Reading the title of this blog post you may have wondered what the heck I was going to write- sexuality after childbirth seems like a paradoxical phrase, does it even exist?!
As a sexuality educator, over the years I have had countless conversations –both with individuals and with couples – about sexuality postpartum. Some of these conversations took place weeks after the baby was born; other years later.
Most of these encounters started out as questions about difficulties couples were experiencing. What came up in all these conversations was the feeling of bewilderment. People didn’t know what was normal; what to expect; when to ask for help; what help was available and where to seek it out. They were nervous about turning to the internet, as they weren’t sure how to find trustworthy information or were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data online.
I also came to realize that many couples were shocked at how having a baby changed their very sexuality. I speak here not just about having sex – that change is somewhat expected, though many couples are still thrown by just how complicated it can get. Rather, I speak of everything surrounding sex, from body image to ingrained, and often unconscious, beliefs about whether a parent can be sexy, to the changes in a new parent’s lifestyle and relationship dynamic.
The changes in sexuality after the birth of a child are multilayered. Knowing what to expect, and recognizing that certain changes are natural – even expected – can be a huge relief.
The changes after giving birth can be categorized in several ways. In this blog series I will break it down in this order:
Before we set off on this journey, it’s important for me to reframe the way we think of change in general, as well as how it relates to our sexuality. Change is a constant of life and is the force that moves us forward, pushing us to grow, evolve and discover greater depths in our experience, life and being. Change may be difficult; may catch us unawares; might even require a period of mourning the past. Nonetheless, it is the impetus of growth and development.
The birth of a child is always a huge change, upending all givens. The transition can be difficult. It might mean saying goodbye to things we enjoyed and loved, such as quiet evenings as a couple, or our pre-baby body. However, I truly believe, and have seen time and again, that sexuality after childbirth can be even more amazing than it was before. The journey it invites us to embark upon brings us face to face with our vulnerabilities, biases, values and inner needs. The path will probably not be simple, but turning towards it with softness and curiosity will make it easier.