Six weeks after I had given birth to my daughter, Raine, I was back at my OB for a post-natal checkup. “Have you resumed intimate contact with your husband?” she asked. I could only stare at her, bleary-eyed. Aside from recovering from the Caesarian operation, I was a milk station open 24/7; I had no nanny or fulltime maid; and though I was home-based, I still had to put out a monthly magazine. The only contact I was interested in happened when I handed over Raine when my husband arrived home, so I could get a few minutes in the bathroom. Alone.
An informal poll among my mommy friends shows that it isn’t just me. No one I know, after the arrival of their bundle of joy, is raring to get some nookie. The most orgasmic thing we can think of is sleep. Cue the moans of ecstasy at the thought of eight—even four will do—hours of uninterrupted Zzs (or I could just be hanging out with the wrong crowd).
This lack of libidinal interest is not without legit causes. Childbirth wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. The first few weeks (or months) hurt like hell. Be it a vaginal or Caesarian birth, tissues are bruised, swollen, torn or cut and sewn back together. Your joints feel loose; your muscles ache. Your cervix needs to close; your uterus returns to normal size; you have to wait for the messy postpartum bleeding to stop. Even after the prescribed healing time, there could still be pain and discomfort, be it backaches from carrying the baby or going-to-the-toilet issues. If you breastfeed, there’s the problems of painful, rock-hard breasts, mastitis and sore (even bitten) nipples.
Then there’s the sheer exhaustion to contend with. I asked my friend Liz how soon after giving birth did she feel like having sex, and she said, “When I wasn’t tired anymore.” Translation: never. Of course she meant it as a joke. But ask any mother. Tiredness is something we learn to live with. It’s like you can never catch up, from the last few uncomfortable, restless days of pregnancy to labor and right smack into round-the-clock care of your newborn, who eventually grows up into a whirlwind of a toddler. Any energy left over is usually channeled into something less racy, like getting out of bed and on with the rest of your life, perhaps.
And we haven’t even begun discussing the hormones! Hormones gone haywire after birth screws up any chances of getting any screws down. While the hormones do normalize after some time, breastfeeding women still have lower levels of estrogen, which can lead to lower sex drive. An acquaintance from this mommy/wifey mailing list I belong to says, “It sounds freaky but...breastfeeding sort of satisfies already, due to the stimulation on the nipples, which may result in a decreased need for actual sexual consummation.” I suppose it also has something to do with the oxytocin released when you feed—the same hormone present when you hit the Big O.
But aside from the oxytocin theory, I, for one, also had the problem of what experts refer to as being “touched out”. At the end of the baby-wearing-diaper-changing-baby-burping-breastfeeding day, I simply couldn’t stand being touched, much less fondled. It drove my husband nuts, my having porn-star boobs (one of the perks of breastfeeding) that he could only look at, but not touch. And sometimes I didn’t even want him to look.
On the other hand, not all men go wild at the sight or thought of luscious mammaries. Angela, another friend, said that one of the reasons she weaned her daughter earlier than planned was her husband’s confession. He just couldn’t look at her sexually while she was their daughter’s meal station. Other men also get turned off at the thought that a baby came out from down there, and yes, that there’s lots of room for expansion in daddy’s old playground. Some more sensitive men are traumatized at the thought that they were partly responsible for putting their wives through such agony.
Women, too, aren’t above libido-killing hang-ups. Some don’t want to have sex because they fear it will be too painful or aren’t at all keen on getting pregnant and giving birth again. Then of course, there’s the feeling of un-sexiness. It’s hard enough to stay in the mood when at the back of your mind you’re wondering if the baby will wake up, without compounding it with worries that, flat on your back, your torso looks like a huge, jiggly pudding with two nipples and a bellybutton. Not everyone is like Jessica Alba or Angelina Jolie, who seemed to have bounced back to pre-baby shape two days after they checked out of the hospital. I look at my jelly belly (which my daughter loves shaking) and my marshmallow thighs and I have to marvel that I can still command my husband’s—er—attention.
With all the factors stacked up against post-baby sex, it’s almost amazing that couples still manage to have more than one kid. But that all goes to show that yes, there is light at the end of the end of the celibate tunnel. It just takes a different set of strategies and a little more effort to pull off. Remember, a little creativity goes a long way. But here are some ideas to help ignite your passions.
Come clean (double entendre intended)
What you need: a bathroom with a door that locks; bath accessories optional.
What to do: With your baby finally down for a nap or your toddler zoning out in front of Sesame Street reruns, grab a towel, your hubby and race for the shower. The thought of making sneaky can sometimes get you hot and bothered real fast. If you know you have time, start out with giving each other a thorough soaping and move on from there. If time’s short, a steamy quickie under the shower can be satisfying (Or on top of the bathroom counter. Or sitting on a closed commode. Whatever works for you). The best thing about shower shenanigans is that all evidence is easily washed away. And in case you do get interrupted midway, at least you’re clean and fresh.
Go by the book
What you need: a manual-type book, such as the Position Sex Bible; a room where you can remain undisturbed; toys and props optional.
What to do: Go through the book and check which positions you’d like to try. Some may be silly or possible only if you’re a double-jointed yogi, but there’s bound to be something that will arouse your interest, among other things. The manual can help open you up to exciting things and get you out of a rut (or share a good laugh, at the very least). Some books provide a checklist so you can tick off all the positions you’ve accomplished. It’s also a boost to see that your favorite position not only has a name, but is something you can cross off the list (Wrapped Crab, anyone?). Caveat: keep your manual in a safe place, to make sure your kid doesn’t run into your dinner party, eager to show the book with pictures of “Mommies and Daddies playing horsey-horsey.”
What you need: at least 24 hours; a hotel or motel room, or a friend’s vacation house—anywhere you can be alone and indecent.
What to do: In the first half of your get-away, go to sleep, advices relationship expert and author Gary Chapman. Get that well-deserved recharging to keep you revved up for the hopefully sizzling next half. What happens next, as the ad goes, is up to you. Indulge in long, sensual foreplay. Light some candles and drink champagne in the tub. Try different positions in different places. Have fun and rediscover each other. While getting away may be logistically difficult, it’s worth the effort, if only to give you the chance to focus on yourself and each other.
Take a lover
What you need: anything goes.
What to do: Take your inspiration from that obscure movie Nina Takes a Lover. Laura San Giacomo plays a woman who starts an affair with a photographer while her husband is away, but it turns out (spoiler alert!) that the photographer is her husband, and they were just role-playing. Start small, if you’re weirded out by the idea: French maid and hotel guest, boss and secretary, Dodong and Inday (hey, if that floats your boat—I’ve heard of this rich guy who likes his partner to put on a daster before they do it in a nipa hut constructed somewhere in his huge garden). Friends of mine got their kicks by pretending to pick up each other in a bar. Role playing can reignite the initial thrills of when you first got together, or create a new adventure entirely. Just make sure that both of you are game, and that you agree on the rules, including limitations and a stop word, for when one of you isn’t enjoying it anymore.
What you need: cell phone, email, and other means of communications; your wild imagination.
What to do: So you can’t do the deed quite yet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about it. Send each other messages about the nasty things you’d like to do to each other. It’s a thrill maintaining proper decorum in front of other people while your inboxes are brimming with desire—possibly the adult equivalent of holding hands under the cafeteria table way back in high school. Just make sure that no one else intercepts your steamy correspondence, and that you don’t do it during company time or with company resources.
First published in HIPP Magazine.