond ready. It took some time but like you, it wasn’t until about a year that it was starting to feel normal again.
    Thank you so much for being so honest and open. It really does make a difference to hear most, if not all women go through something like this..

    PS – Marlowe is sooooo cute!!!!!

    12.10.15Reply
    • Clare says:

      My husband refused while I was pregnant also! It made it that much harder to get back in the saddle PP, our babe is 15 months and we’ve gotten our groove back, so to speak, by trying for number 2! Thanks for sharing, I thought I might be the only one :).

      12.21.16Reply
      • Azalia says:

        I think it’s much more common that we think 😬
        Well we are pregnant again and, Yup.. Hands off! Lol

        12.29.16Reply
  17. Katie says:

    Thank you for this candid post! I am 6.5 months post partum and wondering when it will get back to normal – patience is key:)

    12.10.15Reply
  18. Deb says:

    As we all know, sex is more than intercourse. You created a safe space to explore all aspects of your and your man’s sexuality.

    12.10.15Reply
  19. Yes! This is a great post – I hope you don’t mind if I share it with my clients. I’m a women’s sexual health educator with Pure Romance in SC and I have so many women who express concern that they are not “normal” after baby – I keep reminding them that there is no normal, each journey is unique! The most important thing is to openly communicate with your partner and remember to have fun. Embrace the awkward, try something new. You are NOT the same person you were before birth and its going to take some time to relearn yourself. Thank you for sharing your experience! The more we talk about “real” sex, the less anxiety we as women should feel.

    12.10.15Reply
  20. Zoe says:

    Thank you for writing this. I struggle so much to get back into the groove and my husband feels like it’s a direct insult to him when in reality, I just feel what you did. I just don’t care. I have way too many other things fo worry about … But this made me realize I need to focus on us too, something I’ve been too exhausted to see.

    I love your honesty and this blunt piece. Thanks again 🙂

    12.11.15Reply
  21. Julie says:

    I went through all of the same things after having my son 2.5 years ago- and I had a c-section, not a vaginal birth. Like you said, breastfeeding can exacerbate the discomfort in several ways. Even now, the struggle with working full time and keeping up with a busy toddler, we have to really work at finding time and energy for sex. I have faith that we will find our groove back someday!

    12.11.15Reply
  22. Hello to all of the amazing women (and man!) who commented above!!!!!!

    I am so moved by all of your stories, and I see a part of mine in each and every one of them. Thank you for sharing with me, and posting so that others will feel encouraged by your words also! It makes me beyond happy to know that you all view this site as a safe space to share your feelings with me and with each other– please know that I read every single comment and appreciate them all.
    And to those of you still experiencing difficulties in your postpartum sex lives: I get it. That’s ok. Just try some new tips and tricks and see if it gets a little better. These things are hard, but please prioritize your relationships! It’s hard to see sometimes but the best gift we can give our children is a great relationship between parents. I have to remind myself of this often!

    Fake it til you make it!!!!

    xoxoxo
    EAM

    12.11.15Reply
  23. Lena says:

    Thank you for this post! I’m not even pregnant (newly married) and still found this so interesting and relieving to read. Your honesty is so refreshing and inspiring 🙂

    12.14.15Reply
  24. Helen says:

    This is spot on true! This is a great post! Thank you! 🙂

    12.23.15Reply
  25. As MANY people have commented – this is such a refreshing look into the realities of sexual ups and downs and the pressure we put on ourselves to ‘fit into the norm’. Loved reading this!

    01.24.16Reply
  26. lorretta says:

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided to
    check out your website on my iphone during lunch break.

    I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to take
    a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my
    cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow,
    excellent site!

    02.22.16Reply
    • Hello and welcome!
      Thanks for checking out Happily Eva After, and I hope you visit again soon!

      xoxo
      EAM

      02.26.16Reply
  27. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the real look at post-prego life! I wish I had known this six year ago. I felt so lost and it took a very long time to get back to a new normal let alone our old normal.

    My poor hubby, he had no clue what he was in for. I didn’t really what I was in for either!

    Thanks for the honesty and the advice!

    06.24.16Reply
  28. Wonderful post Eva,you always write so well and your posts are so helpful and enjoyable to read,thank you for your honesty,i admire you so much.

    12.12.16Reply
  29. Marly says:

    This was SO refreshing to read. Thank you for your honesty. I had a baby 8 months ago and your experience is exactly like mine! I couldn’t believe none of my friends ever mentioned how painful sex is after a baby! I think this is so refreshing to just put it out there because this is the truth!

    12.12.16Reply
  30. Jill says:

    Thank you for writing this, It makes me like you even more. My daughter is 12 and she’s adopted so I never went through any of these things. But it’s just so honest, and not a humble brag made to make you look like superwoman. I love your site for style and beauty but you I am so glad you seem like a real person! My husband loves watching Kyle on TV, huge premiere league soccer fan.

    12.14.16Reply
  31. Caylen says:

    STOP IT! I am the girl at Madewell who was pregnant just ahead of you- so I am 4 months pp and THIS IS (still) ME! This is super encouraging/validating and so glad you wrote it all out.

    12.14.16Reply
  32. sarah says:

    This is great! There is a great podcast “the longest shortest time” that has a 2 part series on this. It was so interesting and really gave some great perspective. Like….sex doesn’t have to be intercourse. It can be touching, oral, just being close. ease into it.
    they talk a lot about that 6week check up and how absurd it is.
    hugs from Cali.

    12.16.16Reply
    • Yes totally!! I will have to listen to that, I completely agree. Also just better to take the whole thing a lot less “seriously”. I mean it is sex after all, it’s supposed to be fun! Lol.

      12.17.16Reply
  33. Anna says:

    Thank you for being so honest. I feel like a lot of my friends totally lie, or feel too embarrassed to discuss this topic. I don’t have any kids (yet) but this topic is a major concern/fear of mine, but after reading your experience, it honestly doesn’t seem that bad or scary because it’s less of an unknown. Thank you for sharing! xo

    12.19.16Reply
  34. AW says:

    I wish I could’ve read this post when I had my son. I relate so much. Thank you for sharing. It is awesome to know people have been in that boat too.

    01.01.17Reply
  35. Larissa says:

    This was one of the most helpful posts I have read in a long time. After my first was born the thought of someone being ‘intimate’ with my breasts which were also feeding my new tiny baby girl was just hard to get past. I focused on it so much that I wasn’t enjoying the intimate times with my husband.

    Now 2 kids later, I agree with everything in this post. New mommies please cut yourselves a break. I promise with patience, lube, a sense of humor, and communication and love with your partner it will get better. Also don’t forget dark rooms with candlelight are very forgiving if your feeling self conscious about your body (I know I was).

    01.01.17Reply
  36. Jaime says:

    I just recently stumbled across your blog and I have to say I love it!
    This post really spoke to me because I went through the same thing. My now ex boyfriend was so upset and borderline agressive with me after we had our daughter because at 6 weeks pp I still wasn’t ready to have sex. I was young only 20 at the time and I thought something was wrong with me but seeing this made me realize everything I was going through was normal. I wish this was a more talked about topic. Thank you for having this space and helping women feel safe and free enough to share their experiences.

    01.03.17Reply
  37. Trisha says:

    Thank you so much, this is so true to my experience. My baby angel just turned 1 in late October and we are still breastfeeding. I fully believe (or I keep blaming 😋) breastfeeding is why my sex drive is so low! I seriously do not want it ever.😑 I like your advice to fake it til you make it (not orgasm, but you know, everything else). I seriously need to take this and run with it! My poor guy! I’m lucky he doesn’t badger me, but still, I know it’s killing him. I’m going to try harder to get back! Thanks for this!

    01.05.17Reply