Every woman experiences motherhood differently so naturally our return to sex after birth will differ. I felt alone when the women around me were talking about how horny they were hours after giving birth. I felt there was something wrong with me. I never want another woman to feel that way. No matter what is going on you are not alone. This story is not rainbows and cotton candy. This is my experience and mine alone. You’ve been warned.
If someone had asked me about sex after Jack was born I might have said that it would never occur again in my lifetime. I read in various places that I should wait 4-6 weeks, but I ignored it. I had way too much to think about. Who in the world was thinking about sex after birth?! When Jack turned 4-6 weeks old I was flabbergasted that people were expected to be ready to have sex. I mean the blood, the stitches, the gore!! The thought of something going in my vagina seemed just as traumatizing as the experience of a baby coming out. Not to mention the lack of desire. I thought “you’ve got to be kidding me!” To be honest, I don’t even think my husband was over the sight of seeing me push our son out of my vagina over a period of 30 hours. He wanted nothing for me but to be comfortable, healed and happy.
I lasted only a few days before I couldn’t stand the curiosity anymore. I took a mirror and angled it down to my vagina. Oh. My. Fucking. God. That was certainly never usable again. I had an episiotomy. I could see stitches. It looked like there were several incisions (I later learned there were not, it was just such a huge mess that it seemed like someone had taken a hacksaw to it). It was covered in blood. No matter how much I sprayed that damn peri bottle at it. I couldn’t even tell where the opening was. Sex? Are you crazy?
But it wasn’t just the state of my vagina that made the 4-6 weeks recommendation laughable. I had absolutely no desire to have sex. I was completely stunned by life. I hadn’t had time to absorb my new role as a mom. Before Jack I couldn’t relax enough to have sex if there was a dirty dish in the sink. Now my life was turned upside down. My very identity was in question. I did not suffer from Postpartum Depression, but I had some dark moments. I couldn’t figure out how shitting and showering fit into my life anymore much less an intimate moment alone with my husband.
I bled for 2 ½ months after Jack was born. Yes, you heard me. 2 ½ months! So that completely took away the perk of not getting my period for 9 months. I went in after 6 weeks to get my pap smear. When I say I was terrified I am making an enormous understatement. I thought about this for weeks beforehand. I was petrified. She was going to have to use the speculum. Also known as the duck bill, evil clamp and car jack. Oh dear lord. How was I going to live through that? I panicked at the thought of it. My heart raced. I got sweaty and short of breath. I was truly scared of going through with this. I contemplated never returning to her office. Due to the continued bleeding she had to reschedule. I was relieved in the moment, but the anxiety just continued to build when I left.
One evening I was cruising around a mommy group that I had joined. Someone brought up the topic of sex. My friend casually stated something about having sex. My mouth fell open and my stomach turned upside down. She has had sex since giving birth? I couldn’t comprehend this. I asked her if I understood her correctly. She said “yes, and I think it’s even better now because I am a bit tense about it.” So, not only has she been having sex she been enjoying it and not only has she been enjoying it she has been enjoying it more than before giving birth? I was literally stunned for like a whole week. Could not stop thinking about it. I must really be the only one left who isn’t having sex.
My husband and I had open conversations about this. I expressed my fears. He said he understood. I am sure after a few months passed he was wondering when I would start to move to a new phase in mommyhood. As with any long-term relationship sex had been a topic of discussion before. We had gone through rough patches and smooth patches and back to rough patches. Translation: He always wanted to have sex. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I would go long periods of time not wanting to. This always made him feel rejected and undesirable. Most of the time these rough patches (the long periods of time when he wanted to have sex and I didn’t) were very rough. We worked through it because we love each other. I never had an answer as to why I would go so long not wanting to have sex. I still don’t know.
Another layer of complication was that it took some time to change our thinking about sex. We had sex for fun for 10 years. We had to relearn sex for the purposes of procreation. Now we had to relearn it again as something for fun to celebrate our relationship. Have sex for fun? You mean I am supposed to be excited about the fact that you are going to put your penis into the slaughtered mess that was now my vagina? Yeah, sounds like a ball of fun.
I returned to the doctor for the ever dreaded pap smear. It was totally painless. I told her I was afraid to have sex after birth. She said I would be OK physically and that I should consider doing it soon so that my mind didn’t start to make it worse than it really was. I understood what she meant and the painless pelvic exam decreased my anxiety. However, we still had to deal with the logistics of it. I didn’t want to. Even if I could muster up some desire when would this happen? Where would this happen? Even if I wasn’t going to tear any stitches anymore why did I feel so… raw? My skin was healed, but there was still so much going on down there. It felt like there was extra skin. I felt like my vagina was wide open. Like if I put in a tampon it would fall right back out. Would I ever be the same again?
We finally made it happen one night on the couch (co-sleepers do it in the… whatever room is free!). It was painless and that is all I remember. That is all I was concerned about. Even 14 months postpartum I still have little desire to have sex, but we have been actively trying to conceive since about 6 months postpartum so it happens on a regular basis. I am a Mama with her eye on the prize so I suck it up and make it happen. We are always trying to finish as fast as possible since Jack seems determined to be an only child. He has become an expert cock blocker. I don’t have much concern with the lighting, the position, the foreplay or the heat. For now the purpose of sex remains as a means to procreate and not just for the fun of it. It’s business and we are happy with that for now.
My vagina seems to be back to normal, mostly. That gaping hole feeling is gone. I suppose the muscles strengthened back up. I am not exactly the same down there, but it’s good. I have my agenda permanently out on the table to mark the days of my cycle. I started my period about 7 months postpartum and by 10 months it was regular. We plan our sex according to the calendar. Still no baby. Please send me your baby vibes so we can do all this over again.
Abby Theuring, MSW