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