A child is born. He or she breathes and blinks and loves and eats and poops. He or she is a miracle. Things have changed and this is beautiful — above the waist. Below the waist, things are less beautiful. Mom is healing and dad is… thwarted. And that tends to be true for at least six weeks. The beginning of parenthood is, for many if not most, also the beginning of a sex drought.
Whether or not a dad handles the sex drought and the alone time it often mandates gracefully, may be determined in part by the degree to which he empathizes with his wife’s situation. So, in an effort to explain what precisely that situation is, we spoke to several mothers about the first weeks post-baby, their physical recoveries, and the return to sex.
Sex With a Partner Felt Like an Interruption
When you have your first baby, you have such an earth-shattering experience. There’s a lot of disorientation that happens in the beginning, but I will say this: The funny thing about the first six weeks is that they go by in an instant. Your time and attention and dedication is truly enveloped in this tiny person. It’s sort of all-encompassing. But it’s not like you lose your libido. You just kind of have to be fully on for this other little being. It’s not that you’re not thinking about sex, it’s just that it’s not the first thing on your mind.
And if we’re really going to get down to brass tacks, there’s a lot of scientific medical fluid-filled things that are going on. And you’re in pain. People don’t tell you that you basically have your period for three weeks. And you’re sitting on ice sometimes you’re healing with hemorrhoids and all of that stuff. The focus becomes truly on your boobs and the baby. Sex with your partner feels like an interruption. — Beth M., mother of two
It Was Easier After Our Second Child Than After Our First
With my first son, intimacy after birth wasn’t a priority. I had to have a C-section and recovery was pretty painful. Also, we lived at home with our parents, so there was very little privacy. I think we were so exhausted with the newborn that it was the last thing on our minds. It wasn’t until we moved out that we got more intimate with each other.
With my second son, I also had a c-section, but recovery wasn’t as difficult. We had been pretty intimate throughout the pregnancy so intercourse after I healed was something we both looked forward to. We enjoyed other forms of intimacy until we could have intercourse, which was exactly six weeks. It was exciting — but I was so afraid of getting pregnant that I didn’t enjoy it as much. I think I’m definitely more cautious of my body then I was before and it has changed how intimate we are now. We still find ways to be intimate without intercourse because of our work schedules and newborn along with two other children. — Rachel L., mother of three
“If I’m going to lie down I want to go to sleep.”
Physically, giving birth is painful and, for weeks after, it makes simple things like going to the bathroom painful too. Really. And I nursed both of my kids. You’ve got a baby on your boob most of the time. Your nipples are sore. You got milk running everywhere. Literally, the last thing on my mind for about two months was any kind of intimate touch.
I wasn’t able to shower as consistently as I would like to. It was just overwhelming. I was like, “If I’m going to lie down I want to go to sleep.” — Lisa V., mother of two
When You’re Ready to Have Sex Again, You Just Kind of Know It
I had two C-sections. That’s a really different recovery period than a vaginal birth. My vagina was fine, but I had just had major, major surgery. With my first kid, the doctor said we couldn’t have sex for six weeks. When I heard that, I was horrified, because I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to have sexual intercourse again. I was like, “That’s too soon!”
When I was pregnant, I had a very active sex drive. And then as soon as the baby was born, I had major surgery, I was nursing, I really didn’t have a sex drive. I didn’t care at all. I wasn’t having oral sex. Physically, you’re going through extreme experiences. There’s the terrible pain of a C-section, nursing can be painful at the beginning, and then you’re not sleeping. So, like, you’re nursing every two or three hours, and you’re not sleeping.
You don’t feel sexy and that’s not a negative. It’s a very intense, physical experience to nurse a baby, and it’s not sexual. When you’re ready to have sex again, you just kind of know it. For me, it was way after the six weeks, maybe two months after birth. But also, you know, your body has been through the ringer. It’s not like I wanted to have sex and I wasn’t allowed to. It’s just that it wasn’t even on my mind.
I’m a very sexual person who likes to have a lot of sex. It was the only time in my life when I did not have a sex drive. — Rachel S., Mother of Two
“It was hard to even think about it at all.”
It was pretty easy to deal with not having sex for six weeks. There was just so much going on that it was hard to even think about it at all. Plus, your hormones are all over the place, and thinking about anything but our baby was really hard for me. Trying other things to feel intimate didn’t cross my mind either.
Babies have this strange way to always keep you busy, so it wasn’t hard to push sex aside, while healing and soaking up all the newborn cuddles, though I’m sure it crossed my fiancé’s mind more than once. But I was thinking about it a lot with my first. As soon as the six weeks were up, I was ready to go. — Olivia A., Mother of Three