It’s the middle of the day.
The sun is shining brightly through his sheer white curtains onto his bed where we are lying.
Feeling held in this deeply caring space, we kiss. And we touch. My whole being feels ready, open, and willing—so aroused.
As much as I am excited, I am also feeling vulnerable and afraid. Afraid of taking off my clothes that would expose my whole new body.
It feels new to me since having my son. New because its shape is different. My breasts are bigger and I’m still lactating, and, to be honest, taking off my bra means I may squirt milk. So, I feel as if I have to cover up, keep part of myself clothed. Also, I feel unsure of how penetration will feel after the tearing, trauma, and stitches—for me and him. Will it hurt? Will it feel different to him too? Will my vagina feel bigger and not as tight? Will it still be pleasurable for him? For me? Will he even notice? Will I?
Let’s be real, sex after pregnancy is scary. Not only are we afraid of what’s happening or will happen down there where we just pushed out a little human who needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week attention, but our emotions are also running wild. And we’re exhausted.
Meanwhile, our partners, if we have them, want our attention too. During this time of intense lifestyle adjustment, when we’re taking care of a newborn, many mothers don’t feel like having sex. I didn’t feel like it until around seven months, a month after I got my first period postpartum (or after birth).
For us strictly breastfeeding mamas, we may not feel like having sex again until about six to nine months. This is when our baby will start to eat solids and may decrease the frequency or length of breastfeeding sessions, and, on average, this is when mothers, including myself, get our menstrual cycle back. Until then, strict breastfeeding has been found to suppress our normal menstrual cycle and hormones that get our sexual desire revved up and wanting to have sex.
Of the mothers I interviewed, four out of five of them confirmed this to be true and also reported having sex before they felt ready physically, mentally, and emotionally. And those who didn’t feel ready said they did it because they felt obligated or their partner wanted sex.
According to a study, on average, couples participated in sexual intercourse again seven weeks postpartum. Furthermore, it was found that the biggest reason for mothers to reengage in sexual activity was their perception of their partner’s sexual desires and needs. So, they were engaging in sexual activity for another’s benefit rather than their own desires and needs. Exhaustion, sleeping habits of the baby, and lack of time were the top sex drive killers.
Some feedback I found interesting from a longitudinal study on why mothers don’t feel like having sex was: it’s painful, they don’t feel like having anyone else feed off them (in relation to their energy), breastfeeding doesn’t feel sexy, there isn’t enough of themselves to go around, assumed roles make them angry, they don’t feel sexy as a mother, and they don’t feel sexy because their boobs are big and leaky.
There are many reasons why mothers don’t feel like having sex and why it can be a stressful part of our motherhood experience. There are some ways that have been found to help mothers feel more ready and open for sex, and they include: discussing with our partners about the new demands and changes in our life with the newborn and how to deal with them together, getting time to ourselves away from the baby, taking time to reconnect as a couple, agreement between us and our partners on whether sex is a priority, knowing that what we are going through is “normal,” sharing responsibility for the physical and emotional aspects, and sometimes giving sex a priority.
I would love to urge us mothers to honor our bodies by checking in to what feels right in the moment and discussing with our partners how we can honor that together.
Listening to ourselves—our body, mind, and spirit—and communicating is important to honoring our needs. A quick way we can stop and listen to our bodies is to find a quiet place alone, which can be hard with little ones around, but even right in the morning while still lying in bed or while sitting on the toilet works great. Then, close our eyes, take 10 nice, deep breaths with a four-count inhale and four-count exhale. While doing this, intentionally scan the body and just receive information that comes up without judgment. Maybe it’s physical pain that we notice, or maybe it’s hormonal or emotional.
For example, many times if there are heavy, stuck emotions that are making us sad or angry, they linger in our chest. Our chest may feel heavy. If this is the case, explore further. We may ask ourselves, What is lingering here? Why does my chest feel heavy? Is there something I need to get off of it? To say? Then, just listen. Take a few more breaths with any questions that come up or pay attention to each spot on the body where there is something noticeable. This way we can deeply listen. And, whatever comes up, I find it helpful to say: “Thank you for this information.” By doing this, we honor our body and express gratitude for the information it is always sending us.
I find many times the emotional stuff that is stuck can hide or suppress those other desires our bodies are needing, like sex and intimacy, especially when caring for a little one has us emotionally clogged up. This practice can help us listen, honor, and clear away emotions that may be blocking us and open up our sex drive.
Or, maybe just checking in is all we need. It may be that while checking in and honoring, we notice we are ready for some touch, intimacy, and sex. It may be exactly what we need. So, let’s check in and honor what our bodies are telling us.
After checking in, listening, and honoring our bodies, it’s important, if we have a partner, to communicate what is coming up for us and share how we feel our body can be honored in that moment. This way, they can help support us and honor us as well.
For example, sharing with our partner may sound something like this: “I’m feeling a lot of heaviness in my chest and feel that I need some space to process some of this with a half hour walk alone,” or, “I’m feeling the need for some touch and closeness with you right now, but I’m pretty tired. Would you be willing to give me a back rub?”
I know for me this is really hard. I naturally want to please and sacrifice to make my loved ones happy. We must first start with us, though. We must love ourselves first. We must take good care of ourselves so we can care for our little ones and other loved ones well. When we do this, we teach others how to honor us—and themselves, too.
I’m a single mother and feel blessed that I have had the space to really listen to my body. Around seven months I started dating, because I felt ready—physically, mentally, emotionally, and hormonally. My libido was back, and I couldn’t wait to have sex again. There was a definite fear with the first time, but feeling ready helped me to let go and enjoy sex again. And to my surprise, I thought sex after having a baby was even better than before. I believe that witnessing the ability of my body to create an amazing little human being was empowering and healing. I found a new love for my body.
For us mamas, as much as we want to be the perfect mother, partner, and human being, we need to honor our body and know that we may just not feel like it right away, and that’s okay—it’s normal.
Our sexual desire will come back in time, but in the meantime, let’s listen to our bodies, communicate, and allow ourselves to get there when we get there.