Sex Life? What Sex Life? Part II

SexLifePartII

As mentioned in an earlier post, Sex Life? What Sex LIfe? Part I, there are many factors that can conspire to make postpartum sex a little bit tricky to initiate. But the good news is there’s only one thing necessary to have a lasting and healthy sexual relationship: direct, open and honest communication.

When you see your provider for that standard six-week postpartum visit, be prepared to talk with them about your sexuality. Nothing should be off-limits. This can feel awkward at first, but remember, your provider has studied for years about pregnancy, birth and postpartum. They’re considered experts in the care of women during this transition. Anything you feel might be of concern to you, bring it up. Don’t be shy. They’ve heard it all before, I promise.

Whatever your concerns, they’re most likely to be temporary and will resolve over time. But the anxiety of not knowing this can become a bigger deal than it needs to be. I’m a huge fan of paying to hear these experts say the three little words that can make you feel so much better: “That’s completely normal.”

If, at the end of this six-week appointment with your provider, you’ve stopped bleeding and your physical healing is complete, you’re probably going to get the green light for having sex. You’ve been examined and it’s been determined that you are physically ready for sex. But now you need to weigh that information with whether or not you’re feeling emotionally ready for sex.

Have you ever heard this joke? “Sex is like pizza. Even bad pizza is still pretty good pizza.”

I don’t think it’s very funny, either.

Sex, good sex, rarely just involves the physical. I mean, there is something to be said about just going at it! But if you think about it, the best sex of your life might have involved, but was not dependent upon: a gorgeous and romantic location, a crazy position, or the addition of some kinky sex toys.

Good sex usually occurs when there’s a trusting, loving relationship established between you and your partner. Better sex happens when you feel safe and accepted for who you are. Great sex happens when you’re able to see and be seen by your beloved.

Good sex involves a level of intimacy and vulnerability that allows the two of you to become one, physically and emotionally. It can’t happen if one of you isn’t feeling emotionally ready. It can’t happen when you’re feeling guilted into it. It can’t happen when you’re just trying to soothe someone else’s sexual frustration. It can’t happen when one of you feels resentment – sex being one more thing on your to-do list of how you serve others and not yourself.

Sex postpartum has the potential to be so much better than it ever was before your baby arrived! The reason is because you’re about to reveal to one another a level of tenderness and vulnerability that you don’t even know about yourself. It’s through that window of openness that you can begin to cultivate a new, more intimate and connected relationship with your partner inside – and outside – of the bedroom.

But communication is the key.

If you’re not feeling ready (either one of you!), you need to express this to your partner while reassuring that it has nothing to do with your desire for them as a person. Too many partners take the new Momma’s lack of desire for sex as a lack of desire for them – as if the baby has somehow taken their place.

Now Mommas, initially you might respond, “That’s ridiculous!” Before you start telling your partner to “Grow up! The baby needs me!” think about how you might feel if you were in their shoes.

If your partner was the sole source of food and most often the source of comfort for your newborn, you might feel more than just a little bit left out. So it’s possible (and I would add normal) that your partner might be feeling a bit on the outside of this new little Momma-baby dyad. It can get lonely out there sometimes.

As the partner, it’s important to remember that Momma might be “all touched out” by the end of the day. She might want her body to be hers and hers alone. She’s likely to feel overwhelmed by trying to meet her newborn’s needs and get showered before four pm. The thought of adding some sexy time into the day may not even be on her radar.

It’s helpful to take stock of one another’s perspective to understand where the other is coming from when it comes to sex – or anything else, for that matter. Perspective taking is challenging, but it makes you a much more thoughtful person. And this alone is a very big turn-on! Thoughtfulness can go a long way toward creating a much more mutually satisfying relationship.

But here’s the real-deal. For most women postpartum, it takes awhile longer than it did before the baby was born for their body to feel desire. This can be a big mismatch from where partners are.

Your partner might catch a glimpse of you before you jump into the shower and think, “Let’s do this!” But your mind is already on the hamster wheel calculating all the things that need to get done today – and sex is the last thing you’d ever think about.

Partners hear this: if you’re willing to wait until the timing is right (and it might end up being early morning now instead of nighttime – Mommas are battling end-of-the-day exhaustion levels, remember?) and if you’re willing to engage the biggest sex organ in a woman’s body you just might get somewhere. This mismatch in your sex drive can be minimized.

(Here’s the part that applies to all couples, not just those who are new to parenting!)

The biggest sex organ for a woman, in my opinion, is her brain. It’s that whole brain-body connection that I can’t stop writing about! In order for a woman to be able to truly let go, she needs to feel safe, she needs to be able to trust and allow herself to be vulnerable. It’s best if she’s not feeling too anxious or stressed out.

And even if you’re the love of her life, that doesn’t happen just because you’re lying next to one another in bed. It’s a rare woman whose feelings of desire can be turned on like the switch on a lightbulb. She might require a little more prep-work. Instead, try thinking about lighting a fire and the care that’s needed to get that spark to a full flame.

Engage her in conversation. It doesn’t have to be about profound or romantic things. Discussing with each other how the day has gone and really listening to one another (no electronic devices nearby to distract you from each other!) goes a lot farther than you’d think in terms of creating connection.

If you notice that she’s had a particularly rough day, offer to take charge of the bedtime routine, or do the dishes so she can sit down with a glass of wine and relax a little bit. If she can ease out of Momma-mode, and let some of the day’s stressors go, she’ll be much more responsive to you.

Even after all of these positive steps toward setting the mood for some loving, she might not want to go there – but she just might. How do you know?

Ask her!

I think when it comes to sex, partners are too often silent: groping and hoping that if you touch her in just the right way under the sheets she might be ready to go. Instead of this blind attempt with the potential of rejection without explanation, ask her if she’s up for messing around. Most women can gauge whether or not they can be persuaded.

If it’s defintely, “No.” Then, it’s not going to happen. Mommas it will help your partner, and your relationship, if you can articulate why you’re not into it at this time: “I don’t think it’s happening tonight. I’m _________________ (too tired, too worked up about my day tomorrow, still upset about the conversation I had with my Mom, angry about the comment you made to me last night.) This isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but direct, open and honest communication has to happen for real connection to occur.

If she is in the mood, she’ll let you know – with or without words (hubba! hubba!) And she’ll appreciate that you asked!

But here’s the clincher that might lead to better (and more!) sex for you both: Mommas if you’re on the fence about whether or not you feel up for having some sexy time, let your partner know that too by saying, “I might be able to be persuaded.” And then partners, do your best to persuade her!

Extra time spent catching her body and brain up to one another can make all the difference in terms of having good sex, more often. She might really want, she might really need, to have an orgasm. But unless her desire is able to fully manifest, the sex you do have might end up being one-sided, not mutually beneficial and therefore, won’t happen nearly as often as you’d like.

If you take these considerations into account however, you might find that your sex life post baby can be even stronger and more satisfying than it ever was before the baby arrived.

Last comment to all new or experienced Mommas out there: Make orgasms your new best friend! Every time you have one, it’s like going to the spa for a mini-massage. It’s one of the best ways to release tension throughout your entire body plus your brain gets flooded with that love and bonding hormone, oxytocin. Ultimately, with a healthy and satisfying sex life, you’ll experience less stress and more connection with your partner.

Your sex life postpartum may not be the most important aspect of your relationship, but it does deserve a lot of attention! You need to take care of it, and nurture it – with at least as much attention as you shower on your baby. When that happens, both your baby and your relationship will thrive.

How have you nurtured and cared for your relationship postpartum? Are there areas which deserve more of your attention? Do you need to focus more on using direct and honest communication with one another?

Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps…

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Perhaps, you thought that you and your partner would be on the same page in terms of “growing up” and taking care of your new little baby? Perhaps, you thought you’d both suddenly be so much more mature? Perhaps, the reality of where each of you are in your development as new parents is causing you distress?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

I’m in the beginning stages of learning from the magnificent, Elly Taylor and her Becoming Us Program. And one of our recent lessons mentioned the word, “generativity.” This is a fancy term coined by psychologist, Erik Erikson and basically it means becoming less selfish and more selfless. Moving into this stage of generativity usually happens somewhere in adulthood and it often coincides nicely with people who are becoming parents for the first time.

This makes sense to me – a baby is born, a family is created and suddenly you find out what real responsibility means. You now have to take care of this completely helpless person. You are “nudged” into growing up and maturing into the role of parent so you can put your needs on the back burner while you attend to all of your baby’s needs.

It would be so lovely if both you and your partner grew up and into your role as parents at the same time and at the same pace. But oftentimes, this isn’t the case.

Maybe it’s the sheer physical demands that a Momma goes through during pregnancy, or through the birth itself, but she’ll often reach this state of generativity at a quicker rate than her partner. This can be cause for great conflict in the early weeks and months of life with your new baby. Because of her physical ties to the baby, especially if she’s breastfeeding, the Momma might feel resentful toward her partner who’s still finding time to carve out a quick run, a long game of golf on the weekends, or a regular evening out with his buddies. “Doesn’t he see that all I do is give, give, give to our baby day and night?”

Partner might see her in this role and doubt whether or not he is ready or able to fill such impressive shoes – his learning curve is oftentimes much steeper than it is for her as she’s usually had some experience with babies via babysitting. “If I can’t do it the way she does it, I’m a failure.” And society still sends the message loudly and clearly, that by virtue of being female, she’s automatically the “better” parent (which is utter crap!) If Momma asks him to be more focused on the home front, he might actually end up feeling stifled and controlled.

This does not make for a happy couple on the other side of giving birth to a bundle of joy that was supposed to bring you closer together!

How to resolve this? There’s a lot that I’ll be learning as I complete this course, and I promise to pass that along to you here. But I have a few of my own thoughts that I’d like to share.

For partners, especially men, pregnancy and birth might be the first time in their lives where they feel completely out of their element. And from a societal standpoint, we do very little to welcome them into this world of women. They might go to every clinic appointment and ultrasound, they might want to be really involved – but end up feeling like a third wheel most of the time. Or maybe, deep down, they’re completely freaked out and long for the days when they could’ve been smoking cigars in the waiting room and not required to step foot into the labor and delivery room – but if they tell anyone that, they’ll be labeled an insensitive, uninvolved jerk. What if we tried to meet them wherever they are during the pregnancy (without judgement) and then support them better in their role as expectant father? I think this might be a good first step.

Communication between the couple has to happen early and often so that you both know where the other is in terms of adopting this new role of parent. This can feel like an emotional land mine if you don’t respect the “no judgement” policy. Your partner needs to be able to reveal his true feelings about becoming a father. And he needs the time and space to move into that role.

There’s also something to be learned from our partners as we move into the world of motherhood. We need to remember the importance of self-care, of figuring out what individual needs we have that we don’t want to lose in our new role of Momma. Instead of feeling resentment toward our partner, maybe we can learn from them how to carve out the time and space we need to feel whole and separate from our role as parent.

Of course, I’m speaking in general terms. Sometimes our partners are beyond ready for their role of fatherhood and it blows us away, and it’s us new Mommas who are slow to catch up. The reality is that very few couples reach this stage of generativity at the same time. But instead of putting a wedge into your relationship, perhaps this can become a new and better way of understanding each other as individuals. Perhaps we can learn from each other as opposed to being intimidated by or resentful of one another. Perhaps this can be a period of growing together, rather than growing apart.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

You might think you know the song of this same name, but I’m not sure if you’ve heard the band Cake sing it. If you like Cake, like I do in all it’s many forms, than this version is worth a listen. (I love it when I can find a tune that goes with my blogpost – it feeds the rocker in my soul!)

Can you see how you and your partner might be approaching parenting at a different pace from one another? Is this helpful to realize how very common and normal this stage of development is and that it’s possible to “catch up?”

Love Gives You Wings

Fly

Short and sweet post today to encourage all new parents to remember that our partners will care for their babies differently from us. They are unique individuals who come to their role of parenting with their own set of family and life experiences, thoughts and ideas about how to take care of a baby. Some of these differences are big and can end up being deal breakers. If this is true for you, you’ll need to figure some things out and it might take a professional to help. Those big differences don’t just “go away” or “get better with time.” Honest, open communication is key to being able to trust one another as partners in parenting.

But there are other differences that really are no big deal. These are the ones that you don’t have to worry about and maybe you should even celebrate. Babies thrive on love, attention, and being parented differently by different people. One parent might be a little more conservative in how far afield you let your little one roam, another parent might be the one throwing the baby up in the air.

Plaid

CatchPink

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Trees

And for the record, this doesn’t come down just according to gender. Men are stereotyped as being the ones who always let their kids do “crazy” stuff while women keep their kiddos close. In our family, that is true only some of the time. Most of us have different comfort levels with when, how and where we let our kids explore. Our children have different comfort levels as well that must be considered. Some kids love flying through the air, others – not so much.

Whatever your parenting style might be, different parents provide safety and security to their baby. Just in very different ways. One parent keeps their little one close in a snug embrace, while another gathers them up and holds on tight after an exhilarating experience in defying gravity.

Both approaches, help your baby learn how to fly.

Did you find that you were the more safety conscious parent? Did you have a partner that was a little less so? How do you think your baby responded to this difference?