Let's Talk About Birth, Baby

***Disclaimer: This post may not be suitable for (my) parents (in-law or otherwise) or grandparents. Please read at your own risk, oh family of mine. ***



In my Yummy Mummy post, I received an interesting comment by an anonymous reader, concerned that I admitted "sex is not the same after a vaginal birth." She went on to say that after four vaginal births she felt like sex was better for her:

"What did Archer do to your va-jay-jay?

I've given vaginal birth three times more than you have and one of those times to a massive newborn. Yes, sex isn't the same after my three vaginal births, it's better.

How is it worse for you?"

I'm obviously glad to hear that sex is even better for her after childbirth but let me quickly clear the air before I get all TMI on your asses. Sex has not become "worse" since childbirth. Nothing is more annoying than having words minced, especially when they're on public display. I did say that sex is "not the same" after a vaginal birth. For me. And I presume, for other women as well.

So I figured now was as good a time as any to host a forum on the subject of sex after vaginal birth.

There is a chapter in my book called "Sex Isn't for Pussies.... It's for Vaginas" so this is a subject I have not only thought about in tedium but wrote about at length.

I understand why women opt for Caesareans. I also understand why some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding for similar reasons: Our bodies are sexual up until the time they are perfunctory and that can be incredibly confusing. And to make matters worse, woman are punished for being public with their discomfort on the subject. In other words, we're not supposed to be weirded-out by humanity's most natural act(s). Sex leads to childbirth after all and childbearing women are expected to return to their sexual selves six-weeks postpartum.

When I was pregnant and even long before, my biggest fear of growing up, getting married, becoming a mother, had to with the effects of childbirth on my body, specifically my girly bits. I was scared shitless that what was once sexual would become perfunctory and thus, lose it's mojo. That no one would want to have sex with me ever again or worse, that I would be unable to see myself sexually after childbirth. That things would stretch. That crazy, dirty sex would no longer be as crazy or dirty. That I would feel different.

And even though I opted for a vaginal birth, even after complications with my pregnancy, a part of me was quietly hoping for a C-Section. Because a baby out the vagina is a very hard pill to swallow for some women. It was for me.

I couldn't breastfeed for longer than six-weeks and for those weeks I pumped until I bled. I had four ducts that worked after two breast-reductions and I hated it. I hated breastfeeding but I have a feeling that had I been able to breastfeed, I would have had a hard time with it anyway. Because even though I haven't had sexual feeling in my breasts since I was an 8th grader, I have always perceived my breasts as sexual. I was unable to change that after giving birth. I tried to flick the switch but couldn't. Just like I couldn't find the switch during labor when the doctor offered me a mirror to watch my baby crown. I didn't want to see what it looked like to have a baby coming out of there. It was not "beautiful" to me. It was frightening. Horrifying, even.

For me, pregnancy and childbirth caused what I call a "sexistential crisis" personally defined as the psychological changes that occur when a woman who has always thought of her body as a sexual thing, is suddenly expected to step into a new skin, with a new set of instincts, momentarily dismissing years of formulated inclinations, mainly of the sexual persuasion.

And a lot of "sex feels different after vaginal birth" has to do with that. It also quite frankly has to do with the fact that sex did and still does feel physically "different." (Ahem: Items in overhead bins can and may shift during landing.)

I was given an episiotomy after one push. My doctor told me I would rip if he didn't perform the procedure so I gave him the "okay". But the incision he made was so large, I barely had to push twice before Archer came out.

"You're young," he said, "You'll heal quickly."

But I didn't.

I was uncomfortable for a year, itchy from scar-tissue and often in pain after sex. Certain sexual positions were off limits because of discomfort. And new positions that I never cared for before, took their place.

Fortunately my fears of becoming a hallway (as in hot dog down a hallway) were put to rest. The vagina is a muscle that doesn't suddenly become wizard's sleevesque after childbirth and if a woman learns anything in the locker room, it's that kegels are a girl's best friend. But a woman's inner workings are far more complex. Bits and pieces move and change and flexing our inner "muscles" doesn't change the fact that things can feel different up in there. During sex. After sex. Riding the bike at the gym...

Our bodies are meant to handle childbirth. Our bodies are built for breastfeeding. And women are supposed to be comfortable with these things. We're supposed to look at ourselves like "mama goddesses" or "earth mamas" but it's not that easy for some women. It wasn't that easy for me.

I have always felt that I was in the minority for feeling this way, like there was something wrong with me for being lie-awake-at-night afraid for my sexuality after childbirth. That my discomfort with viewing my body as anything other than sexual was something that made me immature, misogynistic, or worst of all, unmotherly.

And it made me wonder how many other women felt or feel this way. How many mothers who delivered naturally were afraid of sacrificing their "pussies" via a vaginal birth? How many new mothers are going through the same sexistential crisis, and worst of all, have no one to comfortably discuss it with?

And so for the good of honest-empowerment, I have questions for you, most insightful of readers:

1. How did you as a childbearing woman separate your sexual self from your baby making self?

2. Does sex feels different for you after vaginal birth? How so?

3. Do you have more sexual hang-ups after a vaginal birth? Less sexual hang-ups? Why do you think this is?

4. How do you perceive your bodies now that you have given birth and how has that perception changed your sex life if at all?

5. What about women who haven't given birth? Do you struggle with the same fears or not at all?

If you feel uncomfortable leaving your name, please feel free to comment anonymously. Thank you in advance for being respectful and supportive of your fellow ladies.

GGC

And speaking of vaginal birth (or not) my husband's TV show, Deserving Design (Hal story produces) debuts tonight on HGTV. Check it out!

60 comments:

Wendy | 5:29 PM

Maybe I am in the minority, but I had 2 c-sections and I have yet to recover my sexuality. I haven't had an orgasm in 5 years, which is how old my daughter is. We are doing the same things, I am with the same man (who use to rock my world, BTW) and I am left wondering what the hell happened. Did it roll under bed and I just haven't looked? I have been told by my therapist that I am blocking something. No, I ain't blocking nothing, something has shifted and we haven't found it yet. So don't spread the myth that just women who have had vaginal births are left with different working vaginas. C-sections are for pussies and they still mess up vaginas. LOL!!

I breastfed, too, and during that time they were off limits during sex. It was too weird for my husband to have any sexual contact with them and then think my baby would need to feed after. Even now I shudder when I think of it. I know there are women out there where their breasts are just as sexual while breastfeeding as they were before, but I am not one of them. During that time they were meant to feed my baby and that is what they did. Call me whatever you want, but it is what worked for me and considering they are attached to my body I get to make those decisions.

Nice to see you rocking the blog world, again.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:35 PM

See? I had no idea that could happen from a C-section. This is why we gotta talk about this stuff! Definitely don't want to spread any myths so thank you for that information and for your insight and honesty.

I have a feeling you aren't in the minority at all.

Anonymous | 5:42 PM

two words:

perineal massage.

not only does it always end up with a good fuck guaranteed when you're pregnant and horny, it really does wonders in the end. No episiotomy here, and hardly any tearing.

cerebralmum | 5:56 PM

1. I guess I was one of those "mama goddess" types because pregnancy heightened my awareness of my sexual self. Pregnancy rocked and I rocked it. I was single though, so I wonder how much that had to do with the hormones running through me like an IV drip of recreational drugs, and how much it was psychological.

Being "available", (theoretically if not logistically) that pattern - fall in love: get married: have kids: the end - wasn't hanging over me like an ominous cloud.

2. Does sex feel different? Hmmm, I have no idea. :) 11 mths on I still have other priorities in my life than getting laid. My body seems ok with that. I don't feel like I'm missing out and if I ever do, I can always call up that guitarist friend of mine...

Physically, I don't think it will be any different. In fact, I had an internal tear during the delivery which needed to be stitched up so if anything, it feels a little more snug and tidy down there.

3. I think I probably have less hang-ups. The boundaries of future sexual relationships are clearly defined and that is liberating. The interests of my son are paramount. I don't have to worry and wonder "what does this mean?". I get to set all the limits and if anyone wants to be a part of my life with my son, they're going to have to prove it first. Nobody gets to test drive with my son in the car.

4. My body...hmm. There were always some good bits and some bits that needed fine tuning. Now, a few of those bits have switched sides, better and worse, but my overall perception hasn't changed.

What? Oh... changed my sex life? Now if I can just find that guitarist's phone number...

:)

Unfit Mother | 6:38 PM

Other than noticing that my southern womanly parts are aligned a little differently since the vaginal birth of my oldest daughter, I can’t remark on many changes to my sex life post partum. (Well, unless you count the more creative albeit less frequents attempt at.) The more surprising sexual / mother change came about from breastfeeding.

Once, aboard a ferry from Belgium across the channel to the White Cliffs of Dover, a 65-year-old man tried to rape me. I was 12 and was interjected on a vacation in place of my father because my parents were at the beginning of their own difficult journey towards divorce. My mother, relieved to have someone else substitute the parenting role, placed my in the custody of the tour guide who offered to show me around the boat.

Thanks to the concerned bus driver who interrupted his pedophilic attempt to inflict far worse damage in the belly of that ship, the tour guide still managed to lure me into equally esteem crushing activities. “Let me feel your heart beating”, he baited me into second base.

For years after I couldn’t stand even a loose fitting shirt brushing against my breasts. I felt much more comfortable in binding sports bras that held my breasts protectively against my chest. Lovers caused such revulsion when they touched my breasts that I could never enjoy nipple stimulation. In an attempt to reclaim my body, I tattooed one breast and latter pierced the nipple.

After my first daughter was born, I overcame a huge psychological hurdle to breastfeed her. The previous nipple piercing caused a little trouble, but nothing compared to the nauseating dread each time she attached and suckled nourishment.

I stuck with it and now find confidence in my body’s ability to do something naturally intended. The constant assault on my breasts from nursing twins for two years has replaced the hand ringing anxiety that used to interrupt sexual encounters. I still don’t quite find it enjoyable, more like the formality of a handshake, but I consider that healing.

Anonymous | 6:41 PM

1. I also was one of those rocking goddess pregnant women. I LOVED it, and felt completely full and sexual and horny and alove (a typo I will keep, although I meant "alive") and gorgeous while I was preggers. I was really ready to be pregnant and was excited to give birth the all-natural way, no drugs, vaginally and with my own power, which I did and rocked it. I have never ever been more proud of anything in my entire life. I went into labor becasue my midwife said I was almost ready, and should go home and have lots of sex to get things rolling. We did it all day and I went into labor that night. I had a water birth (had been planning on that since I did a paper on it in college) and had only a small tear and a very few stitches.

2. Sex feels different because of exhaustion more than anything else. Chasing around a very high-maintenance one-year old will certainly dampen the sex drive. As far as FEELING different, I think you're right about the baggage shifting (Ha! Great image, GGC) and it being slightly different, but not really bad. I can still get a rockin' orgasm these days as long as I'm in the mood.

3. I think I have more of the self-image issues now that my breastfeeding boobs are saggier and I have a little more weight around the middle, and that can cause sex hang-ups for me. It makes me feel less crazy and beautiful and uninhibited, because I am aware of the body stuff. That kinda sucks.

4. See above.

All that being said, I think the choice to do whatever the hell you need to do with your pregnanacy, birth and breastfeeding decisions is one of the most important and amazing things about being a strong, free, rockin' goddess woman. Ain't nobody should be bringing you down because of the choices you made for yourselves. We have to do what feels right to us, and hopefully we can remain sexual, gorgeous, and motherly all at once. Sometimes therapy needs to be involved, but hey, why not? Therapy is always good.

Sorry for the long post, but thanks for hosting, GGC.

PunditMom | 6:56 PM

I wish I could answer these questions. I longed for the chance (even with my ambivalent and fearful moments) to carry a child and give birth. But my body didn't cooperate. I'm still a mom, but by adoption. And I must say that while my "sexistential" crisis is not a physical one, it is still there. Mommyhood, however one comes by it, creates changes in the bedroom (or whereever).

screaming girl | 7:11 PM

Every labor is different - even for the same woman with different children. I am happy to say that my second delivery was so easy, I wasn't even sure it happened. So, while there have not been a lot of things going on with my body to make sex different, there is a lot of stuff going on with my mind. Mainly, that even with birth control, I am totally scared that I am going to get pregnant again. My two children were planned, but I was an unplanned child and I have this fear that will be returned to me. I have a hard time abandoning that fear during sex now. And, I am so glad that you raised the subject of not being able to let go of the sexual nature of your body parts throughout pregnancy. I made the choice not to breast feed (back off everyone who is thinking bad thoughts about me right now!) in part for that reason. I just could not see my breats as a feeding tool. Also, I felt that having my body hijacked for 9+ months was more than enough. I wanted control back.

The Mommy | 7:17 PM

1. I don't know that I have separated the two. I was never afraid of birth or breastfeeding, it was completely natural to me. I don't like being pregnant and I'm not "empowered" by it, but it does feel like something my body was meant to do. The problem I have is getting my groove back after baby. My first is 4.5 and I haven't had much of a sex drive since. I blame exhaustion on much of it.

2. The biggest change is the need for lube. Never needed that before my first was born. Just an extra step that takes away from spontaneity and romance.

3. My hang up is not related to the birth but to the breastfeeding. The thought of my husband kissing the same breasts both my son and daughter have sucked on makes me shudder. My hope is that once I know there will never be another baby latched to me again I will be able to see them as sexual again.

4. In some ways I am more confident. I can still rock the same the clothes I did before having my first baby and look just about as good. In that respect I'm even more confident. On the other hand, the baby scars (stretch marks) on my waist line and the drooping of my breasts after I finish nursing are a constant reminder that things will never be the same. Thank God for good bras.

Anonymous | 7:21 PM

these comments scare the shit out of me. i never want to have kids now.

Sharon | 7:37 PM

I had the hardest time thinking of myself as a sexual woman. I breastfed for a year, and I don't think I ever let my then-hubby touch my breasts that whole year. I remember wearing a bra during sex because I was afraid of leaking...well, that's what I said, at least. I was really afraid that these food-making miracles will somehow lose their magical properties if they became 'fun bags' again. After I stopped nursing, I found that I was still unable to turn off that mothering switch and go back to being just me.

I've since moved on to another relationship, one with a man who has somehow managed to make me feel like both a woman and and mother. With him I feel no inhibitions - when we're together, my body is mine, without that pull of motherhood. I don't have that feeling that my breasts are somehow being tainted, that my body is being desecrated by all of this dirty, dirty fun.

I'm still not sure if it's being with someone whom I'm more compatible with, or if it's that I've finally grown into my new skin. Maybe it's a whole lot of both. Either way, my sex life is a hell of a lot better now. I love my body, imperfections and all. I've worked hard to get back in shape, but it's not the same. And, I don't really mind. I know that this body is strong and capable of doing amazing things. That alone is pretty damn sexy.

clueless but hopeful mama | 7:44 PM

1. I found it really hard to be sexual while I was pregnant. Too tired. Too freaked out. Too many body issues as I got huge-r and HUGE-R. Once I had my daughter, I was so wrapped up in her that it was months and months before I felt like having sex at all. I nursed her till she was 14 months and my sexual self didn't really, truly come back until I weaned her. I wanted to nurse her and loved the bond it created but I was so excited to have my boobs back once we were through. Too bad they're smaller AND saggier.
2. My daughter was sunny side up and a big girl. So I tore fairly badly. I had some major scar tissue and saw an AWESOME physical therapist who specializes in this area and she worked internally (on the va-jay-jay, the two car garage, the hallway, whatever you want to call it). It was painful and a wee bit embarrassing but after a few sessions I was able to have sex without pain. Plus, my kegels got so much better and so, therefore, did my orgasms. If anyone out there is having pain during intercourse, peeing their pants or has a lot of scar tissue, get yourself to a women's health physical therapist, PRONTO.
3. I had the hardest time having my husband, *ahem* "pay attention" to my southern bits after he saw me push out our daughter. It took about a year for me to get back to just enjoying myself. I mean, he saw me SPLIT OPEN. How could he possibly erase that image from his mind? How could I? It just took time for me.
4. My poor body after birth? It is lumpier and saggier and more tired. I have less time and energy to put into it's upkeep and general primping. But my husband still digs me and I find myself almost able to forget that my stomach is saggy or that my boobs aren't what they used to be. I do have more sex with the lights off than I used to, though.

You rock for this post, BTW.

Jennifer | 7:45 PM

GGC - I'm a long time reader and a first time commenter. Thank you thank you on bringing up a subject which NEEDS to be discussed. I had a very similar sexistential crisis, and I'm so loving that term.
1 - It was very hard and took over a year for me to separate myself as a child bearing milk producing animal and remember I was a sexual being.
2 - Sex does feel different. At first it really bothered me that it wasn't the same. But you just have to work to find the new triggers - so to speak. Things seemed to have moved, and I've never been good with anatomy, so I'm not sure what exactly. Also, my nipples used to be my ticket to paradise. Not so much after nursing two, and not for that long. They've lost their sensation, and for that I am sad.
3 - I did have more sexual hang-ups. I was so proud of my body while pregnant, but for some reason, post pregnancy I was not confident. Not sexual. I felt my husband could not be turned on by me. It was all in my head.
4 - I had to get over the mentality that I was no longer a sexual being. I am. We are. I had to talk to my husband openly and honestly, and I was raised in a family where this type of thing just wasn't really discussed. I do think though i've never really loved my body, so post pregnancy stretching and whatnot gave me an excuse to continue that. I think the hangups in the perception of our bodies are mostly in our own heads. And I need to work on it, and am.

Anywho, I could go on forever, but I won't. I can't wait for your book. You are a gifted writer.

Christina | 8:06 PM

I had a c-section with my first, and our sex life came back pretty quickly. It didn't feel different at all.

Then I was set on having a VBAC with my second, and I did it. I was scared of having my vagina ripped up, but I also felt it was the "right" thing to do, since it is best for a baby to be born that way if possible.

However, I had a third degree tear, and four months later, I'm still a mess down there. Sex is impossible - we've managed to have sex twice, along with several attempts that didn't happen due to the incredible pain. The successful attempts were painful, too - there was nothing enjoyable, but I felt like we needed to keep trying, and maybe it'll get better with time? Nothing feels the same anymore.

My doctor said everything is healing just as it should, and practically dismissed my concerns over pain. Guess I'm on my own trying to figure out how to make sex comfortable again. (forget pleasurable - I'll settle for comfortable!)

Mentally, I don't think I had many hangups about being a mom now and therefore less of a sexual creature, but the physical complications are starting to affect me. Feeling that scar tissue makes me afraid of sex. I'm not a sexual being at all right now - I just feel empty.

And I struggle with my feelings about the VBAC. I think it was a better choice for Mira, but had I known what it was going to do to my vagina, I think I might have opted for the repeat c-section. And the "earth mama" in me just cried for admitting that.

Anonymous | 8:08 PM

If these comments are very scary to you, then you just ren't ready to be preggers and have children yet. Someday that may change. It can be a while until someone is ready to face all of this and still truly want and be ready for motherhood. It's a whole new world, no doubt, but as for scaring the shit out of someone that probably just means immaturity. And I don't mean that in a negative way, just matter-of-fact.

Keep rocking, GGC. And all the brave commenters, you are amazing.

Fairly Odd Mother | 8:19 PM

I've had three kids in under four years; the first was an emergency c-section and the next two were VBACs (vaginal). All three were amazing and hard and wonderful and yucky, and all had different recovery issues and affects on my sexuality.

That said, I don't think any of the affects were negative per se. No, we don't have sex as much as we did before kids, but it has nothing to do with childbirth---it has to do with schedules and need for sleep and kids in our bed. I breastfed each child for a long time, and I sometimes didn't like my husband to touch my nipples b/c they were too sensitive, but that passed. I think breastfeeding made me feel like my breasts (which are teeny tiny) are actually very powerful and amazing, and I kind of now can understand why my husband thinks they are great too.

I agree with the Kegel comment though----I did them more to keep myself for spontaneously peeing on myself every other hour, but they are important for sex too.

I saw a show (Sunset Tan?) where a hugely pregnant woman was getting a spray tan b/c she wanted to 'look hot' for her birth. I do not get that at all. I think it is ok to 'hang up' your sexuality and focus on other aspects of your womanhood at times---like when I'm kissing a boo-boo, reading to my daughter, or---most definitely--in labor and pushing a child out of my vagina!

And, with that, I will remain un-anonymous. . .

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 8:34 PM

I just wanted to say that I am so glad for your responses. I wish we could all speak more candidly about these issues and help support one another. I feel like just from reading your words I better understand you, myself and have so much more respect for my fellow mothers and women.

Christina? Your comment broke my heart. I am sending you the most healing thoughts for as swift a recovery as possible and sex that is not only comfortable but pleasurable as well. I don't think you're on your own at all and hopefully a reader or two will have some life experience to share with you and a happy ending to her experience. Once again, my thoughts are with you. Hugs your way and hugs to everyone else.

Thank you, again and keep your comments coming!

The Mommy | 9:13 PM

Christina -

Take a close look at what's going on down there and force your doctor to do the same. After a few visits with my OB and her telling me everything was normal I discovered a pollop. It was in the location where I tore and developed during the healing process. I went in and they snipped it off. After that healed, sex was finally comfortable again. Eventually it even became pleasurable. Thankfully, with my second, I haven't had any complications but I was absolutely terrified to have sex the first time post-partum based on my first experience.

Good luck!

Megan | 9:23 PM

Uh oh, long, honest comment ahoy!

1. I don't think I was ready/made to have kids, but somehow I ended up the mother of twins. I just had to go with it, since there was not much I could do about maintaining my girlish figure. I wasn't allowed to exercise. I ended up gaining a bunch of weight and stretching out in several different directions. Sex was fine until about month 3 and then I was big and difficult and anxious and exhausted. I did, however, love the fact that I could have orgasms in my sleep, an ability I didn't have before pregnancy and haven't had since - that was cool. Mostly I just didn't think of my self as sexual, not because I felt motherly, but because it was difficult to move and wasn't worth the hassle.

After I had kids, my boobs looked great and I felt like a 50s movie star. I breast-fed for 7 months, but up until about 10 months after the kids' birth, neither me nor my partner were interested in the sexiness of my breasts.

2. I had a C-section but sex does feel different. Deep penetration, now takes a lot of working up to, and I don't feel as snug and happy as I was before. The baggage definitely shifted.

3. Can't think of any pregnancy-related/affected hang-ups...I had body issues before I was pregnant and I still do.

4. I hate my body now and I worry that I'm being selfish/self-centered, etc. The stretch marks themselves are no big deal, but my former B-cups are now a saggy-ass 'D', and not a nice 'D' either. I want them gone. My stomach skin (and fat) has not yet shrunk back so when I'm having sex, it tends to flap around and I can't keep from thinking about it. I feel better if I'm wearing something that's covering it, but I long for the day that I can be naked with my partner and not feel gross.

But, and it's a big BUT, even if I known what would happen to my body before I got pregnant, I still wouldn't trade the experience of being a mom for my old body back.

And for you...Thanks for your honesty, I love reading your stuff. I only wish I could be as lovely...

foodiemama | 9:38 PM

1.it came pretty naturally for me...like exactly one in the same though cause there never was a divide or seperation. things fell naturally.

2. no...i healed quickly despite my lil ones giant noggin. not sure what that says about the ol hooha but whatevs.

3.i've never had any hang ups. truth be told at just about 30 and w/a 3 yr old i feel sexier than ever. maybe its age and a certain comfortableness in my skin but having a baby and becoming a mother put me at a very relaxed and hang up free spot. i think age and happiness kept things the same.


4.i went from 110 lbs pre baby to 208 while pregnant. it took a year post baby to burn it off. i have stretch marks and some weird extra skin but oddly for me and like before i really think for me it is getting older that i have never been more comfortable in my skin and that loaded up a lot of that 20's having to be perfect and sucking it in time.

motherhood has changed me. made me more relaxed and at ease. took away the insecurities and body image hang-ups. i've become a kind of fuck it, whatever mom. i've got a kick ass family and a good life so i am going to live it not worrying.
did sex decline for a bit? sure but we got there again and its just as great.

lauren | 9:38 PM

1. How did you as a childbearing woman separate your sexual self from your baby making self?

I don’t know that I did. During my pregnancy I was all about some sex, I’m talkin’ 24/7. After my son was born it was a different story. I didn’t want to think about it, let alone DO it. My body was no longer my own; my breasts leaked, my belly was stretchy and loose, I felt gross. It took a long time (more than a year) before I could see myself as a sexual being again.

2. Does sex feels different for you after vaginal birth? How so?

I had a 2nd degree tear, stitches, etc. and I have scar tissue now. We regularly have to use lubrication or sex is not enjoyable at all. Same thing concerning positions - there are only 2 that are comfortable now.

3. Do you have more sexual hang-ups after a vaginal birth? Less sexual hang-ups? Why do you think this is?

More hang-ups by far. Possibly related to the depression I’ve experienced since my son was born, which is all wrapped up in weight gain, body image issues and so on.

4. How do you perceive your bodies now that you have given birth and how has that perception changed your sex life if at all?

I’m less happy with my body now than I was before and during pregnancy. More often than not I don’t feel pretty or sexy or cute, especially when I’m naked. When I look at myself now I kind of wonder what happened. I know that some things will never be the same - stretch marks and stuff, and mostly I’m too lazy to work on the things that can be changed. However I don’t think this has changed my sex life as much as our regular schedules have. My husband works during the day and I work at night so we don’t see each other that often. A lot of the time we end up snuggling and sleeping rather than having sex.

I think that the thing that has kept me sane (sort of) is being able to talk to my husband about all of this. If I had to deal with this alone I’d probably explode.

mammacheryl | 3:23 AM

After an incredible sex-filled first pregnancy (we were newlyweds), I had my son, and sex hasn't been the same since.

Something happened when the nurse put in my catheter after my epidural was in place. Excruciating pain in my clitoris, and those nerve endings have never recovered completely. Now when stimulated, I get more of a pain sensation than a pleasure sensation. That's a real bummer.

The other issue is the shifting baggage, but also it feels like the interior of my vaj has changed, like there's bumps and ripples and ridges where there weren't before, and it doesn't really feel good, even with a lot of lube.

As far as hangups from labor are concerned... having my husband in the room while I was pushing... Well. He was there to witness me crapping my ass out as I pushed out our son. Absolutely horrifying in retrospect. He didn't make an issue out of it, but I still feel a lot of shame and humiliation from the event. I'm having our second kid in a couple of months, and I'm requesting an enema as soon as I get to the hospital. I'd rather have a minor humiliation early on in the process than ruin that ultimate moment of empowerment and intimacy with the icky presence of feces.

After our son was born... we waited the recommended six weeks to resume our sex life, but I wish we had waited longer. I was always too tired to really work out modified positions that would make it feel better, so the overall experience was disappointing. Months later, big-ohs were still hard to attain, but possible with a lot of determination and the right astrological alignment. :0

I think a lot of my hangups after birth were also caused by being so newly married. We're moderately kinky people, but I had this idea that sex should always be sacred and soul-baring now that I had a husband. It wasn't until I became large, uncomfortable and nearly on bedrest with my second pregnancy that I decided that I had to loosen up my "terms" about sex again. So now, I let myself fantasize about other situations, people, etc., and I bring all that passion to bed with me, and we both benefit greatly from it.

This pregnancy has turned me off of any future pregnancies, I've been so uncomfortable. And I haven't had a big-oh at all, but sometimes sex can feel good, but I usually regret it later with all the pain afterwards. I'm 30 weeks now and on pelvic rest because of all the pain down there, so even though I have times when I start feeling sexy and "ready", I can't really do much about it.

Christine | 5:48 AM

I had absolutely no libido after giving birth, which ended up being a combination of my untreated post pardum depression and my hormone imbalance.

The hormone levels in some women bounce back right away, or simply have very little effect on them sexually. For some of us, it is a MUCH slower process (mine was about three years, with another pregnancy thrown in the middle for good measure).

I found a GREAT obgyn who talked to me and worked with me at length during those years. He was very encouraging, and we both saw my goal as being "WANTING AND GETTING ORGASM AGAIN!!"

I reached it. Not only did I reach that point again, but I'm at a new place sexually than I have EVER been. I've read over and over again that women reach their sexual peak in their 30's. With all the issues I had, I figured that would be something that OTHER women would experience.

Oh, how wrong I was. I think part of it may be the age, but I also think it has to do with just becoming more and more acquainted and comfortable with our bodies. Childbirth got me WAY in touch with my lower half. While in the beginning, that left me in a lurch ... in the end ... after a great amount of patience and more learning and more exploring and determination ...

Dang. Sex is very different now, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm no longer a cheerleader on the sidelines. My vagina, clit and I are a team - a well-oiled machine. I am very aware of every single inch of myself and feel like I actually have some control. It is VERY liberating.

Hang tough. Do whatever it takes to get yourself back. There are a lot of different reasons for problems, so there are also a lot of different solutions. Some work quickly, some involve just waiting and giving your body time to find its way back.

I'm 35. This took a long time. But heck, I plan to be banging my husband for YEARS to come, so in the grand scheme of things, five to six years was a blip on the map.

verybadcat | 7:31 AM

Wow. I hope to have a kid in the next year or three, and this was a real eye opener. I've thought of a lot of this before in vague terms, so this was just a lot of specific information I didn't really have before.

Barring the inevitable physical issues, I think I will be okay. I'm open-minded enough to accept the dual purposes of my breasts. Actually, I think my husband might be the one who freaks out on that. He had a more prudish upbringing than I did.

I have some body issues now, and my plan is to hopefully be in rockin' shape by the time I get pregnant, in hopes that things will snap back better and more quickly that way.

In the end though, I look forward to letting go a little. I lost 85 lbs in my early twenties, turning my nice full D cups into sagging C cups. That was really, really hard, and I didn't even have the whole motherhood gig to blame it on. I'm thinking that if I end up with stretch marks and yet saggier (hard to imagine!) boobs, at least I will be able to consider them battle scars. It almost seems like it will give me more freedom to love my body the way it is. I still get caught up in the pre-baby body I am "supposed" to have. After baby, it is almost like I'll have some kind of immunity against that little nasty voice in my head?

As far as being comfortable being naked in front of my husband, that's hard for me now. He is encouraging and sweet and supportive, and I will expect that after I've had his baby he will continue to be. If not, then we'll work through it. Sexuality is important to me, but it's not the end all-be all.

LD | 7:40 AM

1.I hated pregnancy-- every moment of it--even though I really wanted it. Being pregnant made me realize that my body was not who I am. I think that after my son's birth, it's been hard to put the two back together.

2. It hurt like hell for a while. Which made me nervous. Which made it hurt more. Which led to us not having sex for about 8 months. (My husband is a saint). Now it feels different- but good different. I can feel him now in ways I couldn't before.

3. I don't know about sexual hang-ups. For me, for almost a year, sex itself was a hang up. I just wasn't interested in dealing with someone else while I was nursing.

4. I think I'm more comfortable in my body now. Before birth there was always this sense that I could change it or make it into what it should be like. Now I think I'm comfortable knowing that having a baby changes things and that maybe it's not my fault that I have a little extra pouchieness around the tummy.

ps- great topic. I think that this stuff doesn't get talked about enough.

howdyamy | 7:48 AM

Ditto with Wendy on the c-section stuff...I was induced (unsuccessfully) and never even got to the pushing stage, yet postpartum sex was THEE most uncomfortable and painful (emotionally and physically) thing I had ever experienced! I was completely taken aback by it. I felt like the opposite of a hallway...more like trying to squeeze a hotdog through a pinhole.

It didn't help that we had a great sex life pre-pregnancy. I had resigned myself to the fact that it would certainly be mediocre for a while, what with sleep deprivation and new responsibilities and all that. But I was in no way prepared for postpartum sex to be absolutely and completely *shitty.*

1. It took many months and LOTS of concentration (and maybe even a little porn..hee-hee) but I was eventually able to forget that there was a child in our house that came out of my womb...and also realized that my boobs were made for multiple purposes, some of which did not involve said child being attached to them.

2. Feels very different post-c-section. I imagine it's the opposite of how it feels post-vaginal? Tighter, painful, dryer (that's probably the breastfeeding, tho') and like there's a barrier in there that never existed before. Perhaps that barrier is just as much mental as it is physical? Who knows. We're slowly knocking it down, one vaginal brick at a time.

The incision site is also a very touchy thing...though mine is called a "bikini" and shrunk to below my pubic bone, it's still visible and makes me self-conscious. Plus, it's NUMB. If my husband so much as brushes across it, it gives me the heebie-jeebies. Add in the fact that I still feel some uterine discomfort (it's like you can almost feel that second internal incision during intercourse, shifting, throbbing in anger at being disturbed) and each sexual experience is a little different from the last.

3. More hang-ups, for sure. Probably has more to do with the body as a whole and what it went through the entire pregnancy and birthing process. I became much more self-aware, and not in a comfortable way. It's impossible to try to be coy anymore, or to act modest. I lost all modesty that first prenatal visit, when they did the penile-shaped internal ultrasound and my husband stood in the corner petrified, stifling a juvenile grin.

4. Oops, I think I answered that some, above. I'm way more self-conscious. And not just because of the typical image issues (stretch marks, extra skin in new places) although those are certainly part of it...it's more just a new awareness that my body was made to do these other things, as well. You do have to separate it, and create this sort of partition in your brain. If you think about the Baby-Makin' You during sex, you're just not going to have good sex.

(All of this would be easier to articulate if I didn't have a baby tugging at my pant legs as I type! And oh...did I mention that the minute I felt I did get my TRUE libido back postpartum and we finally had the first rockin' bedroom session in like, a year, I ended up getting pregnant again?! Yeah. That was awesome.)

Lisa Giebitz | 8:22 AM

I'm due in a couple weeks (which means I could go at any time, heh) with our first.

Considering I was nearly 40 lbs. overweight (over MY normal, sustainable, happy weight) when I got pregnant and my breasts have never been my pride and joy, I don't think my sexual hang-ups (if I have any) are going to come from my postpartum appearance.

I think I have to agree with another poster and say that it'll likely be my husband who gets hung-up over my breasts being multi-purpose. I've always enjoyed them for their functionality, but I can admit that they aren't very aesthetically pleasing so I've never pinned them as being 'just sexual' in my mind. There was never a question in my mind about breastfeeding - I KNEW I was going to do it, come hell or high water.

I find it weird that I HAVEN'T found all these body changes very weird, hehe. I wouldn't say that I'm rockin' pregnancy, but I haven't found it to be the completely miserable experience so many people paint it to be. I've actually enjoyed most of it and it's made me really appreciate my body and what it's capable of.

I worry about tearing and such, but I'm also the kind of person who would bitch to the doctor about unnecessary pain until we found a solution. I can accept that sex won't feel the same, but I won't settle for it being painful (especially after more than 6 months).

My $0.02 - hope it helps, heh.

Baby in Broad | 9:49 AM

I'll be delivering my first child (probably vaginally, but we'll see what happens) in about 12 weeks. I'm definitely struggling with the fears you've described.

I was JUST starting to feel really good about myself and my sexuality when I got pregnant. I spent my entire adolescence being overweight, and had finally managed to get down to a weight where I felt "normal-sized" most of the time, and "hot" once in a while.

Then I got pregnant, and started feeling shitty all the time. I went through a brief phase of wanting sex CONSTANTLY, but overall, I feel like the "progress" I was making with regards to my sexual self has largely been undone by my baby-making self.

I'm afraid that that pre-pregnancy period of comfortable, pleasureable sexuality will end up just being a footnote in the story of my body.

B | 9:51 AM

I had a tremendous amount of luck it appears. I also had a lot of education although much of it was unsolicited at the time I am thankful to have learned it.

The "C-section myth" was debunked for me early on by my MIL who is a labor and delivery nurse. She graphically explained to me that although the baby doesn't come out the vagina all that fun stuff that makes it's way out after birth DOES regardless of how you deliver. I think most women picture C-sections as these clean little procedures when in fact a baby still occupied that space for 9 months regardless of how it exited and there is a lot of other, uh stuff, that has to get out too. It wasn't so much the vaginal delivery that affected post partum sex for me but the onslaught of "stuff" afterwards. Not sexy.

The other issue is the episiotomy issue. So many docs are quick to preform them. "You'll heal quicker. A cut is better to stitch than a tear" The sound medical reasoning goes on. Yes, tearing is a possiblity and women can tear very badly but there are many, many women that will deliver with very little or no tearing if they are ever given the chance. My midwife! was quick to try to perform an episiotomy after my first push as well. It wasn't up for discussion, she reached for the scissors and my MIL whispered to me to push as hard as I possibly could with my next contraction. I did and my midwife dropped her scissors and caught my daughter's head. I had chosen a midwife to avoid situations like that; medically intervening too quickly, and I got into that situaltion anyway. Going from breathing through contractions to pushing through them is very different and it takes more than one push to get the hang of it but doctors expect otherwise. I should go on to say that I did not tear, with her or my second daughter.

As for sex, I think communication with your mate is key. If they can witness birth than any messy, milky, uncomfortable sex act should be able to be acknowledged. I understand the need for lube, but lots more foreplay can take the place of that need. It's also more sexy and fun. Sex was never really an issue for me postpartum but the pre-sex was. And still is for that matter. It takes my husband a lot more work to get to the sex, but once we are there I have to say I am more uninhibited than my pre-baby days.

merseydotes | 11:24 AM

I had a lot of problems after the birth of my daughter that made sex almost unbearable for months. My breasts were in so much pain, my vagina was in so much pain.

It took me a long time to heal and then to get past the memories of the pain. As long as I had those physical reminders (though technically I still have scars on my nipples) of what I went through, sex was harder emotionally and mentally.

In the past six months, I have really gotten frisky (does a woman hit her sexual peak at almost 31?) and sex is AWESOME. Like, college awesome. It's amazing. I think I'm finally far enough removed from my childbirth/breastfeeding experiences to feel totally sexual again.

And FWIW, I declined the big mirror too. I told the doc, "Um, I've watched A Baby Story on TLC enough to see what I need to see. You can keep that mirror over there." It took me a week to even use a mirror to check things out at home. Quite frankly, I'm glad I waited that long.

LB | 12:44 PM

1. How did you as a childbearing woman separate your sexual self from your baby making self?

I never put much thought into separating the two, but I guess I did unconsciously. I had two children and while pregnant I viewed my entire body as having a job to do. Then after the babies were born parts of my body still had a job (breast feeding), but the rest was on medical leave from my mind, and instructed to heal. If my husband wanted sex, cool, we'd do what we could, otherwise the parts of my body that were on my mental medical leave were left alone to heal. Healing was a higher priority than pretending I didn't just have a baby and that I was ready for sex when I wasn't.

Sex was painful after child birth. In fact I didn't cry while giving birth and that hurt like hell both times, but I cried the first day I was home from the hospital because I sat down wrong.

2. Does sex feels different for you after vaginal birth? How so?

At first yes, there was a lot of pain for a while, which was really different, but it's been four years since my second child was born, and time really does heal wounds; on many levels. Time also fixes those raging, wacky hormones, and after time I guess I felt like a super hero - especially looking back at what I had done and gone through. I mean, shit, I had two babies vaginally (no drugs), I could do anything. After healing from child birth, sex was fun again.

3. Do you have more sexual hang-ups after a vaginal birth? Less sexual hang-ups? Why do you think this is?

I'd have to go with less for me personally, which probably goes back to the super hero complex I developed post-partum and post-breast feeding. My body and I are a good team. We work well together. I like the skin I'm in - call me crazy, you're not the first - and I was very proud of the hellish pain and suffering I endured and survived by having children; like finishing a marathon. Each torture I experienced with pregnancy, birth, and after were notches on my belt, and accomplishments. Challenges I completed. Gold stars. Plus I suffered from antenatal depression. So again I'd have to go with less sexual hang-ups after child birth because I felt like a super hero, and sex was super as a super hero. Again, AFTER healing.

4. How do you perceive your bodies now that you have given birth and how has that perception changed your sex life if at all?

Please refer to my answer in #3. Super Hero. Super sex. I was not very sexual before my first pregnancy, I mean, sex was fun, but not a big deal. After babies and healing sex was different and better for me, but mostly because of how I felt about myself.

5. What about women who haven't given birth? Do you struggle with the same fears or not at all?

Oh yes, every fear that the human imagination can come up with passed through my head at one point or another, at least once, before and during pregnancy. After the babies were born too.

I panicked often while pregnant (about everything), but I tried really hard to take it all moment by moment so I didn't feel overwhelmed. Even in regards to sex, I think patience is important; especially with one's own self. I had to remind myself to be patient with myself a lot, and it was frustrating to not be able to get down and dirty with my man. The pain of being impatient with my body, sexually, hurt more than the frustration, so I learned patience...eventually.

And porn is GOOD. Unless it's that hairy, 80's, legwarmer porn - *blech*.

I remember my OB asking me if I had a birth plan for my son (my now 4 year-old), and I remember sheepishly smiling like I'd forgotten my homework, and saying: "get him out that's all I'd planned. What's your plan? Maybe we can compare notes."

Andrea | 1:01 PM

Since I had a breast reduction before getting married, I knew I'd have hang ups about my breasts and breastfeeding. I have always had esteem issues with my breasts, so when I gave birth and learned that I couldn't breastfeed, it was almost a relief. I didn't have to deal with complications of breastfeeding and I didn't have to reconcile their sexuality with their nourishment purposes.

The vajayjay was another story. Like you, I refused the mirror when it was offered while I pushed my son out. In fact, I didn't even want to touch his head when he crowned because it would feel so foreign to the happenings I was used to when it came to my vagina. My doctor gave an exhasperated sigh and said, "Oh, come on," and grabbed my finger to touch his head. I was glad afterwards for her forwardness because it was so beautiful to feel him for the first time, but while I was also a little ashamed of my own fear, I was also powerless to overcome it.

Once, during our childbirth preparedness class, my husband commented that he thought I should try going drug free, but the thought instantly pushed me to tears. I didn't know why at the time, and only later came to realize that I was utterly terrified of what childbirth would do to my girly bits. I wanted a vaginal birth over c-section, but I didn't want to have to feel the tearing. I thought I could have handled the contractions and my husband would have been a kick ass partner in helping me through them, (I think I might try to go farther than before with no drugs this time, but we'll see), but it was the stretching of the birth canal that scared me the most.

My doctor thought that I possibly could have gotten Gabe out without any tearing, but in the end, I tore a little. It didn't help that my husband, jokingly but I was still embarrassed and upset by it, asked her to put in an extra stitch for him when she was sewing me up. After a couple weeks home, I finally got out the mirror and was horror struck with the amount of elasticity I saw. I cried again at the thought of my poor abused girly bits. My husband, all joking aside, held me and said he didn't care and if, after I healed and there were problems, we'd get through them.

There was a bit of pain the first few times after I was cleared for "landing" and a few positions were off limits for a good year, but then slowly things started working themselves out, and now I think I'm more sensitive, more easily excited, and quicker to orgasm than I was before. It's better now than ever. But it didn't happen overnight and not without some really scary feelings overwhelming me before things started to feel right again.

I agree it's different. I'm one of the lucky ones for whom sex got better afterwards, and I hope that when I give birth again in about four months, things go as smoothly or moreso than they did before. This time, I feel better prepared. I know more of what to expect, and the fear factor is less so. I'm still scared, because it may not be all smooth sailing again, but I'm more open to it now, and I hope that helps in the long run.

Anonymous | 1:51 PM

I also had a c-section and have not fully sexually recovered. My dd is 4. My birth story is a scary one so I warn those who have not had children yet (but plan to) that my story is pretty unusual.

I had a fairly normal pregnancy - one early scare and severe back pain and acid reflux - usual stuff. But everything that could go wrong about the birth, did.

First of all, I was very determined to have an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. I knew I was only having one child so I really wanted the whole experience, ya know? I took all kinds of childbirth classes to prepare. I hired an amazing midwife and asst midwife and a doula (birthing coach). And oh yeah, the hubby would be around too.

I scheduled a home birth at my beautiful home by the sea.

My water broke at 10:30 pm on a Sunday night. I, within seconds, was having intense contractions only two minutes apart. My mom had extremely fast labors so I thought I might have inherited that. My whole team came quickly to my house.

For hours I labored with little change. My midwife realized the baby was turned and so twice manually turned her (remember, no drugs!). This involves her entire arm being inside me.

My team felt that I was already in transition (all the signs were happening, etc) and yet I was not dialated enough.

So we decided to go to hospital. I thought at that point an epidural would relax the muscles and my girl would turn on her own.

Then the epidural did not work. Well you can believe that once you are promised drugs, you will want them. Later, surmised it was due to scar tissue in my back. (I've been in several car accidents.)

Then all of a sudden, I started bleeding uncontrollably. Surgery stat! Placental abruption!

There was no time to re-attempt the epidural. Baby had to come out.
So they basically tied me down and cut me open.

Um, yes, I felt every cut. Yes, I felt their hands inside me.

They did give me a medication they often prescribe to newborns who need surgery and they can't give anesthesia to. It is supposed to help you "forget." It made me blind!

Oh and I also had something called "displaced pain," similar to a solider having his leg cut off who will feel it somewhere else on body. I had severe pain in my chest so thought I was having a heart attack.

So let's recap: being sliced open, no epidural, blind and heart attack.

I had told my hubby to go with baby once she was born (I was certain something would be wrong with her). Thank goodness my doula was with me. I gave her all the goodbyes. I told her to tell my mom and husband that I loved them and it was worth it....boy, it was sad, but I honestly thought I was dying. I gave my farewell speech.

They brought my beautiful daughter to me (she had swallowed a bit of blood but luckily had not breathed any so she was okay) and I could not see her! I was blind! I could smell her though.

I am forever grateful for some pics taken as it has helped me to reconcile everything.

About 15 minutes later my sight reappeared and I was breastfeeding! Everyone was making over the baby and I was basically ignored for rest of day.

It was strange to say the least.

But how I have changed sexually since then? Well, my libido is very low since her birth. I am unsure how much is mental and how much is physical. Sex is just not as pleasurable to me.

And the boobs. They just don't have sensation anymore. And when they do, it is too much sensation and I cannot bear to have them touched. Poor hubby. I don't think it is about associating them with feeding a child. They just don't feel good anymore! Is it a hormonal shift?

I do perceive my body differently now in that I do tend to view myself as fatter (I'm just not tight at all anymore in tummy area no matter what I do). I hate that about myself. The fact I do that. I wish I could say, "I love this tummy. It went through hell to get my girl here," ya know? But I don't.

I do feel I need to say that I am quite in love with my daughter and would do it all again in a heartbeat for her.

Thanks for allowing us to share. Missy

Anonymous | 2:35 PM

Thanks for the topic! I LOVE your writing.

During my first pregnancy, I was amazingly horny. I felt like this was true womanhood, balancing love/sex with a growing baby inside. My husband didn't see it the same way and that's where he missed out. (I remind him of that all the time). I didn't feel I needed to separate it. I was married, isn't this what married women do, have sex and make babies? Since this is our child, then my pregnant body, filled with his child, should be MORE attractive than before. I felt good pregnant. My body craves the pregnancy hormones. I'm not typical according to my friends. His birth was natural with no tearing. Sex was slightly uncomfortable for about 3 months. My birth experience was so wonderful that I was happy, with the extra skin, exploding boobs, etc.
My second son was born c-section after induction and pushing. I was pissed. I was angry at the world. It was a horrible delivery. I was mad at the doctor and the hospital and the entire Medical Community. So, I also wasn't into sex. It didn't feel right either, for about 6 months or so. My hormones were out of control.
I did nurse both boys, am still with the 14 month old. My breasts were off-limits with #1, but came back better than ever. This time, we have started using them in the bedroom again, even though I still nurse. This has really made sex more exciting for me again.
I have less sexual hangups than before, but that is mainly because I'm more comfortable in my skin, in who I am, and in my relationship.
Now I'm expecting #3. Who knows what that will be like?

Amanda K | 9:32 PM

You know, it's been way way WAY too long since I've popped on over here. Pascale reminded me to.

Anyway.. without going into TMI territory cause I never know who could be reading (and I'm all shy and stuff), sex for me has never been the same again. I'm STILL waiting for my formerly raunching dirty-hot-messy-sexy self to re-emerge. And after 4 kids? (and I'm still young at 25 I guess) well.. yeah. I just don't feel like I think a 25 year old SHOULD feel.

As for 2... I was given an episiotomy with 1, 2 & 3 as well (4 just slid on out..) and like you, the scar tissue made (and still makes) things uncomfortable. I almost can't believe that after several years, it can still affect things this much.

mrs. Q. | 9:33 PM

Jeez. I was hoping that my dampened desire was just from being so effin tired!

I definitely feel like pushing out two enormous heads and getting stitched up eached time simply moved things around a bit in the vaginal department. So yes, it feels different.

As for hang-ups, after my husband witnessed our second child coming out foot-first in the ER, I thought he would never want to venture 'down there' again. But he does, more than I do. I have a harder time shutting off the buzz going on in my own head. I recently freaked a little when he was nuzzling my boobs and I feared my milk would let down. I'm also more afraid of getting pregnant, which is funny since it took us two years of TRYING to get pregnant with #1.

Overall, I'm much kinder on myself and my body. I was always too skinny with teeny boobs; after birthing and breastfeeding two heaelthy babies, I have new respect for my body and what it can do.

The Flying Enchilada | 12:39 AM

Thank You! for this post and for everyone else who commented. Thank you for not making me feel alone in this.

My biggest hurdle has been with breastfeeding. I originally didn't want to do it, but was guilt tripped, by other women, into doing it. It wasn't too bad the first two months (emotionally), but by the third I had had enough. Not to sound too adolescent, but it was starting to gross me out and I couldn't understand why. Now I know. What's worse is that I haven't been able to tell anyone the truth as to why I've stopped. I hate that I can't put it out there and let it just be. Why should I have to explain myself??

It was an agonizing and tearful decision to stop breastfeeding. Torn between "being a good momma" and my desire to reclaim my body as my own. It was supposed to feel natural and I was supposed to want to breastfeed, but it just wasn't for me.

I'm normal! I'm not broken and I'm not less of a momma!

BOSSY | 4:53 AM

The funny answer: Sex after babies? Who has time.

Jessica | 7:44 AM

I had a c-section with my first son and a vaginal with my second. I was ready for sex after four weeks with both. It was equally uncomfortable, whether it was my aching incision or my tender vaginal tears. With both, certain positions became difficult and painful. There are still some things I won't/can't do. As far as how I feel down there, how good sex is...I don't feel loose. My doc did an excellent job stitching everything up nice and tight. I gave birth to a 10.5 pounder, so I thought I'd never feel my husband again, but so far so good. I think after having a baby, no matter the type of delivery, things down there shift and change and can be more sensitive. My husband has learned to be a bit more gentle. As far as my sexual hangups, they went away after I stopped breastfeeding after a year. I still hesitate when hubs gets near the nipples, but I am starting to enjoy it again. Mostly I am just really tired, and a little paranoid about the state of my tummy flab. I still think we have a great sex life (3-4 times a week) and it's actually better than some of my childless friends.

eden | 8:08 AM

wow. reading these comments has made my heart ache. so nice that the asshole comments of one woman bent on denying every woman's unique perspective have brought out so much understanding and support. go GGC.

having an emergency C-section, i was shocked to discover that sex was painful (6 months)afterwards. i had no MIL telling me like it was, and assumed that the scar site was my only sore spot. shit moves around, and i was tighter than i was as a virgin. things got better but it's just all so strange to have your body,life,self-image all change so much at once. great post, thanks.

Anonymous | 12:34 PM

sex after vaginal delivery has been different for me, for sure. for one, i seem to be one of those lucky individuals who make scar tissue down there--it's called "granulation tissue." i am eight months postpartum and STILL seeing a doctor for silver nitrate treatments because it keeps coming back. needless to say, not much sex is happening. although honestly, despite my scar-tissue issue, and because we waited like 3 months to try, it didn't hurt as much as i thought it would. but i do think this is such a huge issue that women and men are unprepared for--the emotional and physical stuff women go through post-birth is just staggering and unpredictable. thanks all for sharing.

Keri | 12:44 PM

This is a great topic to discuss, Bec! Thanks for having the courage to speak up. =D

1. Short answer: I didn't. I *loved* being pregnant and felt even more sexy than I ever did in my whole life, even with the HUGE weight gain. My childbearing self is the same self that is sexual. After all, I am only one person. ;)

2. We were ready and raring to go only a couple weeks after I gave birth. I didn't tear (thanks to a water birth) so there was no reason to wait. We got randy even though it hurt a bit..once I got through the pain, it didn't hurt anymore. It felt different at that time because I had a huge, gaping hole. Yes, I took a mirror and got a good look at my girl bits just because I was curious. As a result, I was in awe of my body. I kept looking at my son, amazed at the miracle of his birth and how he came out of ME. Now, 2 years later, sex is more or less the same as before I gave birth.

3. I did have a sexual hang-up about 6 months after my son was born. I think it was the stress of having a baby who got up every hour on the hour (he slept through the night until 4 months old). It just about wiped out whatever sexuality I had. Breastfeeding contributed to that too. Now that I've stopped breastfeeding the last month, I notice my sexuality is coming back. Hello, sexy me, long time, no see!

4. One word: AWE. This may sound crazy but I have such much more respect for my body than ever before. I was never really body-conscious but I am even more in awe of what my body is capable of. I also feel empowered that I was able to make my own decisions related to everything about my birth experience (homebirth, waiting for cord to stop pulsing before cutting, etc). That empowerment has helped me gain a stronger sense of self as well as given me confidence that I can be a mother and be sexy.

Anonymous | 12:55 PM

You Have a beautiful Tummy Mummy

You should put your pregnant pictures on pregnancy tip

Anonymous | 1:44 PM

1. I don't think that I did. I was actually more secure with my body when pregnant than I was before (or since). I loved being pregnant, sharing my body with my husband, etc. I am currently nursing and plan to for a while yet. At first, my breasts were off-limits to the hubby, now they are fair game, unless I've had a ruthless feeding day, then he doesn't get to play. Sometimes I feel it's a bit odd to have him play and then later nurse Baby, but I'm not turned off (or on) by it - I think I can be both sexual and a mother in that sense.

2. Can't answer - had a c-section, which I consider "giving birth," even if it's not in the traditional sense of the word.

3. Again, had a c-section. However, I think that the exploring we did to find new positions when I was pregnant has paid off post-pregnancy, too.

4. I am not as comfortable about my body. I think that it looks better clothed than unclothed. I don't think I've slept naked (used to all the time) since Baby arrived, 6 months ago. Getting up to nurse in the middle of the night is my excuse, but really, I just don't like to see myself naked. (Not that I loved it BP, but somehow, I am more uncomfortable now.) However, when I have Baby with me, I feel less self-conscious about my body, maybe because I think that people will think "oh, she's a mom, it's OK that her body's not perfect." I am, however, making it a goal to carve out some "me time" at the gym. I won't ever have the body I had BP or the body I had when I met my husband, but that doesn't mean I can't tone up what I've got now!

susannah | 2:17 PM

First let me say how much I admire you! You rock as a writer and even more so as a woman for having posted about this subject.
To answer the questions:
1. When I was pregnant I was a horny mess. Unfortunately my husband couldn't get past the idea that he would be poking the baby. I think we had sex maybe 7 times during that whole time. But since then, I neither he nor I view me any less sexually.
2. I had a c-section so I can't really answer this. But I can say that even though my daughter didn't come out that way, I did spend 3 hours pushing so the first few times we had sex it hurt like hell.
3. I think I have less sexual hangups, but more body hangups. If those can even be separated?
4. My stomach is looser, my boobs saggier. This is how I perceive my body. Which sucks but oh well.

As I said, thanks for posting this! I just started my own blog and don't really know how these things work--but would you mind if I directed my (few) readers to your blog to read this?? I love it.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 2:32 PM

Of course, Susannah! All links are welcome.

Phoenix | 2:49 PM

I really admire you for being so honest with all of this.

I don't have kids, but I know two things already...I'm scared of a vaginal birth, but I'd not fight a c-section if it was medically needed. Two, I don't want to breastfeed. I'm not uncomfortable with others doing it, but I know it's not what I want to do. I don't think women should be made to feel guilty for it, nor should they have to explain it. But I'm constantly surrounded by women who think it's so horrible to bottle feed. Oh well, I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get there.

Anonymous | 3:17 PM

after breastfeeding, my formerly unbelievably perky tatas no longer stand up on their own. they are streched and scarred and just not attractive. you know when you were little and drew boobs that looked like "u's"? yeah. and sex for me does feel different. i don't think it's a hotdog in a hallway but maybe a small foyer. so speak on sistah. there may be some who don't have these problems but there are some that do and you make us feel like we're not alone.

bitemycookie | 5:07 PM

i knew that hotdog was going to give me indigestion. and i still contend that wind tunnels are a better comparison. mwah. dt

superblondgirl | 6:27 PM

Sex versus being a baby-maker - I just sort of grinned and bore it - I compartmentalized a little bit. "Now is sexual..... now is not...." I was luckily at a point where I felt pretty comfortable in my body when I got pregnant, and I really liked how I looked & felt pregnant, too, so I think that helped. I don't remember ever worrying about sex post-baby, I think I kind of figured that people manage to have multiple kids, so they must be having sex post-baby, and it's working out okay for them, so I'll be fine. I think I'm just very naive.
Sex is different now, but not in a way I can put my finger on. Just different. I have noticed other stuff changing - like, I can't squat over a toilet without making a huge mess. I have to go through the whole laying down of TP before I can sit thing or there are puddles. How childbirth managed to do that, I'll never know.
I don't really have sexual hang-ups now and I never had any before - sex has always been pretty fun and easy for me.
Perception of my body, though, that is a fun topic. Fun, fun, fun. I try to do the whole "I gave birth, I am strong, hear me ROAR" thing, but mostly I hate that my boobs are all saggy and I have stretch marks up the whazoo and my vag is misaligned somehow. I don't hate what pregnancy/birth did to my body, though, and I am proud of myself and my body for doing as well as we did with the whole thing.

Anonymous | 8:48 PM

Horrible to admit this but I haven't had sex with my husband since I conceived my daughter 3 years ago. I guess you could say motherhood sucked everything out of me.

I am in therapy of course! Ha ha!

Anonymous | 6:51 AM

I have no children so I can really only address question 5. I've been following this blog now for a while because, not only do I love the writing, but I like to have a peek into what motherhood is like for some people. Over the last year or two I have been seriously questioning whether or not I want to have a child some day. I am 26 and got married 2 years ago, so the pressure is on, so to speak.

I have been gathering information about many different aspects about pregnancy, birth, and parenting over this time. Almost every pregnancy story I hear discomforts my mind and fuels my anxieties.

I have to say that reading about everyone's experiences here has more or less freaked me the fuck out. But! I am so glad you shared these stories, because I've never heard such candid information on this topic.

It all seems new and frightening to me, what many of you have described. I guess, as someone wrote earlier, this means I am immature and unready to have kids. I can accept that this is probably true. But if maturity is *not* being scared of the lack of sex drive, the loss of control over one's body, the vaginal scar tissue, the unresponsive breasts, the self-urination, the wizard's sleeve, the pain...I don't know that I'll ever be "mature". I don't know that I'll be able to accept those things. Sex is important to me. Is it worth it to let that go?

Are there really not that many "positive" (free of issues, pain and complications) post-birth sexuality stories? Most of these stories here seem to skew the other way.

And if anyone doesn't mind sharing more, I'm very curious as to the "positions" some have aluded to...which ones became off limits after birth, and which new ones had to be adopted?

Again, thanks so much for all the info...it's sort of overwhelming to hear these things as someone who hasn't been there herself, but it definately is not TMI.

Amelia | 1:39 PM

A long-time reader but a first-time commenter. This post meshed with a lot of my own thoughts on post-baby sex. I would say that right around the time I weaned (at 13 months), our sex life skyrocketed. EVERYTHING is a million times better than it's ever been sexually (in our 10-year relationship), from the orgasms to the variety to the frequency to the emotional connection to the fun and goofiness of it all.

I think a large part of it is simply not being physically beholden to a little being all the time. I got my body back, mentally and physically (losing the pregnancy weight certainly helped, though boobs and belly are definitely in slightly new locations).

But I think it's also that after being pregnant and delivering our son (an admittedly easy delivery), I sort of feel like my body can do anything. I trust it and respect it way more. Definitely less hangups.

It also doesn't hurt to have a patient partner who never stops finding you attractive. Like a lot of women, I didn't want a mirror when I was pushing. I mean, eww. But my husband was the one who insisted, saying that what he was seeing was so amazing that I couldn't miss it. And it was.

nonlineargirl | 9:58 PM

Following what PunditMom said - My husband and I struggled to conceive for several years before we did (thanks to a large dose of modern medicine). That, more than pregnancy or parenthood is what messed with my sex life. Sex to get pregnant is different (here different = less fun) than recreational sex. I thought we'd bounce back once we could have sex just for fun again, but I am not sure it is the same. Sex and sexuality are a big part of our lives. It makes sense that all our changes (including but not limited to giving birth) will affect that.

toyfoto | 1:57 PM

I had two c-sections, and I breastfeed. Like you my breasts haven't been sexual parts to me for long before children, though. But sex was painful for months after each child was born. My husband didn't believe me, which made it worse. I felt as if I had to prove something.

The thing is though, I'm not sure, whether sex is more in the head for me or more in the body. ... my guess is that for a lot of women, though, sex is a head trip. With all the stress of new mommyhood (even if you're not so new) sex just isn't the same.

Nila | 12:15 AM

Boy, we've got a lot to say about this topic. I had a "sexistential crisis" during and after my two pregnancies. I didn't feel all sexy like some, I think it might have had something to do with Catholic guilt. After the pregnancy was the hardest because of my husband's expectations and my lack of interest. I remember how during sex, certain positions bothered me because they reminded me of certain birthing positions. I had a hard time getting that stuff out of my head.

I'm not too sure of how my girly bits faired with two vaginal births, But I will say that sex gets better and better as I get older. Ever since I had my last baby, it's been great. Maybe because mentally I knew I was done and was out of that baby making phase. We've been married 15 years, and the sex just gets better and better. So, yay me.

mm | 8:08 AM

Sex sucked after the c/s.
Third degree tear with homebirth of #2.
New tears added to the old ones with #3 (she came out in four minutes flat, after my water broke).
Sex after hbac's.... ROCKS.
Husband once quietly told me that he feared another cesarean... sex was that awful after it.
I also breastfed from 14-21 months after each kid. Lube and patience is the answer to all!
I feel for women who have episiotomies... study after study shows how brutal they are. Get your partners to knock them out of the doctors hands if they even touch them!
shudder

Anonymous | 12:41 PM

I am 33, have been married for 6 years, and do not have children yet. Its time to get it done, though, I suppose.

The thought of going through any and/or all of this scares the hell out of me. Its enough to make me not want to do it at all. However, it is something my husband agreed that we would do. And I want to - except for all of the above. Like the poster above said, if being afraid of lack of sex drive, depression, self-esteem issues, wizzard sleeves, tearing, bleeding, pain, etc., makes me immature, then I guess I am.

Its great to get a real view of how things are. Thanks for sharing - you are all very brave!

Maya | 12:50 PM

Siiiiigh. 27 (going on 28), married for 7 years, no kids but a GIANT thank you to GGC and all of the amazing commenters on this post. I'd really like to find out what would happen wrt sex/pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding.

The reality though, is this: my husband would completely lose interest in me as a sexual being the second I got a ++ and I'd probably be a horny(er) raging mass of hormones and frustration. So I enjoy the hell out of my friends' kids and read inspiring (real!) blogs like yours instead.

Thank you.

Anonymous | 8:54 AM

1. How did you as a childbearing woman separate your sexual self from your baby making self?

I really tried (and succeeded pretty much) to not over-think this one. I spent most of my teens and twenties being really screwed up when it came to me as a sexual being. It was actually a relief to me when I became pregnant because I didn’t have to worry about doing “wrong.” I know that the previous comment could ignite a powder keg (the whole “right and wrong” thing), but I just mean that once I was pregnant I chose not to back out and I felt that I had to just surrender to it (which I was able to do). Due to some abusive and confusing sexual experiences I was unable for many years to just surrender to my sexuality (if that makes any sense). I had more (great) sex during pregnancy that I ever had before.

2. Does sex feels different for you after vaginal birth? How so?

It took me a while (my son is 15 months) for it to not feel weird (physically- son was 9 and a half pounds of un-medicated vaginal birth and I had some internal tears and an anal fissure- tmi, I know). Since the same things just weren’t getting me off I really took matters into my own hands and experimented more and been more vocal about what I want. I would rather be sexually fulfilled than quiet and unhappy. I know that this may sound flip and I don’t mean it to. It was a tough but liberating conclusion that took me a while to come to. My husband is awesome by the way, and definitely appreciates this as well.

3. Do you have more sexual hang-ups after a vaginal birth? Less sexual hang-ups? Why do you think this is?

See two previous answers  Fewer sexual hang-ups for sure. I think I felt like the sex I was having and feeling hung up about before pregnancy never led to anything but my own feelings of inadequacy. I spent so much of my pre- preggo years dwelling on my effed up feelings about sex, being depressed and hating myself. I couldn’t understand how my husband could love me. I felt a lot of shame for being so sexually dysfunctional. Being pregnant and being a mother felt right to me- I was really lucky in that way. I respect my body a lot more now and I want to try to give it some rewards.

4. How do you perceive your bodies now that you have given birth and how has that perception changed your sex life if at all?

My body is certainly more “womanly” now, and for me that is a good thing in some ways (especially in the boob dept- for now). I think that my husband found it novel and fun to experience so many different incarnations his sexual partner (he is at least nice enough to let me think so). The breastfeeding dichotomy was tough for me at first, but I got over it pretty quickly. I never had breasts before though, so I think it helped me to value them sexually for the first time (weird at that may seem).