Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sex and the Sippy

If you hadn't already guessed from the title, this post is about sex. If you are TMI-phobic or my parents, proceed with caution.
Sex after baby. No other words are quite as fraught with emotional and physical agitation when it comes to birthing tiny humans. Except, perhaps, "birth" itself. Of course, for birth, there's the Birth Plan, which (one hopes) helps shape a discussion on the subject among the parents and the care provider. Ideally, a birth plan is an opportunity to address some of the inconsistencies between what you want to happen and the realities of your particular situation. There is nothing like this for post-birth sex, and I say, why the fuck not?

I didn't have a capital-B, capital-P Birth Plan. Looking back, I probably should have had one. A lot of things came up during Westley's birth that I hadn't thought about. And there were things I wanted that, had I been able to articulate them beforehand, might actually gone more smoothly. At the time, however, I decided that birth plans were uncool and unnecessary, and that by making one, I was setting myself up for disappointment. So I decided I would do my best to push the baby out of my vagina in my apartment, and that was my "plan." Fortunately, it turned out basically like that, so I didn't end up needing a more formal Birth Plan. But I definitely needed a Sex Plan.

In my mind, I had the post-birth sex issue all sorted out. I'd heard about couples not having sex for months after their babies were born, and while that didn't sound like me and my relationship, I was prepared for the possibility that it might happen. That I would feel "touched out" at the end of the day. That I would be too tired for sex after caring for a baby all day and all night. That--and this was the one I was really worried about--engorged, milky breasts and a flabby belly would be a major turn-off for both Rob and me. I had made peace with the idea that sex would be off my radar for a while. I hadn't even considered opposite situation.

You're supposed to wait six weeks after giving birth before you have sex. You know how long I waited? Nine days. Westley was barely a week old, and I was sore and still bleeding for fuck's sake! But I wanted to be an adult again, in the "adult bookstore" sense of the word. I wanted to be sexual to balance out all of the birthing and soothing and nourishing. My own desire caught me totally off-guard. I was expecting to watch helplessly as my sexuality was swallowed up by the Earth Mother I would suddenly become when the baby's swaddled body replaced Rob's head on my chest. But part of being an Earth Mother is doing the thing that made you a mother in the first place.

It wasn't just a psychological desire, either. I wanted the physicality. I wanted to feel more than eight pounds of weight on top of me. And I was ready. Well, mostly. (It went a little something like this: "Ow, ow, ow-ow-ow, okay, careful, ow, there--no, over--okay, don't stop. That's...yeah, that's--ow! No, no, it's okay...," and so on. Very hot.) It felt like I had been ripped open and hurriedly pasted back together. Everything seemed asymmetrical and weird. I got up feeling unsatisfied and embarrassed. New mothers aren't supposed to be horny, I thought.

Since then, it's gotten better. Except for some scar tissue that doesn't stretch along with everything around it, and the belly that, when I lie on my side, lies next to me like a mound of bread dough, the physical stuff is finally back to normal. In fact, I think I'm actually a little more sensitive now. But you know how they say the most important sex organ is the one between your ears? I'm finding that's the one I have to stroke extra hard these days. Getting my mental mojo fired up now that I have a child is not easy.

Part of this is a problem I will admit to having created myself: Westley sleeps in his crib like a champ, but he's still in our bed a lot of the time. I generally think of our bed as a place to do adult things, like sleeping in on Saturday mornings and having farting contests under the covers. Oh, and fun things involving nudity and friction. So right from the start, I didn't really want to co-sleep. But when Westley wakes up in the morning and starts singing his sleepy little blues number, it's impossible not to scoop him up, carry him across the hall, and plop him down in bed between us. He's so sweet, and so little, and if he nurses back to sleep, I can go back to sleep too and aww yeah! Co-sleeping rules!

This was perfect for a while, but now that Westley is walking and climbing everywhere, early-morning cuddle time seems to have paved the way for all-day-long playing-in-Mommy-and-Daddy's-bed hang-out time. Which means that even when he's not in bed with us, the remnants of my day with him are there. It's really hard to stay focused on all of the awesome sex you're about to have when you fall onto the bed, throw the covers aside and there's a sippy cup leaking day-old soy milk onto the sheets. Or you're pressed up close together and sweaty, and you move your hand towards something sensitive, and before it gets there it settles on a recently-lost pacifier. The other night, I told Rob, "I love our son, but I'm taking his birth announcement poster out of our bedroom."

Because despite wanting to do it well before the six-week green light, I find it extremely difficult to feel sexual while being reminded that I'm a mother. It's not that I think mothers can't be sexy. On the contrary, in fact. I feel much sexier now that I'm a mother, dough-belly and all. For one thing, there's the previously-mentioned increased sensitivity. And for another, having a child and choosing to stay home with him full-time forced me to come to terms with the part of me that really, really likes being in adults-only situations, and saying and thinking and doing adults-only things. The work of motherhood can sever our ties to our sexpot-ness, if we let it. I mean, there is nothing sexy about cutting broccoli up into teeny-weeny toddler-bite-sized pieces. There is nothing sexy about Raffi (to me, anyway. I like men with beards and guitars and all, but no).

I'm beginning to suspect that this is part of what parents mean when they say they're "too tired" for sex. Obviously, there really are the days--or weeks, depending on what developmental stage you're performing on--of just being too bloody tired, when you've been on your feet all day, eating what you can grab, barely having a chance to pee. Some of that "tired," though, has got to be the kid-colored mental hurdles we have to jump over just to get--and more importantly, stay--turned on. And if you don't know what I'm talking about it, you've never missed your orgasm because you couldn't get "The Wheels on the Bus" out of your head.

So it's 18 months too late at this point, but I'm creating a post-birth Sex Plan. This will not be an oral plan, either; I'm writing this thing down, for real (though an "oral" section might not be a bad idea). Unlike my no-plan Birth Plan, I'm giving the Sex Plan some serious thought, and I'm including all of the important things: preferences for music and lighting, ideas for positions at different stages, breathing exercises to make it less painful, guidelines photography and videotaping, and who I want in the room with me. (That would be you, babe.)

All I'm missing is a cure for a mental "Wheels on the Bus" loop.



hoppytoddle said...

Very honest & appreciated post. Again, you have articulated what I could not. For me, it's a Laurie Berkner loop.

Candace said...

It took me 6 months to get my mojo back after Emma, and once I did I never want it to go away again. I miss sex the way it was though, you know the drunk and dirty kind! Now I have to stop my mind from thinking of my boobs as tribal feed bags, and my stomach as an old man face! Any suggestions there?

Maggie May said...

I love this's just all so true. I was surprised too, after becoming a mom, that I was still horny! A lot! Now my husband I have three and sex is still a huge part of our relationship. Your sex plan sounds rad. Let us know how it works out ;)