Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents frankly talk about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their marriage and relationship. A baby raises the stakes. There’s less time to devote to one another, emotional intimacy can dwindle, date nights — at least for the first months — are nearly non-existent, and sex is often a non-starter. Couples must adapt. Here’s how they do it.
RJ La Porte and his husband, Cole, adopted their baby daughter Molly Jean four months ago. Although their process was easier than most, it was still grueling. However, the constant interviews and meetings the process required helped them prepare for the big transition to come. Not that they find it easy. While the North Carolina couple don’t often go on dates; they have new and creative ways to tend to their marriage — and new family. Here’s their story.
Cole: We’ve been together for 12 years. [Having kids] was a conversation we had pretty early on, once we got together. We knew that this was the path we wanted to take. And we knew the time frame. About two years ago, we really got heavily active in picking out agencies and facilitators.
RJ: Our first time we were connected with a birth mom, we were connected with a young mother who was pregnant with twins. We were totally stoked about that and then, unfortunately, she disappeared. That was heartbreaking. Everything happens for a reason, and back in early June of last year, we were contacted again. It was little Molly. She was born in January. Life has forever changed, in a great way. I would say I can’t really remember a time without her. I can’t remember what we used to do with all of our free time.
C: We lucked out in the adoption process. Molly was born about a year, almost to the day, after we officially decided on the best facilitator.
RJ: Yeah, we lucked out in the process for sure.
C: If you’re familiar with the adoption process, and all of the certifications and visits and questionnaires you have to fill out, it really kind of opened up those conversations to happen. They wanted to know that we were having these conversations, and what we planned on doing the first six months after baby, the first year after the baby.
RJ: Yeah. Even down to, like, what if something potentially went wrong with the pregnancy, and what kind of circumstances we’d be willing to be a parent in and what we weren’t. Would we choose a birth mother who told us she’s done drugs and the baby could be born addicted to heroin? Those are all things that are risks, that you never want to think about, but it really forced us to have to think about it.
C: We were forced into lots of conversations by the process, that, in the long run, helped open up conversations we didn’t know we needed to have. It really helped us ease the transition, because we knew what to expect from each other, down to how to plan on, if a child does one thing, how would you respond? Almost every detail. We really got on the same page.
RJ: You have people coming in to your home, interviewing you, on your parenting style. You’re not only being interviewed as a couple, but they also interview you individually. It’s kind of like, a really stressful, crazy weird process. But it’s definitely one that we went through as a team.
C: We really had to just have our trust and faith in the birth mom that she was being honest with us. We have a really good network of people around us. Even when it came down to worrying about if the birth mom was smoking and drinking when she was pregnant — it took some of our close friends who were pregnant to tell us that they didn’t even stop doing that until a few months in when they learned, and all their babies are fine. You just have to come to a mental peace with trusting the birth mom and….
RJ: … I think it just took us having our own control. I’m a type A personality, so for me, it was a matter of getting her room set up. That was a piece of control that I…
C: …that you were controlling what you could.
RJ: What I could, yeah. Exactly. It just kind of helped me get through it, mentally. We live in North Carolina and the birth mom lived in Georgia, so we weren’t seeing her [often.] We were obviously texting, and communicating all of the time. As we got closer to her due date, we were talking almost every day. But still, it’s one of those things where you’re not there. You’re not seeing the whole pregnancy and experiencing it with her in a traditional way. So you kind of have to figure out how to get through it. You also don’t want to rush into it too much, because she has the ability to opt out.
RJ: Our introduction to parenting was interesting. In the adoption process, we had to spend two weeks together, in Georgia, in a hotel, with Molly Jean, a brand new baby. There was just a lot of us figuring it out. It was upside down at first. We were out of our comfort zone. We were out of our home. We didn’t have family with us. It was just us. We came with this little baby.
C: Yeah, after the child is released from the hospital, you essentially have to wait in the birth state until you get approval from both state governments to take the child across state lines. That can take anywhere from two days to two months. We just had a hotel room, where we were staying. But it was really an awesome bonding experience because there was no other family there. It was just us and Molly Jean.
RJ: We ended up being there, in total, 15 or 16 days. But even though we were trapped in a Hampton Inn, in a small town in Georgia, we made it as comfortable as we could. We just waited for Molly. And bringing this new baby into this 300 square foot motel room was eye-opening, for sure.
C: It was initiation by fire.
C: We’ve tried to take care of our relationship now that we’re parents. We’ve been on a couple of dates out, when grandma comes into town. We’ve been able to take Molly Jean out and about as well to have some adult time. She’s still really young, so most of the time when we’re out she’s asleep.
RJ: But I think we’ve wanted to be parents for so long, that just connecting as a family is kind of the way we connect now. Even when we’re together, it’s still very new.
C: I will say, the hour after she goes to bed, where we get to take a deep breath and it’s like: There’s no more laundry, the house is clean, the dogs are walked. Let’s sit on the front porch for a minute.
RJ: [Sitting on] the porch is probably what we do to reconnect the most, I would say. We just sit and have a chat and talk about each other’s day, how things are going.
C: Physical intimacy can be hard when you have a newborn. Even without physical healing and recovering from giving birth, there’s really just an element of exhaustion. We have to be cognizant of each other’s needs, and understanding of our partner. It really just comes down to, I think, communicating your needs and communicating your feelings and emotions.
RJ: I’ll be straight up: I think it’s one of those things that just takes getting used to: wanting to be physical with a baby in the house. You know what I mean?
C: In the room next door!
RJ: Exactly. It’s a trippy mind thing that you have to just get over. Not that you can’t! It just takes a little bit of time, though. I have to [adjust to feeling like] I don’t need to be “on” all the time.
C: In the first few weeks, you think, if you take your eyes off the baby monitor she’ll stop breathing.
RJ: The transition from dad to someone in a romantic relationship is trippy, for sure.
RJ: We’ve learned a lot about one another since Molly came into our lives. I don’t want to say Cole is not loving, he’s very loving — but he doesn’t always show emotion and love, you know? But from day one, when Molly was born, the way that he fell in love with her and shows her love, and like, kisses her and holds her and says “I love you,” that moment — I fell in love all over again. That was like, the most amazing thing. I feel like it’s so corny and people say that. I used to think, that doesn’t happen. It literally happened. It was a really awesome feeling.
C: Just being the type of person I am, I’m definitely more logistical and rigid in my mindset. I admire RJ’s ability to add more things to the list that he’s capable of doing and doing well: parenting, being added onto taking care of us, the dogs, the house, working from home and taking care of everything while still getting his job done. It’s been inspiring.