My husband, Nick, and I both wish we would've had more realistic expectations about what to expect after having kids. We knew sleep would probably be hard to come by but our expectations of our sex life after kids was naive at best. Sex just wasn’t a thing we thought would change all that much.
Wow were we wrong. We hope this two part series can make you laugh, let you know you’re not alone, and give you some tips on how to bring the PDA back to your bedroom.
*Disclaimer: This is an honest read from a happily married couple. This is not an article from a perfectly married couple. We, like everyone else who has committed their life to a partner, struggle with real, deep things. And if you’re related to us, please consider moving on to another blog post.
Here’s the backdrop:
When I was pregnant with my first son, I had to wear a nose plug to make out with Nick. I can’t make this up folks. A freaking nose plug. My sensitivity to smell was next level.
If things were this bad, you can imagine how quickly I shut down any efforts he made to get it on. Guys. Sex was not an option for me, for the second half of my first pregnancy.
Fast forward to us cradling our eldest as a newborn and things get sillier. If you read my Google search history in the weeks following my son’s birth, you’d find searches about different concerns and fears I had about having sex after having a baby. Guys, no joke, I thought about changing my 6-week check up to a 12-week check up. I was terrified. How in the heck was I supposed to not only do the deed but then actually enjoy it?!
Well, we did it and we learned a lot. We now have three kids and I feel like it is my duty to de-mystify the common obstacles parents face after having kids.
The change of it all
The second you become a parent-- no matter how that child came to you-- it all changes. It’s like a new, grey line between who you are as a spouse/partner and who you are as an individual is muddied even further by this title “parent.” We underestimated what the title change would do to our intimacy as husband and wife.
I distinctly remember having to correct myself from calling Nick ‘Dad,’ when addressing him. The titles of who we are were just becoming so jumbled. It takes some time to get used to the new roles and the fact that there’s only one direction.
Tip: Give yourself tools to remember who you and your spouse are.
Have favorite, old songs at the ready when you want to be intimate, or have an album in your phone of photos of just the two of you together. Say your spouse’s name when you greet them in the morning or after brushing teeth before bed. Acknowledge yourself and your spouse outside of parenting.
If there’s one thing that makes it hard to get into the mood and be ready to be intimate with your significant other, it’s the lack of sleep. Whether you have a day at the office or a sink full of dishes waiting for you in the morning, it can be hard to justify having sex and being close to your spouse when your body really could use the extra (fill-in-the-blank) minutes of sleep.
Tip: Sneak in sleep before playtime.
Getting sleep and having sex with your spouse when your baby is any age (that’s right--there are no age limits) requires some real sacrifice from both husband and wife. It will absolutely require a mind-over-matter attitude because you’re (both) going to be dog tired.
Periods without sex can lead to a lot of tension and unmet needs for both of you. If you can get back into the swing of things, you might find you enjoy it. If either of us are especially tired, we do one of two things-- help the other get to bed earlier or take the 'early morning shift' with the kids to help the other get more z's.
Feeling like you and your spouse are on the same page emotionally can sometimes feel like trying to have a conversation at a rock concert. You’re both trying but things are just getting lost in the music. I’m not a licensed marriage and family therapist, but I’m 99.99% sure this is normal.
You and your spouse have just undergone the biggest change you can experience in your life and you both experienced it (and are still experiencing it) totally differently. No matter how similar you are or how great your are at communicating, you’re two different people. The emotional disconnect is real.
Tip: Shower together or cuddle -- clothing optional.
The key here is to be close to one another without any pressure to do anything. Set the rule ahead of time of whether you’re wearing clothes or not. Just find a sensual way to be together without the expectation of sex and the need for conversation.
Ladies, sometimes words can get in the way of reconnecting. Just close your eyes, lean in, and take a breath. Gentlemen, quiet your mind. The less expectations you have from us, the more likely we are to relax and feel at ease (and maybe play).
I once read an article about co-sleeping and how it’s more normal than not, more people do it than you think, etc. etc. All I could think about was, “How in the heck do those parents ever have sex?” Thankfully someone asked that exact question in the comments. The solution for a lot of these co-sleeping parents was creative timing. I think there’s something to be said for that.
It’s a lot to ask your spouse to mac it up in the bedroom after an entire day of work (at home or at the office). Both sexes get tired and sometimes when the kids are in bed you really just want to sleep.
Tip: Legitimately experiment with different times.
I know it sounds unromantic to make your sex life an experiment, but you can’t expect to just magically know when it’s best to have sex if you don’t compare and contrast. Try it in the morning, try it after the kids are in bed, heck-- try setting an alarm for 2am.
Ladies, if you’re nursing, I highly recommend timing your playtime immediately following a session of breastfeeding your baby. Or, if that’s unrealistic-- wear a bra and don’t take it off. Gentlemen, I highly recommend never turning down your wife while you’re trying different times for sex. It’s going to take a lot of planning for her to be physically ready (showered, nursing, etc.) and emotionally ready (feeling like her belly isn’t looking like a baby bump).
Ladies Only: Know your options
If you gave birth vaginally or are breastfeeding, you’ll know that things downstairs are not the same. If you pushed your sweet cherub out of your lady bits, it’s likely things might still be a bit stretched. If you’re breastfeeding, know that this might be the driest you will ever be in your entire life. You might struggle with the amount of time you spend being touched by your baby. Between nursing, rocking, and just plain holding your kid, being over-touched is a real thing. Recognize the changes you’ve made to love this child and take a breath.
Tip: Consider pelvic floor physical therapy and ask your doctor for vaginal estrogen.
Believe it or not, there is physical therapy that can help repair the damage done to your abdominal wall and pelvic floor from birth and labor. Most phyical therapy is covered under insurance. If it’s not, I highly recommend paying out of pocket for one or two sessions so you can have them educate you on the state of your body and give you exercises/tips for recovery.
Run to your doctor as soon as you can and ask if they have any samples of vaginal estrogen cream. Personally, I think it’s a crime that this stuff isn’t handed out after birth. My nurse practitioner said vaginal estrogen is hailed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a benefit to the whole family because of how much it helps moms. Vaginal estrogen helps stimulate the natural production of hormones that are responsible for moisture. Here’s an example of one that you could use as reference when talking to your doctor.