Megan and Alex Ippoliti have been married for 14 years and have a lot of kids. Six, in fact. Ages 3 to 13. As one might imagine, they are very busy people. Megan works as a stay-at-home mom and home-schools her children, and Alex is a U.S. Air Force veteran and a personal trainer. Their hours are crammed with kids, work, and chores, but they remarkably still find time to prioritize their relationship and sex life through small rituals and weekly date nights. Here, Alex and Megan talk about their pregnancies, how kids affected their relationship, how they keep their marriage healthy, and why they live and die for management apps.
Megan: I found that the first two births were probably the most difficult, because I had let a lot of other people take control of those births and pregnancies. When I realized that I had to take control and become knowledgeable about the whole process of birth, and after birth, the other four were fantastic. My body did really well, actually. It wasn’t until probably the sixth baby, who was breech and was breech all the way to the end, so I had my first c-section.
Recovery was similar. I definitely had some type of postpartum depression. I could tell, especially in the beginning, but I didn’t recognize it until after my fourth baby, that I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to go over to places, I panicked to take the baby out. I realized that something was wrong. I suffered from postpartum after each baby for about a year, actually. And then it got better and better because I would acknowledge it, and I’d have to talk my way through it. That helped a lot.
Alex: It was helpful to understand more what Megan was going through. I wasn’t always the model understanding, gentle husband. It was really easy to get frustrated when I wanted to have people over, or when I wanted us to go out and do things, and she was just really not feeling like it but couldn’t express why or what was limiting her. As we developed that understanding together, that was really helpful for both of us to get more experience with her recovery, and it brought our relationship together.
A: Over the long run, we got much closer going through her postpartum and pregnancies. It didn’t feel like it at the time, you know? It had to though. It really had to. As a husband, sitting in the delivery room, feeling powerless and like you’re just an observer [was tough]. As Megan was learning about herself and how she can be in control of the breathing process, and really be the actor in birth and not just a patient, I was learning, and she was helping me to learn how I could support her and advocate for her when she was most vulnerable. That translated to after birth, feeling more empowered to run the house, take care of the kids, to not just be totally reliant on her. I was able to give her the time she needed to heal, and the space.
A: It sounds really busy with six kids, right? It’s funny. We really try to find a balance between helping our kids be independent and still understanding that they rely on us, and that we can’t just expect a 6-year-old to take care of themselves. We still have to be parents. We really try to help them, as it is appropriate for their age, to take responsibility for themselves. That translates into a little more time and space for us to go get additional training or education or just to spend time together. One of the nice things about having so many kids is that, now the oldest, at 13, can babysit the others. We can leave him for a short time when we’re still in the neighborhood and then we also have family that lives close by, so we’re able to occasionally ask them for help, too.
Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents talk frankly about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their relationship.
M: We try to make at least one day a week for going out and doing something together, and we really try to connect probably almost every morning. We go over our calendar, we ask each other what we have going on. We try to make sure we are always on the same page on what’s going in on our home and how it’s running. We connect and check in with one another and we talk about the kids. We try to constantly be in communication on what’s going on with the house and each other.
A: It’s going to sound kind of funny, but we use a couple of apps, like Trello, for example. We use some project management and budgeting apps to make sure that we are communicating with each other, and we kept track of what all we had going on.
Even if we don’t get the opportunity to go out of the house, we still make sure we’re deliberate about finding time during the week to just check in and talk about the work for the family and we make sure we get time throughout the month to go out. We also try not to get into a rut, do the same thing, and go to the same restaurant. We really try to do different things. It’s actually on a Trello card — all of our date ideas. A huge part of going out on dates is getting a chance to learn more about each other by getting into a different situation where one or the other of us isn’t exactly comfortable. You just learn so much about each other that way.
A: I definitely think there has been a lot of learning and a lot of maturing in our relationship. We’ve been together for 15 years, married for 14. We married pretty young, right out of college. As our situation changed — we moved a lot with my job — there’d really be these periods where we’d get into a slump that might be kind of ugly for a few months.
A: There’d be a lot of conflict, a lot of bickering. Not a strong sense of intimacy. But through that time, and because we would recognize it, a couple of times we even got counseling, or we’d just talk together and learn how to talk to each other through those times. We really learned how we needed to communicate with each other and how we needed to be mature ourselves to actually take care of everything and still have fun. We’re pretty organized, for sure, but we’re trying to enjoy being together. Sometimes, we’ll plan to not talk about the kids, projects, or to-do lists for two hours if we go on dates, we’re just going to enjoy the hike we’re going on.
A: When we were first married, sex was just something that you just do. You’re married and it’s great and you don’t think about it! But it’s the same thing as the date night, right? After more than a decade of being together, this is going to sound negative, but it’s like, if you just do the same thing every night then you’re going to get bored after a while. There’s no intimacy to it. Over time, we’ve really tried to make sure that we are expressing intimacy physically, so that it’s not just sex, but it’s also time we spend together. We set aside time in the evening. We don’t put it on a calendar book or anything, but we’ll make sure the kids are in bed, we tell them not to knock on the door, and then we spend time together to set the mood. Spend time talking. Waring up to physical intimacy so that we don’t just dive in and get it over with.
It’s easy to just focus on the act and not everything around it. And then you’re really losing a lot, and you’re losing a lot of opportunities to get to know each other.
M: It was a learning curve. It took a lot of talking. Being intimate. We have different ways of communicating what we want and need. He may communicate completely differently than me, but I need to know his communication style. We need to know how to hear each other. Listening is really important. Not being judgmental. Just listening.
A: We had to understand that if you’re asking for something different or describing something you want to do with them, that’s not a critique of each other. Understanding that took a lot of time.
M: That was the most difficult thing for me. That he wasn’t critiquing me, and he wasn’t asking me to do something I didn’t want to do, but here’s what he was thinking. Being openminded to that, and then saying, I’m comfortable or not, or I’m willing later — having that communication and keeping it open, not just shutting it down, is important.