I wouldn’t know.
I’ll say this, it’s different. And by different I mean it ceases abruptly and absolutely for an indeterminate period of time.
It’s understandable, certainly, since your wife, whether she’s had a vaginal birth or a c-section, is feeling sore, distended, bloated, sleep-deprived – decidedly unsexy. Chances are so are you. At least sleep-deprived, anyway. It’s hard for either of you to get hot when the main topic of conversation is meconium, you’ve been up most of the night, your wife’s nipples are afflicted with fungal infection, and everywhere there lingers the slight sour stench of regurgitated breast milk.
But as time goes by, a gap begins to develop between the sexual needs and desires of the new mother and father. A thin crack that often widens as the weeks pass into a yawning gulf of frustration, resentment, and sheer unslaked randiness. As I wrote in ‘Who Loves Ya, Baby?‘: “The magic number generally bandied about is six weeks – six weeks after the birth and you’re back in the saddle again.”
Now, six weeks is a long time to go without sex. “Oh, come on,” some of our single readers are saying, “I go without sex sometimes for months.” Yes, but it’s different when you spend every night next to a naked woman whom you happen to find incredibly attractive. For one thing, your wife’s breasts have never looked better. So round, so firm, so fully packed. So immanently nibble-able. “Don’t touch my boobs,” she says as she slaps your hand away yet again. “Just a little squeeze.” “No.” “Just a…” “No.” “But I…” “NO.” Face it, dads, those beautiful breasts have been appropriated by a little wrinkled, toothless bald creature, and I don’t mean Hugh Hefner.
So you have to wait. But don’t think, as I did, that when those six weeks are up your sex life will resume anything like its prenatal normalcy. I realize that everyone has a different experience in this department, and that our situation was somewhat extreme, but it’s fair to say that it may take months before you’re having sex on a reasonably regular basis, and it’s during this period that the trouble often starts.
You believe, since you didn’t recently pass something roughly the size of a lemon through the end of your penis and didn’t have an obstetrician use a tool that looks remarkably like common garden shears to give you an episiotomy (“Hey, an appeaseotomy doesn’t sound so bad.” It is. I watched it. It’s bad. Very bad.), that once she’s green-lighted by her ob/gyn everything will be humpy-dory. A mother’s body is still healing, her nipples may be cracked and sore, unaccustomed hormones are coursing through her veins, she’s perpetually fatigued, perhaps self-conscious about that residual birth-weight.
Fathers, on the other hand, and not to put too fine a point on it, are horny. A typical exchange: You make obvious overtures, but your wife says something like: “But I’m dirty and I look terrible – let’s try to do it tomorrow.” To which you say: “You look great, honey, and I don’t mind if you’re a little dirty,” but what you’re thinking is: “I don’t care if you look like a bearded carnie and smell like a long-dead goat, let’s have sex now!” The gap is approaching canyon proportions.
Eight months. After the birth of our first son, we went eight months with only four attempts at intercourse, all unsuccessful. My wife simply found sex painful. Several trips to gynecologists were made, and every time they – Hungarian males all – told her that the problem was in her head. She’d come home muttering, “It’s not in my head, it’s in my goddamn vagina.”
Now, I don’t have to tell you that this was a trying time, in every sense of the word. I became increasingly frustrated, hurt, and yes, even angry. I felt that she wasn’t trying hard enough, and to a certain extent this was probably true. But then I could have done more to express my needs and desires, and to try to open a dialogue about viable alternatives.
Because as I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now, there is a lot more to sex than simple penetration. There is a whole panoply of extremely satisfying activities at your fingertips, and the long dry spell after childbirth is a great time to explore all of them (although cunnilingus is generally discouraged by doctors until at least a month or two after the baby is born). But for whatever reason, it seemed to be ‘all or nothing’ with us, when it should have been ‘everything but.’ Couples need to connect in any way possible during the often stressful period after the birth of a child, sexually and otherwise.
So here’s my advice to new moms and dads.
Dads: Be supportive, be loving, be gentle, be kind, be patient. Much more patient than I was, please. Your partner’s had a massive strain on her body and she’s got a lot on her mind, and the last thing she needs is you charging in with your boner bobbing, looking for a quickie. Take it slowly, and try to rekindle some romance rather than sexual passion. Do anything and everything you can to make her life easier – getting up with the baby to give her a couple extra hours of sleep is going to get you a lot more loving than, well, just about anything.
Moms: Throw your man a bone, for goodness’ sake. Even if you don’t mean it, say “Oh honey, I’d love to but I just don’t think I’m ready yet.” Just the impression that your wife wants to have sex – but can’t – goes a long way. And let’s face it, some oral sex or a hand-job is going to significantly improve his mood and help sustain your intimacy and sense of ‘togetherness.’ (And given the sparsity of your sexual encounters, it’s probably not going to take more than a minute or two anyway.)
For both parents: Ease slowly back into your sex lives, and don’t expect too much at the beginning. New mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding, often have issues with vaginal dryness, and there are two main forms of lubrication: commercial lubes and alcohol. Use both liberally. Talk openly and honestly about your needs and expectations – letting frustration and resentment simmer unspoken is simply asking for trouble. Sex (of any sort) after the baby is born is something you need to work at, but it’s work that’s not only potentially fun, it’s absolutely vital. So stop reading this, get off the stinking computer, and get to it, people.