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My daughter is 22 months old now.
It was only three months ago that I regained my menstrual cycle (because I am breastfeeding her). But along with my period came my libido—and my self-doubt.
The love-hate affair with my body
I was surprised a few months ago when I started feeling overwhelmingly body-conscious. I was astounded because my relationship with my body had significantly changed (in a positive way) since giving birth. It was the first time in my life I felt completely at peace and accepted my body.
I felt grateful for it; I was in awe of its almightiness. I felt like a magician, my body created life and fed my baby, still is feeding my baby. My body image had completely changed for me. I was in touch with its sacredness, its power.
What a beautiful love affair.
The period that burst the bubble
But, like I said, along with my menstrual cycle, came self-doubt. Suddenly I felt big, bloated; nothing looked the way it “should.” I was so disappointed. Thankfully, I remained curious as I was shocked and suspicious about this dramatic change.
Becoming a mother had put my womanhood under scrutiny. As much as I hate to admit this, before having my daughter, my womanhood was defined on patriarchal terms. On some level, I saw my body as a function to please men. I had to look a certain way defined by society. I had to fit into this mold to be accepted; my sexuality wasn’t mine. But, motherhood set me free, and I redefined myself.
And although I had done years of therapeutic work on my identity and how patriarchy affected me as a woman, it is through motherhood that I am truly redefining myself. Only as I started menstruating again did I begin to understand how much of my sexuality is constructed by a patriarchal society.
Zero sex after birth
The first year after I gave birth to my daughter, I wasn’t interested in sex. There are a few reasons some people experience this lack of sex drive after giving birth. Some people don’t experience a loss of sex drive at all, sometimes quite the opposite.
The most known cause is hormonal imbalance, especially if breastfeeding. Prolactin is the hormone in charge of milk stimulation. For prolactin to increase, estrogen must decrease, which in turn decreases sexual desire.
This hormonal imbalance and libido decrease actually have an anthropological function: to ensure the baby’s survival. If the mother is fully focused on feeding her offspring, this minimizes the chances of becoming pregnant again and having to divide her valuable attention and resources.
Some other reasons for this are:
>> The birth experience itself. Giving birth can have significant emotional and physical repercussions, sometimes even becoming traumatic.
>> A lack of support during the postpartum period and the matrescence transition.
The two possible causes above are much less explored, shared, or talked about. If society were to address them, we would have to admit a total lack of care, support, and protection for mothers.
It’s more convenient in a globalized patriarchal society to ignore women’s needs and experiences. Instead, we force an idyllic picture of motherhood even when it’s vastly different than reality. Unfortunately, this also results in suppressing the woman’s needs and experiences that do not meet those expectations.
Through motherhood, I was reborn. Recently becoming a menstruating woman and having a degree of separation from my daughter, I became in touch with my womanhood—a part of my identity independent from motherhood. I have been wrestling with what it means for me to be a woman—what makes me a woman.
In my case, this also brought back increased sexual desire—the wonderful, animalistic feeling of becoming aroused—which brought up self-doubt. With my therapist’s support, I have been exploring all these themes and getting rid of all the societal expectations, pressures, and images women are weighed down by. Slowly getting in touch with my instincts and meeting my needs.
As Esther Perel says, “Sex is not something we do; sex is a place we go to.”