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. 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.
Joshua Lisec and Judy Shaw weren’t exactly planning on their 9-month-old son Wesley, but before and since his arrival, they’ve taken on the task of being loving and awesome parents with ease. Joshua, who runs his own ghostwriting business, took Judy on as a coworker just before she gave birth, so the two work from home with their young baby. Things changed a lot between them — Judy says no one can prepare you for recovering after birth — and they had to come to the realization that there is no going back to what once was, there’s just a ‘new normal.’ Here, Joshua and Judy weigh in.
How did having a child affect your relationship initially?
Judy: So, we hadn’t really talked a whole lot about kids. It was something that we thought about a little, but Wesley was very much a surprise. Funny enough, before we found out that I was pregnant, we actually had this super in-depth conversation about what it would look like to have a kid. It turned out at the time I was five or six weeks pregnant and we had no idea.
The closer it got to the due date, Joshua talked to me about joining the business and quitting my job. At first I didn’t really think that was a good idea. I always found the idea of being a stay-at-home mom really repulsive. But I realized working from home is a lot different from just being a stay-at-home mom. Not only would I get to work from home and be with Wesley more, breastfeed on demand, and not have to pump every day, I could also help Joshua’s business — our business — earn more by working 10-15 hours a week.
Joshua: We do need longer work days. We go about 6 a.m to 6 p.m five days a week and then I work on Saturday mornings, but we switch off during the day. I’ll work on chapters for clients for four or five hours in the morning and then she’ll take over and do some administrative things, line-editing, and proofing around the afternoon, and then we switch back and switch back again.
Ju: But it means we both get to spend basically the whole day with Wesley. In the beginning, that was really nice. Because he would nurse all the time and fall asleep nursing, so I could sit on the sofa, hold him nursing with one arm, and type with the other. I can’t really do that anymore, but it was nice while it lasted.
How was pregnancy for you physically, and recovering after giving birth?
Ju: I had a pretty low-drama pregnancy. I was very healthy — no complications. I was working full time pretty much almost right up until I gave birth. Labor, for the most part, was pretty quick and uneventful until the very end, they noticed his heart rate was dropping, so I had to push him out super fast. He wasn’t breathing because the cord was wrapped around his neck. So, there were like, three hours there where we were all separated, and it was a little scary. After that, everything was fine. We had no complications and no health issues.
How were the first few weeks for you after childbirth?
Ju: That took a hell of a lot longer than anyone tells you. Nobody really talks about how incredibly difficult those first few weeks are. Not only has your body been through a freaking wreck, but your hormones and your emotions are going crazy and haywire. You’re also sleep deprived from labor and immediately going into more sleep deprived.
Jo: The transition for me was more-so like preparing my clients to let them know that I was going to have to make sure our conversations were more structured and scheduled out. Now, all client calls are on the schedule months in advance. I hired a few part-time employees to help with the administrative tasks, to keep the business rolling. That has cut into our profit margin a little bit but the trade-off is fantastic. When I work, it’s high-value task for clients and the time I take away with Wesley and Judy is high-value time where I’m not constantly distracted by work while other people keep the business running.
Ju: I remember thinking, ‘Oh, after about six weeks, I’ll have my six-week check-up, things will be back to normal.’ News flash: things don’t go back to normal. You just find a new normal. Physically, I was feeling better, but the adaptation to ‘find the new normal’? Let’s not kid people. That doesn’t happen for months. It was like, every few weeks something changed. Like he’s nursing differently or sleeping differently or he started crying randomly for no reason and eventually you get used to that inconsistency, but in the beginning, it’s like you’re just waiting for things to get consistent. It took me a long time to realize that the only constant is going to be inconsistency.
What did you do to get through it?
Ju: Joshua was on top of everything. He knew that the only thing that I could be responsible for was feeding Wesley and trying to get some sleep and rest and recover. He took care of everything. That was so important.
Joshua, did you feel prepared to jump in and take care of everything? To be that kind of dad?
Jo: For her entire pregnancy, there was only one moment where I was anxious — probably two to three days before Wesley popped out. We were on a walk and I was getting nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. There was one thing that helped me step up to the plate and be the husband and father that Judy claims I am. It was in that moment, that I felt that rush of anxiety, I said aloud ‘I voluntarily accept the responsibilities of fatherhood.’ That one sentence just changed everything for me.
At what point did you guys start prioritizing spending time with each other outside of work and parenting?
Ju: Pretty early on we decided that every Monday night, no matter what, we’d have date night. Wesley would just come with us. There’s a Whole Foods not too far from us. Joshua would strap Wesley to the baby carrier, and we’d go, eat and share a beer every Monday night. Now that he’s a little bit older, we’ve started switching it up and going to different restaurants that are a little more kid-friendly. On the weekends, once Wesley goes to bed, we put him in his crib, set up the baby monitor, and watch a movie together.
Jo: It’s important to Judy that she’s able to relax, kick back on the sofa, and watch tv. So when she wants that I’ll take Wesley, bounce him on a yoga ball while we watch tv together, so Judy gets one of the things she really misses — sitting down and chilling out on the couch with no needy paws grabbing at her breasts. For me, I love listening to podcasts. Whenever I’m doing chores, which is pretty much all the time, I just put in my earbuds and listen to my podcasts. That’s what I like to do. Both of these activities were from before our son came along. So those are two things we’ve managed to keep.
What about physical intimacy? How do you make time for each other and when did you guys start thinking about having sex again?
Ju: Physically, during labor, I tore a lot. It took me —
Jo: Eight weeks?
Ju: A long time to physically heal. We were told wait six weeks before sex. After our six week appointment, we tried, and —
Jo: It did not go well!
Ju: It did not go well. It was painful. And we kept trying a few times and it was still painful, so we ended up getting creative and doing other things that were still fun. We waited a couple more weeks and tried again and we had to go very slow. But, things did eventually start working better. I wouldn’t say that things, for me, felt normal. That took, oh gosh, what would you say, babe? Three or four months?
Jo: Yeah. At least.
Ju: As far as making time for it, I don’t know. It depends on the week. We certainly don’t do it as often as we used to. But basically we try to time it out right. There’s not much spontaneity anymore. It’s like ‘okay. are we going to try to have sex tonight? Is he asleep?’ I go to bed early, we make sure we have everything set up for the next morning and get it done and go to sleep. And sometimes, like last night, we’re halfway through and Wesley wakes up. But most of the time we get him back to sleep and we can resume.
You just don’t have the reality to have it be like when it was just you two.
Judy: Yeah, we’re continually learning and making adjustments.