February 12, 2014

The Epic Dry Spell (Psst: sex after baby)

Heydad2

What happens when you invite over 15 newish moms (one of whom is an OB), feed them copious amounts of wine and chocolate and tell them that the topic of the day is sex?  A glaringly honest, totally cringe-worthy, no-holds-barred discussion.   

Which is exactly what Molly and I did – a few years ago, actually, when our little guys were roughly a year old.  This wine, chocolate and sex night came about because one of the moms we hung with suddenly blurted out one day, "I hate sex.  Can we talk about this?"

Yes.

So we opened the wine, unwrapped the chocolate, put the dads on bedtime duty and all got together to hash through the nitty gritty.  It took us roughly two minutes to reach consensus:  sex after baby sucks (and no, not literally).   Initially…we were OK with nonexistent/bad sex.  Initially, it makes sense:  your body is in recovery from the delivery, and you are so exhausted and sore that the sex moratorium imposed by your OB is often welcomed.  However, even once the sex ban was lifted, many of us moms found ourselves far, far away from "all systems go."

Nursing, especially in the first few months post-delivery, can reduce your estrogen supply so significantly that this early nursing period was compared to menopause by our friendly OB.  The result?  Vaginal dryness resulting in very painful sex.  Lube can help, but it can only go so far.  The OB's recommendation?  A prescription for Premarin Vaginal Cream, which basically uses local estrogen to help counteract the dryness.  You can pick up a tube from your OB in varying strengths. 

Additionally, it turns out that the whole….vaginal area/pelvic floor…can actually change shape after pregnancy.  Specifically, it sags.  I was surprised to hear that this post-pregnancy shape-changing happens to both women who have had vaginal deliveries and women who have had c-sections.  Getting your pelvic floor in shape is important not only for your sex life, but for long-term health as well.  (A weak pelvic floor can eventually lead to back pain, incontinence and a poochy stomach.  AWESOME.)

But a larger issue quickly emerged, one that had nothing to do with dryness or pelvic floors.  The issue was this:  many of us would rather sleep (or pick up the house or run errands or empty the dishwasher) than have sex. 

Where's our desire?  Or….LUST?  Lust…anyone?  Anyone feel lust…..Bueller?  BUELLER?   

One girl, let's call her Daisy, eloquently (and heartbreakingly) shared that since having a baby, she felt like a part of her – the part that used to love sex – had died.  And Daisy was worried that she'd never get that part back.  "I need to come to terms with this loss, and personally, I'm in mourning" she shared.  And so are our husbands.  At the heart of this issue is that fact that most of us, still young, sexy, cocktail swilling, "hip" moms, never pictured that we would be this kind of women:  the kind who finds sex obligatory. 

Many of us admitted that once we get into it, it's fine.  It's….nice.  I was waiting to hear someone mention that they recently had sex that rocked their world…but "nice" seemed to be the order of the day.  Anyone still talking dirty?  Not so much.  A few glasses of wine later, one girl bravely revealed that an orgasm, since kids, seemed completely out of reach.  Relieved, most others quickly agreed.  Some (ok, ME) wanted to blame some kind of post-baby hormonal imbalance, but our OB quickly dashed that hope.  By the time your kiddo is a year, nursing or not, your hormones have returned to normal.  The problem is mental, pure and simple.  

So where does that leave us?  Has something shifted so permanently in our brains, we wondered, that, like Daisy, we need to mourn our loss of lust?  Are we destined to a life of obligatory sex?  Why can't we be both mothers and bad, bad girls?  Or is it that this vision of "sexiness" is actually part of the problem?  In a culture that glorifies women as wide-eyed, pouty-lipped, vapid sexual objects…what are moms?  Once we turn our backs on the sex kitten stereotype, we find ourselves, from a media and culture perspective, very much alone.  Remember the True & Co MILF debacle?  Exactly.

But here's the thing:  I missed something, all those years ago.  I missed the fact that two of the moms who attended – the two with the oldest kids, the two who had been moms years longer than the rest of us – they weren't worried about their sex drive.  Their biggest obstacle to sex?  Finding the time.  One joked that her oldest had recently busted into her bedroom yelling, "WHAT'S ALL THE RUCKUS?"  These moms weren't mourning their loss of lust, they were just trying to find time to install a lock on the bedroom door.  

Moms who wanted to have sex?  Moms who wanted to have sex more than they wanted to empty the dishwasher?   They were there, but I was too busy lamenting to really hear their message:  New moms, give yourselves more time.  You aren't broken, just transitioning.

It takes time to physically become a mom.  It takes more time to emotionally feel like a mom (was anyone comfortable on that first ride home from the hospital?)  And it takes a really long timeyears, even – to reconnect who we are as mothers with who we are as people.  But when that reconnection finally happens?  When we've broken through the compartmentalization of ourselves as mothers vs. ourselves as multifaceted and complex individuals?  We'll feel a whole heck of a lot better – we'll feel like ourselves.  And, I suspect, you may even feel like a bad, bad girl.

Until then, be gentle.  Mourn your loss of lust if you must, but understand that this is likely just a phase that will pass.  And, uh, go buy this vibrator.  It'll buy down the 'he's been workin' so hard down there and I'm not even close yet' guilt.  Win-win for everyone.

Happy Valentine's Day.

xo,

By February 12, 2014 53 No tags Permalink
53 Comments
  • Ab
    February 12, 2014

    Oh my. I love everything you write. Thank you!

  • Becky
    February 12, 2014

    Thank you thank you thank you for this!! Exactly what I needed to hear 17 months postpartum.

  • Erin
    February 12, 2014

    What a great post! I just had my second baby a month ago and I just told my husband that all this is so far removed from who I am right now.

  • Jess
    February 12, 2014

    Thank you for writing this. I got half way through and started sobbing. That terrible ugly crying where you can’t breathe? Yup, that was it. Through my tears I managed to get a few words out to my husband, who was looking at me, completely bewildered. I am not weird. I am not the only one. I thought I was broken and couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Thank you for being frank and honest.

  • Anonymous
    February 12, 2014

    Thanks… Wishing had this info sooner maybe my husban could have talked about it…had he gotten this message, maybe he would have hung in there and maybe then we would still be together. At least I know I’m not the only one that has felt this way.

  • Beth Kulick
    February 12, 2014

    My youngest is three and I’m happy to report that sex is better than ever. Seriously. There is hope! But make it a priority, moms, when you’re ready. It’s important. And for the love, go buy a vibrator.

  • Dummy
    February 12, 2014

    Damn it I posted my last name.

  • Amber
    February 12, 2014

    Thank you!

  • Cheree
    February 12, 2014

    Thank you!!!!!! 14 months post partum, breastfeeding & still trying to get my desire back. I think it is also difficult, because your body is so different and “fluffy” that it’s often hard to feel sexy when you STILL can’t fit into your clothes the way you did before.

  • Andrea Jay
    February 12, 2014

    I love the “experienced” mother perspective. I think some of our shared feminine hang-ups have a lot to do with the fact that before baby our definition being a sexy woman was narrowly defined. Post baby (maybe a few years post baby) we can see that being a sexy woman can mean so many more things. There is a lot of room in the sexy woman sphere, room for all of us!

  • Ginny
    February 12, 2014

    Love this. I struggled so much after my second and even now I’d rather sleep. And constant cosleeping doesn’t help.

  • Kristen
    February 12, 2014

    This should be required reading for all moms, new and even not so new. I have three boys: 5, 3 and 1.5, and it’s just now I’m feeling back to something other than “mom”, that lady who gets everyone stuff and kisses boo boos and packs lunches and so on and so forth. So thank you thank you thank you for this reminder.

  • leah
    February 12, 2014

    All of this is so good and true. Give it time and no pressure. Took me 3 years after the last kid to stop treating sex as a chore, and all is so much better now.

  • Jess
    February 12, 2014

    Thank you. Seriously. Ditto on the tears. I had kind of convinced myself now 2 years out that things were ok(it’s not the rest of my life ok) and that i just “had to make do” as my ancient MALE ob recently told me.I honestly feel like if I could just shut my mind up for a minute the thought of actually initiating sex might come into my head. But I can’t. So I don’t. Glad to hear there is hope.

  • Maggie
    February 12, 2014

    There is DEFINITELY hope! Four kids, youngest is 18 mos and, yep, better than ever. But four years ago I wouldn’t have believed it. Thanks for breaking open the bottle with us, Shana!

  • Laura
    February 13, 2014

    Thanks for this, it’s spot on. I’m ten weeks post partum with my second and I kind of want to send this post to my husband.

  • Shannon (Sex-Positive Mama)
    February 13, 2014

    Thanks for the great article Shana! As a sexologist in the Philadelphia area & mother of two (1yo & 4 yo), this topic is of great interest right now! My friends & I talk about this a lot. In fact, I am giving a workshop on “Getting your mojo back after baby” at Mama’s Wellness Joint in April: http://www.mamaswellnessjoint.com/events/getting-mojo-back-baby/
    My next gig will be teaching a cancer hospital to talk about patient sexuality. Much work to be done there, as I’m sure you know.

  • Olivia
    February 13, 2014

    Oh, this post… my second is 21 months and still breastfeeding. Sex feels so obligatory to me that I almost welcome getting my period or being sick so I have a “legitimate” excuse to not do it. (Not that my husband pressures me, I just want to be nice to him so I try to say yes once a week.) When my first was about 18 months my desire came back a little, but so far nothing after this kid. This post gives me hope that it can get better.

  • Pammyk
    February 13, 2014

    I don’t have this problem so much…I mean I wait until I am done bleeding (4 or 5 weeks) and then feel pretty ready to get back into it. The first few times can be questionable, but after that I actually want to do it more than my husband.
    My advice?
    I don’t clean my house or do the dishes or laundry unless pretty much absolutely necessary…and I don’t feel bad about it. I sleep in whenever I can. That does mean some peg and cat for my four year old. I don’t worry about the flab or situation down there. I mean in real life I do…but when it’s dark and I am under the sheets I just let it go.
    Also, maybe the most important thing to mention….
    I exclusively breastfed my first and continued for 18 months, but got my period and completely regular cycle back at 5 months. Doing the same with my second, he is 9 months and I have had my super regular cycle back since 6 months. So I believe in part my hormones just whack back into place quickly and there may not be much else to do but wait for some other women.

  • Krystal
    February 13, 2014

    Thank you, thank you so much for this article!

  • P
    February 13, 2014

    Thank you Shana! 16 months postpartum and pregnant with my second, you have no idea how good this was to read right now.

  • Abigail
    February 13, 2014

    Thank you for your honesty, and hope Shana!

  • Jessica
    February 13, 2014

    Wow, so spot on (and so where I’ve been lately). Thanks for putting words to it. I have three kids and my youngest is 5 months and this has been the hardest time bouncing back in the sex department. I have no idea why but I am tired. Anyways thanks!!

  • Cordelia
    February 13, 2014

    Yep, DON’T PANIC. It’s just a season. Outrageous craziness does come back! And this time you get to be sly and subtle around your children instead of your parents (or is that just us?). The dry season is always hard on me emotionally – like at present, ahem – but by now I know the drive always returns…with interest, if you will. Credentials for this comment: six children, ages 8 months to 13 years.
    It’s a crying shame that this perfectly normal fluctuation isn’t clearly explained in pregnancy books, etc.. Bravo, Shana!

  • Jan
    February 13, 2014

    This is great and I wish blogs had been around when I had my kids; it would have been nice to know I wasn’t alone! Infertility can change the dynamics of sex as well — it becomes more about timing and less about pleasure. That can take some time to change, especially after the postpartum soup of emotions.

  • Vera
    February 13, 2014

    Now that my oldest is 8 years old, I can say – it’s all true.

  • Vera
    February 13, 2014

    OH and another thing that I think makes a difference for some of us… the whole sex as procreation thing, it makes it hard when you’re in the midst of trying to figure out family planning. When the babies were babies, we were constantly trying to figure out whether we wanted another one, or trying REALLY hard to make sure we didn’t right now, or trying to actually make another one. Once we decided 100% for sure we were done, my husband had a vasectomy, and we moved past the stage in our lives where sex had anything to do with babies, things got better too!

  • Rachel
    February 13, 2014

    I think you got it exactly! The key is time. Not just 6 months or 12 months. Sometimes it takes a couple of years, but keep trying, because you will feel like you again. My youngest is now 8, and the sex is waaaay better (and more frequent) than it has ever been. Now I find myself planning ways to sneak in more sex every chance we get. It’s hard to be a young mom; give yourself a break.

  • Sara
    February 13, 2014

    This is so great and so on point! I felt like SuperWife when I took prenatal yoga, because every single pregnant woman in my class was saying they didn’t want to have sex. I waddled home to tell my husband how lucky he was haha. Then baby came and I had zero desire what-so-ever. A big part of that was having a hard time accepting my post-baby body.
    After some beer and a very frank discussion with my husband, he now gets that I need to feel attractive to feel “in the mood.” And it’s hard to feel attractive when you haven’t brushed your teeth yet today and there is some kind of fluid on your shirt that you can’t identify and you’ve been wearing the same yoga pants for a week. He’s made more of an effort to make me feel like a babe, and he has learned the distinction between me feeling like he wants to have sex and me feeling like he wants to have sex with ME. It’s made all the difference, even when I want to do dishes or go to sleep.

  • Me
    February 13, 2014

    You nailed it! And it’s extra hard when you walk around all day feeling less attractive than everyone else because your four months postpartum, still too big for your pre-pregnancy clothes, but still haven’t had time to get any clothes that fit!

  • Carsla
    February 13, 2014

    Although I can’t yet relate, beautifully written ;D Looking forward to your future posts!
    <3 Carsla
    Founder & CEO of Connect-the-Cloths
    http://www.connect-the-cloths.com
    A stylist, foodie, & writer’s blog in development.

  • Lindsay
    February 13, 2014

    Thank you. This is so terrific. I wish I’d been in a conversation like this a year after my kid was born. Almost three years out I still don’t feel 100% back, and hearing that this – still! -might not be long enough is very, very reassuring. I hope MILLIONS of new moms find this post and take comfort.

  • Lois
    February 13, 2014

    Awesome post. And so true!!!! My little one is three now and my libido is back. . . but it’s hard to find the time:)

  • Teresa
    February 13, 2014

    Slow clapping. Bravo…
    Followed by standing ovation.

  • Jenny
    February 13, 2014

    Thanks again for another super honest post and for talking about a somewhat awkward topic. I think a lot of times moms don’t realize that they’re not alone- there are plenty of other moms in the same boat.

  • Christy
    February 13, 2014

    >Forward
    To: Husband
    Subject: READ!!!

  • Cortney
    February 14, 2014

    I want to add that what contributes to it is also the disconnect between your body parts feeling sexual but now after having a baby they feel functional. It seems strange to have your husband touch your boob when its full of milk for the baby. Took me until I was done nursing to get over that.

  • Abby
    February 14, 2014

    As the mother of a 4 month old, I so appreciate this post. I feel much better knowing I’m not alone. I too will be sharing this with my husband.

  • abi
    February 14, 2014

    yep. agree with it all. when the youngest turned 3, everything changed. maybe it has to do with her sleeping all night and having more independence that I felt more…free. free in more ways than just sex. freer to dream about things outside of my role of mom free to plan things outside of my role in our home (I have been a stay at home mom since the birth of the youngest).

  • Andrea
    February 14, 2014

    OMG, how did you know? How did you know that I’ve been feeling terrible about this, and had none to talk to? A huge sigh of relief. Thank you.

  • Claudia
    February 14, 2014

    Love this, thank you for sharing…and keeping it real ;)

  • Clever Girl Reviews
    February 14, 2014

    Thanks for sharing, I was afraid that this might be the case :( I hope everyone gets back to themselves. Also try New Chapter Omega 7′s. They really help with hormonal dryness.

  • Cheryl
    February 14, 2014

    Thank you SO much for this post. It is really nice to know we aren’t alone. I thought it was just the fatigue that was killing it for me, but it sounds like it may be a few other factors that I hadn’t considered. It’s also nice to think that the desire may actually come back one day!

  • Rebecca R
    February 15, 2014

    I recently came across a saying that reminds me so much of what this blog does for other women: “We rise by lifting others”. I am quite new to this blog and have been reading many past posts… It is hard to express in words how uplifting every single post is to a first-time mom trying to figure it out in another country with no close friends and family. This blog has me believing that I CAN be confident and beautiful as a new mom, and I am comforted to know there ARE other women out there going through the same struggles post-partum. THANK YOU. And thank you for being so transparent about your personal struggles. The sharing on this blog (even in the comments) blows me away. Go mothers!! We are all doing a wonderful job!

  • Kimberly
    February 15, 2014

    Thank you for your candor, honesty, bravery in ALL your posts! Thank you for helping to open a dialogue among women AND hopefully among our spouses. Thank you for the link to the vibrator as its more than ok to enjoy such- and enjoy it guilt free I might add because orgasm are good and missed/needed more than we often realize (just like intimacy even without the “bells and whistles.” We are more than mom, wives, etc. as we often forget-i know i do – that we are women which is the root of being a mother, wife, so forth. Bravo to all the moms who can finally exhale knowing we aren’t alone in so many ways. I finally see its ok to not to be perfect as perfection is highly over rated and imperfect can still be so much fun. Your blog and this post are beautiful reminders that its not about the destination but the journey. God bless!

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    Rebecca – this comment moved me to tears. Thank you. xoxo

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    I love this comment, Rachel! Thank you!!

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    Cordelia (also my grandmother’s name)…..I love that you listed your “credentials” – LOL! Thank you for the encouragement. :)

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    Awesome, Shannon! So glad to see people out there addressing this side of things….

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    Sing it, Sisters. xoxoxox

  • Shana
    February 17, 2014

    Jess, I get it. I SOOOOOO GET IT. Thank you for such an honest comment – your use of the word “broken” was spot-on. That’s exactly – like, EXACTLY – how I remember feeling. I actually updated the post to include the word. Hang in there, Chick. It took me a shockingly long time. (Oddly enough, reading trashy Chick Lit helped???) :)

  • Holly
    February 18, 2014

    I absolutely love that I came across this blog. I’ve been struggling with the same thing- not just with sex (although that is a HUGE area) but also with reconciling who I even AM anymore. This sentence struck a chord with me: “When we’ve broken through the compartmentalization of ourselves as mothers vs. ourselves as multifaceted and complex individuals, we’ll feel a whole heck of a lot better.”
    Waiting (rather impatiently) for that to happen. :)

  • Anonymous
    February 24, 2014

    Another thing that doesn’t help? If you’re on hormonal birth control, either because you’re done with kids or (like me) it’s necessary to control endometriosis, that stuff tends to be a libido killer. So it’s a trifecta of anti-sex: no time, too tired even when you do find time, and then it’s really hard to fire up the engines.
    The best luck I’ve had so far: wine + marital, um, aides + a patient and loving husband.

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