In the maelstrom of breastfeeding, broken sleep and the weighty responsibility that comes with being a parent, it’s all too easy to forget why you and your husband got together in the first place.
“If you have a baby that only sleeps for 20 minutes at a stretch, his nap time isn’t the ideal time to try and be intimate, unless you’re very quick about your business!” says one exasperated new mom. “It’s difficult for me to switch from mom mode to wife mode when my husband gets that look in his eye.”
It’s not impossible
The good news is that despite the many stories your friends may have to the contrary, there really IS hope for your sex life in the months after giving birth – and many say your life between the sheets gets even better once you’ve become a parent. The trick, according to the experts, is to reinvent your expectations of intimacy, rather than relegating it to the last thing on your to-do list.
Leandie Buys, a Port Elizabeth clinical sexologist and author of Seasons of Sex says that visualising your partner as he looked in your early days of dating and allowing yourself to feel the excitement you used to feel goes a long way towards keeping the sexual spark alive as parents. And as always, communication is vital.
“You and your partner are going through so many changes,” Leandie says. “It’s important that you share your feelings with your partner. Talk about your concerns, your desires, your needs, your preferences and your expectations. The more open and honest you are with each other, the deeper your emotional and sexual bond becomes.”
Tips to get that feeling back
If you’re still convinced your sex life is going to be swallowed up by hectic parenting schedules, here are a few more ideas to ensure your love life stays healthy and happy.
Stress intimacy, not sex
Dr Wilme Steenekamp, a Potchefstroom medical doctor practising in the field of sexology, suggests sensual massages with aromatherapy oils as a good starting point. Acknowledgement is also very sexy, she asserts.
“Give your partner lots of sincere verbal appreciation of who they are – and make positive comments about how much he means to you,” she says. Dr Steenekamp stresses that it’s also important to give yourself time to adjust to being a mother. “Accept that you now have a new role in life and that it will take a mind-shift to remember you are also a sexual being and a lover.”
Make a date night
“With much of your day dictated by your baby’s needs, it’s important to plan time for sex,” says Leandie. “You may look back fondly on the days when you could drop everything and get nasty whenever the spirit moved you, but the reality is that these days you’ll probably have to think ahead.”
Lara Brownley, a full-time working mother of a two-year-old, says that when she was on maternity leave after the birth of her baby, she made sex dates with her husband but often fell asleep as soon as she sat (never mind lay) down. “Now that Luke is older, sex during the week is still tricky,” she admits.
“By the time the family and pets have been fed, the kitchen is (semi) clean and our son is bathed and in bed, my partner and I are functioning on autopilot and just want to pass out – but not on each other!” Lara says she’s realised that setting aside time over the weekend is key to keeping the romance alive.
“We don’t make a big song and dance about going out because it can get very expensive, but we drop our son off at my sister’s house for a few hours and we make a point of connecting with each other.”
Dr Steenekamp suggests one important rule: spend no more than 30 minutes talking about your baby and responsibilities. After that, ditch the family talk and make an effort to get to know each other again.
Don’t rule out the quickie
Who says lovemaking needs to be a marathon evening session in a double bed? Quickies in the shower, sensual massages with aromatherapy oils and using sex toys and lubrication to get things started smartly are all options when you’re pressed for time.
“When our twin baby girls still shared our bedroom, we found ourselves rediscovering the couch, the spare room and the dining room table,” one young Joburg mother reveals happily.
Stacey Nelkin, author of You Can’t Afford to Break Up: How an Empty Wallet and a Dirty Mind Can Save your Relationship, reminds us that the hormonal changes you experience after giving birth can significantly lower your sex drive, and that’s okay. “This is when giving pleasure to your husband – as in, oral sex – can keep you both connected and keep him happy,” Nelkin suggests.
“Remember that sex does not have to mean intercourse and performing oral sex is sometimes easier than penetration.” Dr Steenekamp adds that it’s vital to realise you are going to have to opt for different styles and places to have sex. “Eventually the advent of youngsters is going to nudge you to experiment and grow on a sexual level as a couple,” she says.
Be gentle with yourself
Erogenous areas may feel a bit different after the birth of your baby, you may be carrying a bit of extra postbaby weight and you might even feel embarrassed about leaking milk if you are breastfeeding (yes, it happens and it’s normal).
“Talk to your partner about how you feel about your body – and work at loving and accepting the inevitable changes childbirth brings. Remember, if you’re confident about your body, you’re sexy!” says Dr Steenekamp. Try a new, easy beauty routine that makes you feel special and spoilt.
Keep things flirty
“Exercise your mind sexually by reading erotic books or thinking sexy thoughts – especially on the days you think you might make love,” says Leandie. “Email and text each other during the day and keep things as naughty and daring as you feel comfortable with. Fantasising is a great way to get sexually aroused.”
Find your rhythm
“Sleep deprivation is a major passion killer,” says Ann-Marie Hill, mom of an active toddler. “When you’re so tired that you can hardly remember your name, the last thing you feel like doing is jumping in the sack. In fact, in the first few months of my son’s life, brushing my teeth and putting on clothes were a tall order.”
Ann-Marie recalls that it was only once she made a point of trying to get some shut-eye herself when her son was napping that she gradually regained her energy – and interest in sex. “On the other side of the coin, your baby’s nap times can also be a great time for nookie,” says Leandie. “It depends on what works best for you as a couple.”
“My husband and I are very mindful of the fact that, along with being great parents, we need to invest in our marriage,” says Kemong Mopedi, mother of a two-year-old. “But that’s not to say we put pressure on ourselves to have sex every time the baby is sleeping or when she’s at my mother’s house for a few hours.”
Dr Steenekamp says that when you feel sex is becoming a chore, remember that lovemaking isn’t always about the ultimate orgasm as it is about feeling close to each other. “One of the most important lessons motherhood has taught me is to appreciate the quiet moments I share with my husband,” Kemong concludes. “These are rare because our daughter has unpredictable sleeping patterns, but I’ve learnt to make the most of them.”