Gettin’ On.

16 Mar

I recently read an essay which talked about how being a new mother who retained her sex drive wasn’t something you could admit to. Every other mother complains about her lack of libido, how can you mention anything? They’d likely think you were lying.

I had zero issue with my libido after Vivian was born. Within 2 weeks we were back in the game. Sure we were tired, but it was really important to reconnect in that way. But as the author of the essay had mentioned, I never saw my experience mirrored anywhere. Exactly the opposite-I saw most sites, and women, talking about how it was insane that their men would expect them to want it again so soon after birth! What an imposition their partners were placing on them!

I was desperate to have that kind of loving embrace once more-I was touched out when it came to the baby, but I was missing the adult loving touch of my husband. I didn’t find the thought of sex repugnant-rather I found the idea of not wanting my husband around repugnant-I craved him even more after giving birth. I craved the familar valleys of his back and face, the softness of his hands. I craved his arms.

But look around-you don’t see many mother’s talking about their desire for their husbands after birth. And to be sure, in many cases, this is due to breastfeeding, but I don’t see experiences like mine reflected back at me. Surely the author of that essay and myself are not the only two women who wanted to get it on so soon after birth. Even my doctor shot up an eyebrow when at my 6 week visit, I mentioned within 2 weeks we’d “resumed” our activites.

Am I not trusted to know when my body is ready? Should I have placed myself in seclusion from my husband, from the father of my child? Is it so wrong to want to run into his arms, instead of away from them after birth?

I love my husband. After giving birth, despite my misgivings, I looked at my husband and thought “I LOVE him. With everything I am, I LOVE him.” That love coursed through my body like electricity, and gave me peace. That same love wanted to manifest itself physically, wanted to be let loose. Am I wrong to have followed that desire to it’s logical conclusion? Despite 8 years of marriage, I am still as attracted to him as I was when we first met, possibly even more. So why is the popular refrain after birth one of moaning and groaning and whining? Why can’t mother’s be life givers as well as passionate sexual beings?

Can we not be both?

Why is this so rarely spoken of? Why is it such a secret? We willingly spill the beans about many items of our lives, and yet I doubt that I hear many women honestly speaking, online or off, about their post partum sexual experiences. Are women too afraid to admit that yes, they desired their partners? Or am I really alone here?

29 Responses to “Gettin’ On.”

  1. peppylady March 16, 2007 at 10:59 am #

    After childbirth I had my physical sex drive but my emotional sex drive change due to being tired.
    Both boys are pretty well taking care of them self and sex life is gaining once again or I should with more ump.

  2. sweetsalty kate March 16, 2007 at 11:47 am #

    Oh Thordora, you are so very blessed to have not lost that aspect of your relationship temporarily. I think the establishment plays up on *just how impossible* a sex life is after birth so that women won’t feel guilty or disappointed when that’s what happens – because my sense is that for most of us, that’s what happens. It’s a lowest-common-denominator cultural norm – to have the world tell us, “Don’t expect to want sex for AGES!” simply gives some comfort to the majority of women whose libidos disappear despite us. You’re in the minority there – you lucky tart you! 😉

    My theory: in pregnancy, birth, motherhood and beyond, we’re all due for our own unique cocktail of difficulties and pleasant surprises. For instance, my first pregnancy was easy, fabulous, great. No symptoms whatsoever. I sailed through it while friends suffered through every day. Although I gained quite a bit (40lbs on a small frame), I lost it all afterwards, to the pound. I also had a relatively easy time getting the hang of breastfeeding, and loved that too. And I have a kid who sleeps like it’s a religion, and who isn’t a picky eater. In a lot of ways, I feel like I won the jackpot.

    Talking about these upsides makes me feel like I’m crowing. It makes me feel a bit sheepish for the sake of women who have impossible eaters and non-sleepers and for whom pregnancy is like spending nine months on the rack. So I often keep my small victories to myself, so I don’t get rightly punched in the face by some poor morning-sickness sufferer.

    But – I also had my share of crap. I had 3rd degree tears giving birth to Evan, a complete gong show with forceps and tons of intervention and distress that I didn’t want – while all those pregnancy-suffering friends (every single damn one of them!) had easy-peasy labours with no medical help or drugs of any kind. I had virtually no sex drive for my entire pregnancy, and until I finished breastfeeding. That’s almost two years! UGH. It’s not that I *didn’t* want sex – it just never crossed my mind. It was hormonal, and incredibly distressing. And although my milk was fanastic and BFing was great most of the time, I suffered from recurrent blocked ducts (many at a time in one boob) that would strike every couple of months and lay me out for a week. Painful stuff. And sure, I lost the weight – but I also lost my boobs (and I didn’t have much to start with!). All of the crap I learned to deal with, but it still sucked. Thank sweet jesus for push-up bras and the Oprah ‘fake-it-till-you-make-it’ underwear episode.

    So to wrap this up… if you struck the sex drive jackpot, then hooray for you! Awesome. It’s so incredibly important. It’s such a huge part of what allows you to still feel like yourself, to get intimacy on your own terms. Don’t feel like you can’t talk about it, or as though it’s wrong for you to trust your instincts. We all just have our own mixed bags of blessings and unfortunate side-effects.

    So work it girlfriend! Rejoice in it… not that you need a commenter on your blog to tell you that (I’d guess you already are). 🙂

  3. mamaloo, the doula March 16, 2007 at 11:50 am #

    I was really scared of having sex post partum. For me this was directly related to the fact that I had stitches from a tear and since it hurt to pee, it was definitely going to hurt to screw! I think, too, for me, there was such a culture shock at becoming a mom, a breastfeeding mom, a co-sleeping mom, that the issue of sex just took a back seat for a long while.

    It was three months before I had sex. I wanted to really badly. Like chasing after an elusive high I remembered feeling, I had sex and found that I just wasn’t into it. It was another three months before I had sex again. By this time, I felt like I was rocking the mother thing and was finally getting back to being me.

    I have to say, however, that while this experience may sound like a typical postpartum sex response, I never had cause to complain about my husband. Sean never even brought up sex until he could sense that I was interested. He never joked about not getting any nor having to wait so long to have sex. We still were cuddly and loving to each other and I have no doubt that every few mornings he’d masturbate in the shower to attain whatever release he felt he physically needed.

    I bled for the whole six weeks, too. And, considering the nature of lochia (not pleasant smelling, clot filled, heavy…) I’m pretty sure neither of us wanted to bother dealing with that, on top of everything else.

    I wonder if this second time will be different? In general my sexuality is stronger than my husbands – now there is something I NEVER hear about: women with a bigger libido than their partners. But, all in all, whatever happens, neither of us feels like it impacts our relationship much.

  4. mrshavisham March 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    Oh dude, you are totally alone here. 😉

  5. Heather March 16, 2007 at 2:50 pm #

    I was interested, I never saw the man and when he got home and the baby was to bed I just wanted to be near him in whatever way I could (probably another psycho moment of not wanting him to abandon me…hmmm.) – c-section meant no girly bits to worry about – but the scar was hella painful and we did attempt to get it on about 3 weeks postpartum – and I nearly puked all over the place. The motion made me nauseous.

  6. Kind of Crunchy Mama March 16, 2007 at 3:21 pm #

    Yeah, you’re not hearing about it from other women because you are in the minority. Not wrong, just rare. And while I totally understand how bringing forth new life can make you feel more connected and in love, it was more of an emotional rather than physical thing for me.

  7. thordora March 16, 2007 at 3:24 pm #

    I shouldn’t limit the period to the initial post partum-I’m thinking more the first 6 months o so-sure, I’d be tired, but I’d still be thinking about it…

    It might just be a rare thing, or maybe connected more to being unable to BF? I’m not sure. And my husband and I tend to connect sexually more than other levels when things are kinda rough. So that might have something to do with it too.

    OR, I’m insane. Which is kinda true as well.

  8. Mogo March 16, 2007 at 4:11 pm #

    or maybe it was just that were mostly BFing and therefore there was less physical pain involved in that compared to having just given birth?

    for the record, I don’t RECALL if that was the case, just speculating on it as a possibility 😉

    ps – for those of you scratching your heads, you may need to consider an alternate meaning for “BFing” 😉 😉

  9. Jen March 16, 2007 at 4:33 pm #

    Man, it took me like a year to get my sex drive back, and I had a bitch of a time convincing C that a lot of women lost it. I think a lot of it for me was fear of losing Lucy and guilt over her heart. I wasn’t BF-ing either, but having a kid with a defect that you don’t know how the outcome of is pretty straining.

  10. Mercurial Scribe March 16, 2007 at 4:34 pm #

    i could definitely go on about our culture’s ambivalence towards a healthy sex life – sex in general, really – but i’ll save the rant for my own blog. 😉

    i think one of the sexiest things about women is her body – the ability to be sensual and bring on a feverish lust then, in a blink of an eye, she is mother – a nurturing source of comfort and growth. All that woman is embodies the word “mystique”.

    That little aside was to note that i think that is a healthy, balanced woman who knows herself and is willing to be balanced: so many women are afraid of asking for themselves, of enjoying what they possess (psychically and physically). But a woman who is secure in her person and her body – i think that she can be both mother and lover without so much as a moment’s hesitation.

    In conclusion, good for you! 😀

  11. Eden March 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm #

    I was recovering from surgery both times, which is an extra consideration. Also I was on birth control after Z was born, which always dampened my desire to some extent. After H was born, I wasn’t on birth control and I got back in the groove better and faster. I wanted sleep more than sex in those first months after though. 😉

  12. sweetsalty kate March 16, 2007 at 7:17 pm #

    I had to pipe up one more time to say to mercurial scribe.. I love this and it, pardon the pun, made my brain go DONG! “…our culture’s ambivalence towards a healthy sex life…”

    Wow. We’re so messed up about sex, aren’t we? We are a sex-fuelled culture in some of the most uninspiring, demoralizing ways, and yet, we don’t champion (and too often deride) good, clean (or dirty) sexual health.

  13. karriew March 16, 2007 at 8:59 pm #

    I think you’re really lucky. Like several others I had surgery to recover from, and was totally shell-shocked by all the drama of birth and its aftermath. I don’t think gaining 100 pounds helped either. I just felt so odd–flabby, stretched out, cut in half, weepy, oozy, and so on. I still do not have a sex drive. I think it is a combination of bcp, marital tension, stress and responsibilities. I only want sex when I’m on the remainder pills and not yet bleeding. My husband totally needs a vasectomy!!

    My mom was like you though. When I summoned the courage to share some of my post-partum weirdness she told me that she almost hated to tell me this, but that she was always more turned on post partum. And she has 5 kids to prove it..LOL!

  14. karriew March 16, 2007 at 9:00 pm #

    Oh and I’m also jealous that you looked at your husband and thought I LOVE HIM! because more often than not I had the opposite reaction. Loads and loads of resentment. SOme justified, but the rest of it probably my own brand of crazy.

  15. thordora March 16, 2007 at 9:39 pm #

    Maybe this is my reward for all the other shit?

    don’t get me wrong-not every day was or is roses and puppies. But aside from bcp weirdness (those things are EVIL I’ve come to discover) I never really lost the drive. The will maybe, but not the drive.

    I wish you weren’t jealous karrie. That sucks. 😦 My husband was pretty steady when I needed him to be. Now if only I could get him to buy the right popcorn at the grocery store. 🙂

  16. CrankMama March 16, 2007 at 9:51 pm #

    Darlin,
    If you don’t hear the sex ladies talkin’ it’s cause there’s a huge stereotype that still exists about women adn sex anyway (she doesn’t want it, he does). Furthermore, doesn’t silence say it all. If the only ones yappin are those for whom it’s an issue, safe to assume there are others (lucky fuckers) like you who are just FINE!!

  17. misspudding March 17, 2007 at 2:51 am #

    For me, my “ability” to have sex, if you will, stems mostly from how I feel about myself at the time. When I’m happy and my self-esteem is up, then I am more apt to do the deed. Most of the time lately, though, since after having a baby, along with having seriously fucked up body image issues that are absolutely worse now that I’ve had a child, I do not want sex at all.

    I also think that most women are intimately hung up on their bodies and that having children makes them feel worse about themselves, at least in the short term. You seem to have a very decent body image, so maybe that helps?

  18. thordora March 17, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    It’s funny, my body is WORSE now than it was, and yet, I feel more comfortable. I’ve gained a lot of weight, but at the same time, my body settled into a better place.

    In many ways, I look at my body as representative of what I’ve been through. It’s birthed two children, and sustained me through many things that were difficult. My husband has never looked at me with less than complimentary eyes as well, which helps.

    I’m sure though, that for many women, the after birth body, be it one week or 6 months later, is difficult to handle. Most days however, I’m content with what I have, for now. In some ways, it’s symbolic of my own growth, my own wisdom growing. I’ll lose the weight I want to lose eventually, as I quit smoking. Until then, I accept my body as it is.

    Crankmama-sadly, I think that’s also the case. Women who are actively sexual, partnered or not, are looked down on. That needs to change. Lord knows I’m sick of it.

  19. karriew March 17, 2007 at 8:09 am #

    Just wanted to clarify that I don’t look down on you or Cranks or my mom–I’m just jealous! Your lives have a dimension that is lacking in mine right now.

  20. thordora March 17, 2007 at 8:13 am #

    Don’t worry about that dude-I didn’t think that at all.

    You’re tired, with a highly “active” child all day, trying to do school work. All I’d have time for is ice cream and coffee.

  21. stylin' March 17, 2007 at 10:12 am #

    I’m with you Thordora. We waited 4 weeks to make love, but started “fooling around” after about 2 weeks-not me satisfying him to get him off my case as I read about so much, but satisfying each other because we wanted to. To be sure, the first 2 years we had sex less due to time constraints and tiredness (the first year because she was still waking at night, falling asleep late, etc…the second year because I had a hard adjutment to going back to work and was ALWAYS exhausted and she had a lot of sleeping problems that year with teething and getting sick a lot from starting daycare and her own adjusment to my return to work) but I never lost my sex drive. I have always loved sex, and loved being touched…and even though there were times I felt touched out by Zoë, like you that feeling never really translated into not wanting to be touched by my DH.

    So no, you are not alone.

    As well, having a baby definately made me fall more in love with my DH. We have had some recent problems we are working through, and even when they were at their worst looking at him with our daughter reminded me how much I love him.

  22. peggykerroll March 17, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    I’ve always had a pretty high sex drive. And I was always incredibly horney while I was pregnant.

    That said, there have been some deserts, mostly right after giving birth. But usually we had sex at least once before the 6 week appointment.

    Must be a hormonal thing.

  23. stylin' March 17, 2007 at 10:18 am #

    P.S. Mammaloo, I also have a higher libido than my DH.

    Thoradora, I am not sure if this is related to BF or not…I was BF so it wasn’t a problem for me, but I have heard it can be.

  24. Nat March 17, 2007 at 4:20 pm #

    My sex drive was fine. I wanted some a week after her birth. lol

    Although NOW, as she is 1 year old, crawling and becoming more of a “toddler”, I find that my drive went tumbling down. I know that’s because of fatigue, most likely, but… I miss my relentless “boom chickee baaaoom baaaaooom” mode. lol

  25. puddlejumper March 18, 2007 at 7:17 am #

    I was the same. My sex drive was fine with my eldest two. All through pregnacy right up till the night before and then pretty quickly again afterwards.

    The only reason I didn’t with my youngest was because I was on my own but I still “looked after myself”

    I’m glad you posted about this because I used to wonder why there is so much media stuff telling us how normal it is NOT to want it. Do you think any of it helps set up the whole madonna/whore thing?

  26. thordora March 19, 2007 at 9:55 am #

    Of course it helps set up the “not my wife!” problem. I mean geez, we can’t have life givers fucking now can we! They have babies to feed and houses to clean!

    I know some women don’t give a rats ass about sex for awhile-and that’s cool. I just wish there was more out there saying, “Dude, it’s ok to knock boots AND have children.

  27. bon March 19, 2007 at 6:13 pm #

    i’ve been both – the right back in the saddle mama and the “sweet merciful god don’t even look at me, man” woman.

    we’re still just getting around to really knockin’ boots with any kind of regularity, and the little dude is almost eleven months old. and it’s all me, too, which sucks. cause i look at the man, and think “wow, i love him” and then i want to sleep.

    with our first, it only took three weeks…but there were extenuating circumstances and no sleep deprivation. we lost our son as a newborn, so sex was definitely a way to reconnect after tragedy. grief sex in those circumstances is pretty heavy – fraught with significance, but also healing. a way to find some comfort, which no one could really give us except each other.

    the second time around, it took us about seven weeks to even have sex after baby.

    however, this is due to the fact that a) the wee one didn’t sleep for the first three months and b) i had a brutal tear/episiotomy combo straight through the perineum…which got badly sewn thanks to a postpartum hemorrhage – had to be opened up and then stitched again. the Bride of Frankenstein bits still cause some pain when we do get it on, and my doc has suggested that the only hope of fixing that is opening up the scar again. yippy. sometimes, between sleep deprivation, the libido blah of still nursing, and the fact that every now and then during sex i’m reminded painfully of the fact that i was cut open with scissors against my express wishes, it really does seem like sex is more trouble than it’s worth.

    but i don’t want to live like that. i’ll stop nursing soon and am thinking that should be a major kickstart to the old libido, which i’m looking forward to. i do think there’s a lack of conversation around women wanting sex…i think in many cases the stereotype is female-driven, as well.

  28. thordora March 20, 2007 at 10:23 am #

    oh bon…I thought of you and your loss while I walked through the mall today-tried to imagine life after losing a child, watching others with full strollers, smiling toddlers. I cannot imagine.

    and may I add OW OW OW OW. I’m so lucky my tears were simple affairs, and the hemorrhages didn’t affect anything.

    And I’m likely being a bit misleading-there was little to no sex after my second since I was, well, NUTS. My first though-no problem at all.

    Fuckers who cut you……jebbus…I agree the stereotype is almost entirely female driven, since we’re constantly told we shouldn’t own our own sexuality.

    I’m tired of that.

    I hope your libido comes back soon. When I veer into antidepressant inspired no sex land, it SUCKS, and I cannot imagine being like that all the time.

  29. mamaloo, the doula March 20, 2007 at 8:06 pm #

    I was diagnosed (well, mostly self diagnosed and my doc said “if that’s how you feel and you think you’d like to try drugs, here’s a lovely little bottle of Paxil!”) with PPD a little after a year PP.

    It was funny*, because while I still had my libido, I couldn’t cum to save my life! Even trying to rub one out late at night enjoying both guys asleep at the same time, it would take an hour to get an orgasm if at all. That was frustrating.

    I’m sure my husband loved the fun giggling sex that suddenly ended with me weeping out of frustration because I could never achieve O.

    *and when I say funny, I really mean horribly fucking karmic ass kickingly depressing. You know? THAT kind of funny.

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