Yes, I'm going to do it (pun intended).
I'm going to talk about the thing that we don't really talk about - unless you're a bunch of moms diving into glasses of beer and wine, while experiencing several hours of kid-free bliss at a local high-end establishment (as I may have been doing the other evening).
Then you talk about it.
IT......SEX. (Disclaimer: this post contains scenes of nudity and coarse language. Reader discretion is advised.)
Sex is one thing that expectant parents want to know more about, but is a subject that is hard to broach with family, friends and healthcare providers.
Oh sure, there's plenty of information out there. All of your pregnancy books will talk about sex during pregnancy and postpartum, and you can read anything you want on popular baby websites.
But the reality is usually quite different, and as with any issue/topic, you can be treading muddied waters. No woman (or man) is the same, and experiences differ widely.
I thought a lot about how to write on this topic - should I make bullet points? List some of the myths associated with pregnancy and sex? Write about my own experience (ummm....TMI)? Then I thought about a top 10 list...."top 10 things you might not know about sex." But I think we all know those.
For instance, I'm sure you're well aware that a man's penis cannot "bump" into your baby's head while having sex during pregnancy. And your baby cannot "feel" you having sex. And from my post the other week, you know that orgasm during childbirth is rare (and perhaps a myth). And you probably realize that you won't be jumping right back into the sack after pushing out your baby.
But what is "normal"? What kinds of things might happen to you, and what kinds of things will you experience?
To answer this question, I always like to consult Season 4 of Sex and the City. Because, you know, Sex and the City is just like real life....really. We all have oodles of money to spend on fancy restaurants and posh New York night clubs. And we all live in really awesome apartments in the Big Apple. Come on, I can dream though, can't I?
The reason I like Miranda's experience in pregnancy is that the show's producers stick to pretty "normal" issues - Miranda puking on the phone while talking to Carrie; Miranda farting up a stinky storm in a shoe store; Miranda so horny that she'll sleep with father/ex-lover Steve; and Miranda feeling lost in the postpartum period, as she struggles with sleep deprivation, loss of non-mommy friends, and a pretty dry sex life.
So to add to this list, let's create some additional fictional episodes of Sex and the City, featuring a pregnant (or postpartum) Miranda - I know I've also committed blasphemy by not remaining true to the story, as Steve is not really supposed to be living with Miranda. Please don't write me emails trying to educate me on how Season 4 really went :)
These are all issues that women, at one time or another, have dealt with. And I've probably missed plenty of them, so feel free to add.
Contrary to the real Sex and the City episode, this time, Miranda is pregnant and does not want to have sex. She has no desire, whatsoever. She is big, bloated, and can't even see her toes, let alone her vagina. So no sex here Steve-o, sorry!!
The girls meet at their local spot, and Miranda worries about the state of her vagina, post-baby. She experienced a 2nd degree tear, and wonders if it will ever be the same "down there" again. The episode ends positively, with Miranda braving a peek with a mirror, and discovering it pretty much looks the same - minus the stitches, swelling and bleeding (kidding! It totally goes back to normal....I promise....although you may experience more of those unpleasant "queefs" than you did pre-pregnancy, a.k.a farts out of your vagina)
Miranda has decided to bed-share with little Brady, and Steve makes the mistake of disagreeing with her. He thinks it will "ruin" their sex lives. Miranda points out that, first of all, she has no interest in having sex at the moment. And second of all, if Steve is so disingenuous that he can't think of some alternate places to make love, than maybe he's not such a great lover after all.
Miranda and Steve decide to try to have sex 6 weeks after the birth, only to realize that Miranda's birth canal has turned into the Arabian desert - dry, dry, dry. They must use an entire bottle of lubricant just to get things going, which quickly evaporates within the place-where-no-wet-things-live.
Miranda worries about birth control. Her period comes back much earlier than she thought it would (while breastfeeding) and she knows her body will soon be back into baby-making shape. But this is not good - ohhhhh no, definitely not good. No babies, ever again (or so she thinks). So, a birth control conversation takes place amongst the girls. Condoms are out - much too sore for a dry girl. The pill is out - no hormones while breastfeeding! The IUD is expensive.....but, maybe she could try Taking Charge of Your Fertility, the wildly popular new do-it-yourself gynaecological bible (seriously, read it. It's good!)
Miranda and Steve quickly realize that they won't be having sex after the typical "6 week postpartum" rule. It may be more like a "6 year postpartum" rule. Miranda feels pressured to have sex, and Steve feels put out that Miranda isn't ready when the pregnancy books say she will be. In fact, after the first year postpartum, they count that they have had sex only 4 times. That's averaging 0.3 times per month.
Episode 7 - the happy ending
Miranda and Steve finally have a successful "coming together" and Miranda discovers that not only is her body back to normal, but sex is better than it ever was before! Samantha is very jealous, and considers having a child herself.
See? Everything always ends happily.....on TV. But in real life, it might not. Severe tearing, crappy suturing jobs, and infections can make for a not-so-good sex life. Things sometimes get a little tight down there if you've been sewn up. If this is the case, I suggest you consult a knowledgeable physiotherapist about getting your "flexibility" back. Here's a great one in Ottawa: Heather Grewar
Babies take up a lot of physical space. They suck away at you (literally) for most hours of the day, and the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is hop into your lacy panties and put on Marvin Gaye's "Get It On." Some women struggle with sexual desire even when their babies grow up into toddlers. My advice to you would be to recall situations/memories when you easily experienced sexual desires, and try to recreate them. Most women begin to drool over the sight of a clean kitchen, folded laundry and washed floors....hubbies, take note!!
In addition to physical issues, feelings and emotions can also play a role in postpartum sex. Both Mom and Dad can feel traumatized by their birth experience. Some men who are unprepared for childbirth (and who may have specific fears relating to blood etc.) can experience significant trauma related to his witnessing of the birth. Women may feel disappointed or angry if the birth didn't go as planned. These issues should most definitely be dealt with, especially if you want to maintain a strong relationship with your partner for years to come. A good counsellor can go a long way in helping you both work through various challenges.
Ladies (and men), do not despair. If your sex life was great before baby, it can still be great post-baby. If you give yourself time, and if your hubby is willing to give you time (sans guilt trip), then it can make your first tries quite fun - almost like being a virgin again!
But remember, both of you are responsible for making your sex life work. And if you don't want it to work, well, that's another kettle of fish.
Reporting from between the bed sheets, I'm Misty Pratt.