I had my second baby four months ago, and my husband is champing at the bit to get back into regular sex again. I’m exhausted most of the time, still feel like a leaking milk machine and mostly don’t feel in the mood. Is this normal or should I be worrying? What should I do?
This is so normal! Your body has been through major changes and all your hormones are honing in on the needs of your baby, not your husband. Your body will also need convincing to want to expend energy on sex when you feel like it is in very short supply.
However, it is important that you and your husband stay united through this precious stage of your developing intimacy and family life. Husbands can feel pushed out and unsure of their role. He needs to feel close to you, and you need his love and support like never before. Tell him how much you love him and need him. Reach out to him emotionally and with touch, even when you haven’t got it in you to reach out sexually.
Some of the answer to getting your sex drive back at this stage is entirely practical. It can be a bit of a battle to feel good about your body and reclaim it as sexual, not just maternal. You need to believe this is important and want to reclaim this wonderful part of your marriage. Talk with your husband about what is making this difficult for you, and ask him to help you. Remember there are many different tones to making love, all of which can be enriching.
Help yourself to feel good about your body, even if your tummy resembles jelly more than it used to, and you can’t fit into your nice bras. When you are going to make love, think about what you can wear to help you feel sexy. Focus your mind on what turns you on, not on what makes you feel frumpy.
Be sure everything has healed up vaginally and isn’t sore. It should have done by now. If it hasn’t, make sure you get medical attention. Sex shouldn’t be painful.
Ask your husband to look after the children for a little while before you get some alone time together, so you can rest and look after yourself. Don’t leave your love life until the very end of the evening when you are at your most tired.
The answer is also psychological. Your image of your body will have changed following labour and breastfeeding. You need to not allow this to take over your identity. Get back in touch with the mysterious side of your sexuality and enjoy being seductive again. For some people, it helps to read romantic novels to reignite the imagination sexually. For others, it’s good to daydream of happy memories that turned you on and made you feel close.
For some, their labour was particularly traumatic, which can cause a psychological shut-down sexually. Trauma can make us freeze as a way of blocking the memory; we can subconsciously avoid triggers that reactivate the traumatic feelings. Sometimes we end up harbouring resentment against our partners for things we are angry with them about, and withholding sex is a passive-aggressive way of expressing that anger. Giving birth is an incredibly vulnerable time, and if you experienced your husband as letting you down in some way, this can create unresolved barriers.
You need to talk it through. Help him understand you. He has never given birth and will not know what you don’t explain. Also listen to his experience, because you have never been a father. You have never watched your lover go through intense contractions. If, after talking it through with him and your girlfriends, you still get overwhelming negative feelings from the birth, feel yourself shutting down inside, or feel tearful, anxious or heavy-hearted most of the time, then ask for some counselling.
Remember that this time will pass and is an exceptional stage. Pull together as a team. Keep reaching out to your husband in the same way you want him to reach out to you. Be kind to yourself and to him when things are not ideal, because if your hearts are facing in the right direction you will get back to a good place. There’s no hurry: you have the rest of your lives.