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 relationship. A baby raises the stakes. Couples have 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.
Alyssa and Otis Noel just celebrated their seventh anniversary. They have two daughters, four and five years old. Alyssa had a tough pregnancy and birth and got pregnant almost immediately after their first, and ultimately, their communication failed. They felt they were so focused on their kids that it was only until Otis took a job as a truck driver and was gone for as long as six weeks at a time to realize that they had stopped talking to each other about things that weren’t baby-related. From there, they got to work and repaired their relationship. Here’s how they did it.
Otis: I remember it like it was yesterday. Our relationship changed drastically, and fast. We went from being able to go out with friends and having all the leisure in the world to no time, and unable to do anything but care for this baby. At first, being new parents was extremely tough.
Alyssa: I agree. It was just night and day. Everything about our relationship, everything about who we were as individuals, our lifestyle — everything changed. Before we started having kids, we were very social. We like to be out, go on dates and things like that. After we had kids, our friends were like “Where are you?” They barely got to see us or even hear from us. It was a total 360.
O: We lost a lot of time for each other. We kind of stopped taking care of each other for a minute. You start dedicating so much of your time to your kids and then having them back to back, it was basically like, for three years straight, all about caring for our infants.
A: I didn’t have a normal pregnancy, either. I was in the hospital twice a week because I was high risk and getting injections. I gained over 50 pounds. So, all of that time went into being at the hospital, and then our first child was premature. We were constantly worried about her hitting the right milestones. I wasn’t really thinking: “Are my husbands needs being taken care of? Are we good as a couple?” We weren’t even doing check-ins to make sure we were okay.
O: Shortly after the last baby, I became a truck driver and I started driving. I think that time apart, with me being gone from home for a month or six weeks at a time, that was the time that we started realizing that we were missing each other. So, when I came home, we tried to make a real effort to at least spend some time together. That was major: us realizing that we had been missing each other. We didn’t realize it until I was actually, physically gone out of the house and she was alone with the kids.
A: I completely agree. That forced us to be more mindful and intentional. Before, we were just kind of letting things fly by, not even thinking about it. When he was out of the home for extended periods of time, that made us become aware of the problem. We just had to communicate. Like, when someone is not there, you have to communicate. There’s no other way to keep that connection going.
O: We try to FaceTime once a day [when I’m on the road], just to see each other. Honestly, I’d be driving for six hours and we’d sit on the phone for like three hours and talk. It really forced us to see how each other are doing. I’d want to know how the girls were doing and what milestones they were hitting.
A: It also forced us to talk about our problems. He’d be gone for four to six weeks at a time, and then he’d want to just come home and check in with everyone else. I was like, “No. We need dedicated time for me and you. So your mom can watch the kids.”
A: It took about three months until we realized like, okay, things are on the up and up. Our relationship was getting stronger, and not weaker. Before, we were fighting a lot and disagreeing a lot with the challenges for having kids. We argued about everything. But when he did come home, we made sure that our dates were meaningful, and memorable. We were making new memories, learning new things about each other, because now that I’m a mom, I’m different. I have new needs. We had to re-learn about who we were as individuals because of the mindset change, ultimately.
O: We try new things. We get outside of the box. A lot of the times we get caught up in dinner and a movie, so we’d get into things that make both of us uncomfortable, like Top Golf. That’s something that neither one of us are good at. But we go there, and it’s something new, it’s different, we’re laughing at each other, so we’re laughing with each other and helping each other. We were just looking at things like: what haven’t we done, and what will make us uncomfortable to where we have to work together?
O: Intimacy, for me, was always a struggle. For a long time, I didn’t understand what intimacy was. To me, intimacy was sex. Alyssa would always say, “You’re not being intimate enough.” One day I just broke down and was like, “What are you talking about? What “is” intimacy?” It kind of forced me to start researching. I started reading articles, getting into it, just trying to really understand what this intimacy was. It’s one of our strong suits now. It’s something that I check in with her about and make sure that she’s doing well, and I make sure that we are doing well, as a couple. I try to figure out how her day and week is going.
A: Kids are awesome, but the one thing that they do is amplify your problems. They amplify it times 100. So, it’s like, if you’re just sweeping things under the rug, the baby comes and the whole house blows up from all that dust under the rug.
O: Before the kids, we never had an “intimacy conversation.”
A: And if you’re talking about like, sex, the sex aspect before? We had great sex. Great sex all the time. We were like, humping monkeys all over the place. After having kids, it was just like, “Don’t touch me.”
O: That hurt me. I was like, “Damn, am I not turning my wife on?” I had to re-learn her body. From year, say, one to five [of our relationship], it was just us. There was nothing else. I thought I knew how to take care of her in that department. But once the baby came, everything changed. Her body totally changed.
A: I had one of those pregnancies where I followed the book of ‘101 ways to have a high-risk pregnancy.’ Sex didn’t feel good to me for, like, maybe even a year and a half after I had our last baby.
O: It took a while.
A: You don’t want to offend anyone, you don’t want to end up in a fight. You want it to be actually productive.
O: I would say most boys, when we’re growing up, our moms don’t teach us about intimacy. It’s something we have to learn along the way. I never had to learn it until I got married, after having kids.
A: I feel like everything started coming together at the same time. After we had our second baby, we moved in with friends. He went on to the road three months after that, and then we moved into our own place. That was the time where we realized that, hey, we needed to start working harder on our relationship. Three months after that is when we got it down pat. We made a conscious effort, we were really being continuous about it. Five months after our youngest daughter was born was we really grasped the concept of being mindful, being intentional, and having purposeful conversations.
O: It took effort on both of our parts. It took me wanting to really understand intimacy, and it took her, like, giving me cues. If you are used to doing something one way, you can’t just flip a switch and change overnight. You have to choose to help yourself to get out of normalcy.