On my honeymoon, I was sure this hot romance of ours would never end. There would never be a time he wouldn’t look at me with desire, and never would there be a day where I’d go to bed unaffected by the touch of his fingers across my skin.
That day did come, and it didn’t take 10 years. In fact, it came very soon into our marriage. It started the day after our first child was born.
Seeing my Postpartum Body instead of Seeing the Beautiful, Strong Woman
Immediately after birth, I began to be targeted by my well-meaning friends: wanting to sell me wraps to shrink my waist, or fitness programs and shakes to quickly lose the baby belly, or creams to make the stretch marks go away. When looking in the mirror, all I could think of were those voices. I no longer recognized myself, or what I thought I knew of myself. I didn’t see the beauty in the figure before me. None of my clothes fit right, and I didn’t have the money to buy a new wardrobe for a temporary body. I was too tired to shave. My breasts leaked. My lower region bled on and off. I had better things to do than put on makeup. My hair was up in a bun. And, I constantly smelled like spit up.
My husband assured me that I was beautiful. He served me; he cherished me; he loved me. He did every loving thing a husband could do. And yet, in my weakness I gave into those voices. I didn’t feel beautiful. I didn’t feel sexy. And instead of wanting to be “visible in the moonlight” for my husband, I wanted to hide my body in darkness and sheets.
Viewing my Body as Practical over Sexy
For nine months, the focus for my body was solely on baby. Weight gain, meals, exercise, doctor appointments, activities, the position I slept in–EVERYTHING about my body was for baby. Even people’s interactions with me initiated around my baby, their eyes immediately drifting to my belly. After baby was born, I breastfed almost every two hours, stayed up late with a crying newborn, and sat in awkward positions that hurt my back–simply to make sure I didn’t move and wake my sleeping baby.
Slowly, I began to lose that feeling that I once had about my body and its attractiveness. Instead, I began to view my body as solely practical. My breasts were for feeding. My womb and everything that goes with it–for bringing a child into the world.
Viewing my Body as being Used over being Loved
I admit, sometimes I grew bitter at the freedom of my husband. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is an amazing father and was so selfless in serving me after a hard labor and recovery, but I was jealous that at any moment he could leave the house without worrying about when he had to get home, or if he brought a pump (or plan trips around outlets), or if baby got hungry with a caregiver and was out of breast milk, or if he got enough sleep to stay awake to nurse. He was free to come and go, but for a few months I would not have the choice but to bring my child (or pump) with me everywhere. I should see this as beautiful. I should.
Nighttime came, and baby finally went down to sleep. I collapsed into bed, almost straight into deep slumber, and as he would begin to caress me, or show signs of wanting more, I would shrink under his touch. One more person who needed my body. One more person who depended on it. One more person I must satisfy for them to find comfort and sleep. I craved the freedom to feel like I could control the needs of those around me, to shift those needs away from me at will.
Seeing Sex as a Chore: Being Tired and Overwhelmed
Along with feeling my body was ‘used’ by every member of my household, let’s admit it: Sex takes some physical exertion. By the end of the day, I felt drained. I was ready to quit breastfeeding. Done bending over to wipe poop off butts. Finished cleaning 18 bottles. Fed-up with spit-up. I just wanted to rest and relax. I was overwhelmed. I was tired.
Once I laid down in bed, I didn’t want to feel like I had one more requirement before sleep. I just wanted to see my bed as a place of rest.
Sex Feeling Different
At best, I didn’t feel anything pleasurable during the act. I can’t explain it. Never had I had this issue before child labor. I felt nothing more than pressure really. And, at worst, I felt a new pain that shot up through me. Sometimes, it even came from movement against the scar from the C-Section.
I wanted to avoid intimacy because I didn’t want to feel pain. I tensed up, undoubtedly making my pain worse. I knew my husband could feel me shrink from him. And how awful; how awful to touch your wife and get that reaction? My noticeable reaction caused the dual effect for me of physical pain and emotional guilt.
So What Now?
Although my husband and I are truly doing wonderful in all other aspects of our marriage, sex is something
we I still struggle with.
BUT I have hope that sex will come easier and that my view of sex after baby will grow healthier. As with all aspects of marriage, change takes time, patience, love, communication, and understanding. Each season will serve its purpose, and the tough seasons can bear beautiful fruit when tended to.
Some tips if this is you:
- Talk to your husband. REALLY, deeply, intentionally talk about it. Go on a date and tell him how you’re feeling and get to the ‘heart issue:’ Is it really that you’re just too tired? Or is there a deeper resentment during the day that leads to not wanting his touch? Talk about how you feel best pursued and loved, and how to best allow you to seek shelter in his touch rather than shrink away.
- Talk to your gynecologist. Perhaps it’s postpartum depression, or perhaps something more. Your gynecologist can refer you to the right person. Did you know that physical therapy can help condition those pelvic floor muscles back into shape after labor? Sure, it may be awkward at first, but it’s WELL worth it.
- Talk to a counselor. Although you may not think sex is a big enough issue to go to a counselor about, it CAN turn into one if ignored. Go to a counselor and talk about how you’re feeling. Bring your spouse too to support you, and work though any issues.
You’re not alone.