We’re back with another round of “Mom Talk”, where we invite some incredible mothers, from all walks of life to share their personal experiences and journeys through motherhood, whether it be struggles, triumphs, or anything in-between—nothing’s off limits when it comes to topics. This week, Martina Aiko talks every nerve, emotion, and question she experienced diving back into sex with her partner post-baby. -JKM
Picture this: you’re lying in bed with your partner, wearing nothing but a nursing bra in case your nipples start to leak. Your partner is wearing even less. You have—maybe earlier that day, maybe yesterday—decided that today, right now, you are going to have sex. And, there’s a very real part of you that is absolutely terrified. It’s your first time having sex postpartum; your first time since your vagina was stretched and torn in ways you didn’t know imaginable; your first time since the ring of fire. Perhaps, it’s your first time since your body underwent major surgery to bring your baby earth-side. Maybe it’s your first time since both.
You could be braver than I am (it’s not hard), but I was petrified. I had both of my babies vaginally, so I am completely unaware of the healing process post-caesarean. I can tell you, however, that the thought of anything coming near my vagina during the first few weeks after birth made me want to paint a “closed forever” sign on my nether regions. The general care of a newborn in it’s first weeks of life left little time or energy to think about anything else anyway. But, as my body healed and I found my new rhythm as a mother, I realized that I wanted to have sex again. I wanted that intimacy back.
I had waited for the six-week checkup, so I knew that medically, we had nothing to worry about. But, I had no idea what to expect otherwise. Would it be painful? Enjoyable? Would my husband still find it pleasurable? Would he still like my postpartum body? What if the baby cried? Worse, what if she heard us and it scarred her for life? I also secretly thought what if my vagina stayed stretched, and I wasn’t able to feel my husband? What if he felt like he was having sex with a tunnel? Every single one of those thoughts crossed my mind. But, you know what? It was fine. Not good, yet, but fine. I did say “slower” and “be careful” more often than could be considered remotely sexy. And, I did absolutely ask my husband if he’d cut his fingernails before I let him anywhere near that region. In the end, though, we did it; and save some mild discomfort, it wasn’t so different from before. My husband also assures me I’m not alone in thinking this. Amid the tension, there were moments of genuine pleasure. We didn’t wake the baby, so we don’t have to worry about saving for future therapy. It was, mercifully, just fine.
Since then, things have gotten better—a lot better. Like, a lot—without wanting to brag about it—better. But, after having two children, it’s definitely not the way it was before. For example, we can’t spontaneously have sex in the middle of the day anymore, unless it’s nap time. Even then, we have to be really quiet lest we awake the babes. My nipples have, at one time, sprayed milk everywhere, and thank goodness for a man with a sense of humor. And, yes, there have been nights when we’ve been getting jiggy with it and one child or another has woken up screaming. Beyond the logistics of sex as parents, there’s the obvious fact that I’m not how I was before. I’m bigger still, and I’m covered in stretch marks that weren’t there before. I’m more tired than ever, and more likely to fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow than to wait for my husband to get back from walking the dog for our pre-planned late-night session. Even if we do manage to have sex, there’s the very real likelihood that my breasts will become excited and squirt milk in my husband’s face.
But, herein lies the magic of postpartum sex: It may not be as sexy as it was before, but it’s brought me closer to my husband than any of our pre-kid action ever could. When I was puffy and bloated and terrified of our first time after birth, he showed up. He listened to my fears, and he asked me a thousand times if I was okay. He made sure it was just fine. Since then, he continues to show up. He ignores my nursing bra, my stretch marks, and the extra few pounds I’m still packing. After our first baby, he ignored all of these things enough to give us another baby, and continues to ignore them now, after our second birth.
The woman he shows up for now isn’t the same woman he fell in love with. I don’t go dancing every weekend anymore. I probably wouldn’t fit into most of the clothes I wore then, either. I spend most of my life covered in spit up or smeared in our toddler’s lunch, but still he shows up and wants to have sex with me.
I’ve learned a lot of things since becoming a mother, but I never imagined that sex would be one of my biggest teachers. Yes, postpartum sex can be scary, especially in the beginning. It is often more hilarious—and even embarrassing—than sexy. But, it showed me a strength in my relationship that I didn’t know existed. It showed me how deep our love runs. And, in its shining moments, it’s actually pretty damn good.
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