“No porn” seems like a reasonable restriction for a parenting Web site. Or does it? I’m thinking about those first few postpartum months. You’ve gradually built up the confidence to believe you just might be able to keep this baby alive after all. If there’s a partner living with you, chances are you're starting to feel some glimmers of recognition for that person again. Not only do you vaguely recall how you used to spend your nights together, but you start to feel like maybe – just maybe – you just might want to do it again some time.
In theory, that is. There are some roadblocks. Life is happening through a haze of sleeplessness, teary postpartum hormones, dreamy breastfeeding hormones, a healing body, and blissful new-baby love . . . punctuated by frequent sleep-shattering infant wails. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in bed with your partner for any uninterrupted amount of time, it’s likely you’ll end up sleeping. And it goes on for months like this. You love your partner. You want the closeness and intensity of sex the way it used to be. But if there’s sex at all, it’s perfunctory at best. The body just doesn’t work the way it used to.
Now, you visit your favorite mainstream parenting Web site (because this newborn/postpartum stuff is so huge in your life and you need to keep talking about it but don’t want to bore the socks off your friends). And what do we find on that Web site? Breastfeeding vs. Formula, Part XII. Stuff Good Parents Buy. Top Ten Things You Think Are Safe That Can Actually Kill Your Baby. Celebrity MILFs Share Dieting Tips. Et-freaking-cetera. Honestly, one article telling women where to find the best get-your-poor-tired-motor-started / non-cheeseball / so-you-won’t-waste-your-time-Goggling-for-it porn would be so very, very welcome.
I’m not suggesting that porn is a cure-all, or even necessary. But if you’re trying to get your groove back in the face of so many physical and emotional obstacles, it’s good to have a shortcut sometimes. Self-love is widely overlooked in those “get the spice back in your marriage” articles, but I think it’s integral to the mojo-recovery process. Anne Semans and Cathy Winks are very frank about that in their book The Mother’s Guide to Sex:
Before you engage in partner sex, spend some time masturbating . . . [Y]ou deserve to take the time to acquaint yourself with the changes in your genital geography and sexual responses – after all those months of monitoring your pregnant body for the sake of the baby’s health, you owe it to yourself to take stock in a purely self-centered way. You’ll gain the information that can reduce whatever fear of genital stimulation you might be feeling, and the confidence that will make it much easier to relax in the company of a lover.
Indeed. And this advice continues to be useful even after those first challenging postpartum months. As the kids get older, you gain more and more of your old self back. But things are never quite the same. It’s like a kaleidoscope; all the same colors twist into a completely different picture. Sometimes there’s still a disconnect between the kick-ass woman you were and the kick-ass mother you are. And sex can still be a challenge.
There are a lot of things I can’t do. I’m no good at sports. I can’t really cook. I’m shy and socially anxious. But I’ve always been good at sex. And by “good,” I don’t just mean partner-pleasing. I mean confident, intuitive, communicative, loving, and self-sufficient. (Damn. This is starting to sound better than my resume.)
New motherhood knocked the wind out of those sails quite a bit, what with all the physical and emotional changes. There are times when I still don’t recognize this twice-pregnant body I’m walking around in these days. And even though it’s gotten easier, parenting continues to wear me out in a way that paid work never did. It’s so much more personal than the office politics and TPS reports of yesteryear. Even now, there are times when I look at Mr. Black and wonder who this cute guy is who lives in my house and does the dishes.
I try to follow the Mother’s Guide’s advice and, um, “keep my hand in,” so to speak. It’s like yoga or something; it really does make a positive difference. But there are only so many kid-free hours in the day, and I like to spend some of them reading, writing, watching TV, hanging out with Mr. Black, etc. And when I do find the time, there are so many distractions. All those “Yo Gabba Gabba” songs getting stuck in my head. Remembering unpleasant conversations. Finding plot holes in fantasies. Composing an important to-do list in my mind, then worrying that an orgasm will knock it right out of my brain. And the next thing you know, the kids are awake and banging on the door.
Oh well. Someday they’ll be teenagers and sleep in on the weekends, right? In the meantime, it’s encouraging to look back on those early postpartum months and note that Mr. Black and I somehow found our way back to each other. It’s a process. But at least we’re on the same path.
Happy Mother’s Day!