By Kimberly Johnson
It’s no secret that sex after baby is complex. Talk about an understatement. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s also what no one is talking about. We can mostly agree that no woman is really raring to go, both physically and emotionally, after her six-week doctor visit when she gets the green light. So what is going on?
We have to set the stage here for the fact that our cultural conversation about sex is impoverished. If talking about sex at all, conversations are usually about frequency or about the types of orgasms we are or aren’t having. There isn’t much discussion about areas of ourselves or connections we are exploring, about what our growing edges or inhibitions are. And as someone who spends her days behind closed doors talking about sex, I can tell you that what you see is not what you get. Women who are glamorous and stereotypically sexy are not necessarily having more or better sex than women who are dowdy or overweight. Body type has nothing to do with the pleasure women are experiencing. How much women talk about sex has little correlation to how much they are having. All that to say, when things get difficult we don’t have a foundation of great communication and information to fall back on.
Why Sex After Baby is So Challenging
We are not the same after we give birth.
Our bodies are different. Our identities are different. It’s not the same person that is coming to the intimate experience. So it makes sense that what you want and how you feel about it would change. It’s just that our culture doesn’t value maturation. And we are drawn to try to go back to how it was before because that is what we know. Looking ahead towards what we don’t know is scary, especially at a time when there are so many unknowns. This is part of the rite of passage to parenting. For this reason, we need to learn new communication skills. We need to ask for exactly what we want. If we want to passionately kiss without feeling like that needs to lead to something, we need to say it. If we need to talk about how we are feeling emotionally about being a mother, before we can enjoy physicality, we need to state this. Most of us don’t have practice at placing our needs and our experience at the center. Most postpartum women don’t want hard and fast quickies, so we are left with asking for exactly what we want and how we want it.
We need to ask for exactly what we want. If we want to passionately kiss without feeling like that needs to lead to something, we need to say it.
Birth is an intense event (no kidding).
Whether your birth experience was heartwarming or heartbreaking, it’s a lot to digest for your entire organism. Sometimes it registers in the body as trauma, as something that the body cannot quite metabolize all at once. That metabolism takes time, and sometimes it requires outside support to be able to move through it all the way. If there was an uncomfortable relationship dynamic that surfaced with your partner during the birth of your baby, it is really important to get that out in the open, so that resentment or unconscious distance doesn’t build. The best resources for that are Birth Story Medicine, Somatic Experiencing or another form of body-based counseling.