Updated: Jan 6, 2020
I think every couple pregnant with their first baby wonders what their sex life will look like after the baby is born. They've likely heard all kinds of horror stories, from 'Your vagina will never be the same' to 'we didn't have sex for a year after we had a baby'. And they are left not knowing what to believe and hoping that none of it is true. The short answer is, life as you know it has changed and nothing is the same.
Hormonally, your body is driven to bond with your baby and your baby is driven to attach to you. You are your baby's survival, and for the survival of human kind, it is imperative that you respond to your baby above sex - this is why a crying baby is a turn off or a brake as Emily Nagowski author of "Come As You Are' coins it. What this can look like, is you're in bed, feeling good and sexy and about to have sex and then your baby cries, and all of a sudden your breasts are leaking, and you're headed to the baby's room to feed him. While breastfeeding your baby, prolactin is released which helps induce sleep, and all of a sudden you are feeling really sleepy. By the time you go back to bed, the mood is changed, and you are more ready to hit your pillow than your partner.
Brakes are things that stop sex from happening. Being tired, touched out, uncomfortable and feeling unsexy. Gas is all the things that turn us on. Even when you have the gas on, if the brakes are on too, you're still not going anywhere. Having a new baby means that you are often tired, touched out, and achy. Sleep is a basic human need, and when we're not getting enough, nothing works well. Our emotions are heightened, and sex just doesn't feel accessible or like a high priority.
So what can we do.
1. Give yourself grace and compassion. Understand your hormones, your lack of sleep and your baby are changing your world. This isn't your final self. This isn't your fault. You are normal and it won't always be like this. It won't. This is the for better or for worse part, the richer or poorer. This is the sex poor part. Because for the majority of women, you just aren't feeling it. And forcing it, is going to make you feel resentful. And being a resentful woman doesn't feed the relationship.
2. Have a conversation with your partner and set realistic expectations, like super low expectations. If this feels awful, refer back to point #1. Insist that he read a book or two like "come as you are" and have him ask you how he can relieve some of your brakes. Give him and yourself permission to let him take care of himself more; I'm saying just because he has a boner doesn't mean you have to do anything about it. You are taking care of a baby now, unfortunately this means you have less capacity for his sexual needs. He is an adult and has to understand this.
3. Take care of our own needs - guilt free. Sometimes women feel guilty rubbing one out because they think if they have any sexual desire, then they should want their partner. This simply isn't true. All the benefits of having an orgasm are still there, but the idea of your partner's needs, and their skin all over you or touching your breasts and postpartum body, might just feel like too much. And always, being in touch with your own body is going to eventually mean good things for your relationship with your partner.
4. Set sex dates. Things that aren't planned usually don't happen. This might not feel spontaneous, but the reality is, sex is always planned. Even when we were dating, we were shaved, and had good breath and were ready in case it did happen. be okay with a 50% success rate. Learn to laugh when it doesn't work out. Set aside time when you are likely to be in the mood and someone has the baby, or the baby is napping or sleeping. Baby doesn't have a reliable nap yet? Maybe this step isn't for you yet.
5. Be patient. It won't always be like this. Once your children are sleeping through the night and once you have finished breastfeeding and then maybe still another 6-12 months after that, you'll feel your hormones settle into place. And then you won't be your pre-child self, you'll be a new woman. A woman who taps into what she wants, what she finds sexy, what turns her on, because you've already done the hardest thing of raising a baby. So now navigating sex just simply isn't the hardest thing anymore.
It can feel scary, I get it. Like you'll never get there, and like you're failing each other. But we can do hard things, and we can navigate change, and redefine how it can all work. If you are struggling, please reach out. To us. To your friends. To a therapist. Much love.