by Amy Sohn, REDBOOK
Ah, the post-baby sex life - rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated, finds writer Amy Sohn. That said, a temporary tailspin is to be expected. Read her 100-percent honest report.
"What do you plan to do for birth control?" my midwife asked. It was my six-week postpartum checkup, and she had just pronounced that it was safe for me to have sex.
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"Birth control?" I said, like she was speaking a foreign language. I was hormonal and emotionally fragile after a difficult birth, and now I was nursing a newborn. I was thinking about having sex again the same way I was planning to lose my baby weight - sometime in the future, but certainly not right now. "There's a pill that's safe to take when you're breast-feeding," she told me, and scribbled down the name. I stuck it in my wallet, just like I once took guys' numbers knowing I'd never call.
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In part because I felt like we were supposed to get back in the saddle, my husband and I tried having sex a few days later (with a condom). Even though I'd had a C-section, intercourse was surprisingly painful and, despite the two glasses of mood-setting chardonnay I drank beforehand, not at all romantic. After 15 minutes we decided to give up, and it was another few weeks before I was ready to go all the way again. Parenthood (which is, uh, caused by sex) often leads to a sexual drought that seems strangely taboo for women to talk about. Pain, lack of desire... I've noticed that friends clam up about it all, even after being totally open about every TMI detail of pregnancy. No one has written What to Expect When You're No Longer Expecting But Your Husband Expects to Have Sex and the Sex Isn't What You Were Expecting. Yet we're all familiar with some of the reasons babies make sex a challenge: the exhaustion, the limited time, the stress. Plus, kids have a way of taking over every space they're in. It's hard to get in the mood when I roll over in bed onto a ZhuZhu Pet.
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Sex did get better for my husband and me, bit by bit, and I was relieved to find that the pain was temporary. We did it during our daughter's afternoon naps at first, blessed with a good sleeper. When she dropped the nap, we would sneak in ultra-quickies while she played happily down the hall. (My husband and I are self-employed, which helped.) The biggest change over the past five years - our daughter is in kindergarten now - is that sex is almost always planned. I used to be bothered by that until I realized that these "dates" ensure that our sex life keeps going.
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But that's just my experience. What about everyone else? I wanted to break this silly taboo, get people talking, and find out how other couples deal with the challenges of sex after parenthood. (And, okay, I was also a little curious to see how my husband and I measure up.) FOR LOTS OF US, sex starts to change before the babies are even born. Sandra*, 42, had no interest in sex while she was carrying her second child. Well, not with her husband, anyway. "I only wanted to have sex with myself," she says. "It was usually during the day when he wasn't around. It was a lot less labor-intensive not having to deal with another person, and there wasn't much room for a penis in my vagina since my uterus and cervix seemed to take up every inch in there."
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For Steve Shubin and his wife, sex wasn't even an option: She had a high-risk pregnancy, and her obstetrician told them no intercourse for the whole nine months. So, to get him through, Steve decided to design - he's an ex-cop, not an engineer - a toy that would simulate sex. "My wife was supportive," he recalls. "Her only condition was that I get rid of it when she was able to have sex regularly again." So he created the Fleshlight - which, if you want to imagine it, looks like a flashlight filled with a skin-like material. It has since generated $200 million in sales. (Nice little college fund, Steve!)
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While some pregnant women's libidos crash, other moms told me they reveled in their new ultrawomanly bodies: "Being pregnant and watching my body go through those changes made me feel more feminine," says Robin, a 44-year-old mother of three. "My husband was also excited by my pregnant and post-pregnant body. We felt more in love with each other."
*Some names have been changed.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.