When I was asked to write an article about how sex and parenthood mix, here’s what I ended up with as a first draft:
What sex life? I’m exhausted and there’s a toddler in my bed.
Just kidding! But sometimes it does feel that way. It’s ironic that the shenanigans that caused parenthood in the first place prove to be darned elusive once their product makes its wrinkled, screaming, miraculous appearance in our lives. Hours after my first child was born, our doctor had the audacity to ask me as I lay in the hospital bed wearing an ice diaper, “What do you plan to use for birth control at this point?” Really? I had just been through 12 hours of labor, and had somehow managed to fit a cantaloupe through a light socket, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down. It was all I could do not to yell at him: “Well, Doctor, I’m going to go with the moderately effective combo of stitches in my netherbusiness and a screaming newborn! How do you keep from knocking up the ladies?”
Now, obviously the impediments of the postpartum state eventually subside, and as parents, we get into a groove where we (in theory) can carve out time between the sheets together. However, there are a few things that occasionally get in the way of sexytime. Here is a partial list of those things: nighttime feedings, fevers, laundry, work, Band-Aid emergencies, potty training, hangnails, sleep training, packing lunches, bad dreams, “Dancing With The Stars” marathons, kids in your bed, the boogeyman, falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, cleaning up, visiting family, household tasks, grocery shopping, nighttime diaper changes, cup-of-water-getting, stuffy noses, monsters in the closet, nightlight management, and of course mind-numbing tiredness. Who has the energy to put on the Al Green CD and slip into a negligee after all that? The most provocative thing that many of us wear these days is a leopard-print Snuggie. Can I get an “Amen”?
Some moms also struggle with body image issues after pregnancy and child- birth, which can affect one’s sex life. You might feel like those stretch marks, unshaven legs, plus all of your newly wiggly and/or southern-facing anatomy makes you less attractive to your mate. Let me tell you something about that: Do you know who doesn’t notice, or care, and definitely still wants to get laid? That guy. And even if he does notice, he would be a moron to say anything and send you running back into the waiting embrace of your flannel PJs and People magazine. Bow chicka wow-wow.
The point is, people, we parents have got to continue to get our groove on, or distance and eventually resentment can grow. Author of Rekindling: Your Relationship After Childbirth and psychiatrist Dr. Martien Snellen advises, “If your sex life is fading after childbirth, open up a dialogue about it. But never in a fight—introduce it when things are good. This prevents defensiveness, withdrawal, and anger.” (And, I’m guessing, over-reliance on flannel PJs and gossip magazines.)
Now put this magazine down and plan your next date night. Doctor’s orders!
Discussing sex and childbirth with your kids
Parents often wonder at what age they should have “the talk” with their kids. Personally, my husband and I are waiting until they’re 40, but you should do what feels right for your family. Here’s what else I know: If you’re not on top of it when your kids start asking the Big Questions, they’ll answer one another with about 50 percent accuracy and 100 percent certainty. The following is a conversation that went down recently between myself, my son Ben (6), and my daughter Janie (4):
Janie: How does a baby get out of its mommy’s belly?
Me: Well, when it’s time for the baby to be born, the doctor helps get her out of a special opening in the mommy’s body that opens wide enough to let a baby through.
Janie: Where is the opening?
Me: Hmmm, that is a really good question, honey. There is a special—
Ben (exasperated): JANIE, IT’S THE VAGINA. OF COURSE.
Me: Um, Ben how did you know that? (Sigh) You’re right, it is the vagina. Seriously, how did you know that?
Ben: Mom, it’s pretty much the only possible place. I figured it out. (Deductive reasoning skills are overrated and can suck it.)
Me: Janie, this is only something that happens to adult women when they are ready to become mommies. You don’t need to worry, because it’s not going to happen to you.
Ben, way too quickly: YET.
Janie: Silence. Eyes as big as saucers.
Ben: It will probably happen soon, though.
Me: Janie, that is not true. We’ll talk about this later.—M.R.