Motherhood is transformative. I’ve personally known the full force of this since the birth of my first child. In SO many ways, it’s beautifully transformative. But… in lots of ugly, unpleasant ways too.
My husband once said to me, very naively but honestly, “if having a baby affects our sex life, I think that might be a deal breaker for me”.
He wasn’t being curt, threatening or abrasive. He just said it, so gently and honestly. He thought the marriage wouldn’t survive, and he’d be out, if we didn’t have sex that often.
I can’t remember if we were trying to conceive or if I was already pregnant, but I replied to him, “you can’t have a baby and it NOT affect your sex life at first. That happens to everyone”.
Being naive myself, at the time I thought such effect would mean sex less often for the first 6-12 months, not getting much alone time as a couple, and often being too exhausted to feel into it.
I thought ‘that’s fine, we could handle that’. Our relationship would handle that.
But then, the reality of becoming a mother and the impact that had on our relationship slapped that smug idiocy right off my face.
The ugly truths are just that. Ugly, messy, and so damn hard to navigate. In many ways motherhood was transformative, and not just in the nice ways.
If you’re not picking up where I’m going with this, and you’re thinking to yourself ‘our sex life has never been better’, then reading on might not be worth your time.
If you’re suddenly curious, uncomfortable, triggered, or feel like your sex life is anything other than ‘as good as it was before’- then you too probably have something sitting heavy around this topic.
I’m a mother, a Midwife, a pregnancy and motherhood writer, my friends are mothers… my entire world revolves around women in the throws of their own transformations.
I know for a fact that a vast amount of relationships suffer in this time because of sex.
But I’m not just talking about sex – or lack of.
I’m talking about how it feels to be a woman that is giving every last physical and emotional inch of herself, so thinly spread across all her responsibilities, everyone else’s needs, and that’s before sex is even in the equation.
Touched out in every sense of the word.
I’m talking about the guilt women feel when they just aren’t that into it – yet another heavy burden to carry.
I’m talking about the physical changes that our body goes through in having a baby… sometimes there’s ongoing long term pain, sometimes it all just feels – different.
Not to mention the massive hormonal changes so we can lactate, our oestrogen plummeting, wiping out any whisper of a sex drive. Also not conducive to a lubricated, comfortable vagina.
Throw in returning to menstruation, or perhaps not because, again, hormones.
The emotional impact that can’t be quantified – loss of sense of self, loss of your sexuality/feeling like a young sexual woman, God even feeling sexy at all.
Feeling like you’re letting your husband down. Feeling like you’re just giving another piece of you if you do have sex. Worrying ‘will he leave me?’ ‘Will he turn to someone else?’ ‘How long can he be understanding and patient for?’
Wondering if you will ever get a bit of that woman back again, will you ever have a sex drive again?
Feeling broken. Exhausted. Embarrassed. Lost.
The impact of becoming a mother on sex, self and relationship, for many women, can completely throw them. It’s not something that’s spoken about often. We’re taught to wait to return to sex until 6 weeks postpartum, use lots of lube, take it slow. But women are let down by omission. No one tells you about what the next 6 months, 12 months, several years may bring for your relationship.
And then there’s husbands’ side of it. Often a simplified reasoning of ‘you’re not attracted to me anymore’. His ego salt to the wound – the raw, messy entanglement of your psyche and physical being, brought on by motherhood, reduced to such an explanation. Simple and blind, yet confirmation that his emotional well-being is being hurt by this too. More guilt and burden for you to carry.
Where do you go from here? Do you just give it time, and more time, and hope things get better? Meanwhile hoping your marriage doesn’t crumble first.
Do you make yourself have sex when you don’t want to, when you’re exhausted, when you have no desire, in an attempt to preserve the relationship?
Some relationships can withstand all of this. Some couples are quite ok with infrequent or even no sex. What’s infrequent to some might be frequent to others! A good sex life isn’t the determining factor of a good marriage, but a lot of the time it’s a large part of it.
So what happens when you find yourself in the depths of all this darkness feeling broken?
I could try to throw out ideas, but I’d really be clutching at straws. Because I don’t know. Marriage counselling? Sex therapy? Alternative therapies for energy healing and hormonal balancing?
I don’t know. I’m far from an expert when it comes to fixing sex life and relationships. This post is ultimately for solidarity. To say you’re not the only one Mama. You are not broken. This isn’t forever. The same things you’re feeling and experiencing happens to so many other mothers too. That I know for sure.
Motherhood and marriage are clunky. Beautiful, messy, ugly. Be kind to you Mama. Don’t let the voice in your head tell you you are anything other than resilient, tough, and a damn good wife and mother.
Resources for emotional well-being and support:
- For anonymous immediate support – PANDA Hotline 1300 726 306 (Mon-Fri 9am-7:30pm AEST)
- Visit your GP for a Mental Health Care Plan to access free/rebated psychology
- SpiltMilk Psychology spiltmilkpsych.com
- How To Heal A Bad Birth (Book)
- BirthTalk (Birth trauma support) www.birthtalk.org
- BeyondBlue Mental Health Checklist (Postnatal Depression Screening Tool) https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/maternal-mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-checklist-for-mums