No matter how ready you think you are, nothing can quite prepare you for the changes that come after you have a baby; from watching your body grow and change in ways that have both delighted you and/or freaked you out, to the harsh realities of a birth that differed from your expectations. Maybe you’re feeling a euphoric, never-felt-like-this-before kind of love, or maybe you’re feeling a little disconnected and uncertain about this new little person who relies on you for everything.
Once you go home and the flowers and visitors stop arriving, you’re thrown into a new kind of normal. A life that is totally different to what you once knew. There’s more shitty nappies and vomit than you ever thought possible and maybe your baby is up every hour with colic, or maybe you’ve hit the newborn jackpot and they sleep soundly all night long.
But if there’s one thing that takes a lot of conscious work, it’s navigating the new normalcy in your intimate relationship with your partner and for many of us, that includes sex. Maybe it’s all you’re thinking about or maybe it’s the furthest thing from your mind, but at some point, it’s going to be a point of discussion.
The first time I had sex after giving birth, I was a bundle of nerves. We only waited around four weeks post-birth, but my body felt ready and those lustful feelings had started to surface again. But I was nervous and I think he was too. There were so many thoughts running through my mind: Would it hurt? Would I still enjoy it? Would it feel totally different for both of us? Would my breasts start to leak and turn us both off?
If there’s one thing that takes a lot of conscious work, it’s navigating the new normalcy in your intimate relationship with your partner and for many of us, that includes sex.
While all of those what-if’s swirled through my mind, none of it even came close to how I felt about my new body. Once my belly was gone, I was SO aware of all the other bits that had changed – and grown – in the nine months of pregnancy. Wider hips and bigger thighs that had once been overshadowed by my swollen middle suddenly felt gigantic. My breasts were not only bigger than my own head, but they were constantly heavy and full and were now more about feeding my baby than anything sexual. My stomach was soft and squishy and when I moved, it jiggled and rolled around like a half-set jelly mould.
So we took our time, turned off the lights (at my request) and made love for the first time as parents. While it wasn’t the best sex of our lives, it was the kind of intimacy that we’d both been missing and it felt like it connected us again in a way that only we could do for each other. Prioritising sex has always been important in our relationship, but I’d be lying if I said things hadn’t changed. The thing I found most challenging, particularly in the first year, was switching off from ‘mum mode’ and into ‘wife mode.’ I’d spent all day goo-cooing and gah-gahing with my baby, pureeing vegetables, doing tummy time, scheduling naps and wiping up the endless stream of vomit from my reflux baby that when it came to winding down, all I wanted to do was shower and sleep. It’s REALLY hard to shift gears and want to participate in anything more than REM – the sleep cycle, not the band – in those early weeks and months.
As time went on and the years flew by, we’re now in a place that feels more like it used to than ever before. Our kids are both older and more self-sufficient. They’re both at school, can feed and shower themselves and (hooray!) wipe their bums unassisted. By 8pm, they’re in their beds and my husband and I are able to indulge in our own space, where there’s adequate time to wind down from parent mode and into just ‘us’ mode. And it feels really good.
Parenting website, The Healthy Mummy, recently undertook a survey of 3,144 Aussie mums and asked them about their sex lives and the results were interesting. Of all the women surveyed, over half of them (56%) found their partners to have a higher sex drive than themselves, with 25% admitting to wanting sex more than their partners.
66% of mums surveyed said they had sex throughout their entire pregnancy.
When it comes to sex after babies, 33% of the surveyed group revealed that they were too tired to have sex, with 25% saying their low confidence levels in their bodies made them less interested in sex after birth. 10% of women said that they were unable to have sex because their children were in the bed, and 4% said they weren’t having sex because they found their partners “annoying.”
When researching how often mums had sex, the results were really interesting. Just 16% of mums admitted to having sex more than ten times per month, whereas 25% were doing it two to three times in a month. 21% had sex 4-5 times a month and 15% had sex just once a month.
Of the women surveyed, a whopping 66% felt more confident in the bedroom after losing weight. 47% favoured having sex with the lights off, 36% preferred dim lighting and only 16% felt confident having sex with the lights on.
There’s no doubt that having children changes our lives in so many ways; our priorities, our lifestyles and our relationships. The thing is, intimacy will look different for every couple at different stages of their relationships and finding your groove again after kids can be tricky – but it’s definitely worth it.
Has your sex life changed a lot since having kids?