When Valentine’s Day approaches and spring is on the horizon, romance is in the air and on the mind. But what happens when you have a new baby and your body is not the body you’ve been accustomed to using for romantic pursuits, or when you’re bone-tired and out of sorts and not exactly thrilled with your partner, or when you really, really want it but can’t figure out how to get it? When the thought of a Valentine’s celebration or a tryst with your partner leaves you panicked rather than thrilled, it’s time to rethink your approach, recreate patterns of engagement, and reopen lines of communication that might have been waylaid following the birth of your new tiny family member.
Let’s take a look at the obstacles that may block you from a satisfying encounter. First, and obviously, there’s the matter of physical healing and changes. Whether you’ve given birth vaginally or via cesarean section, your body has gone through an elemental and dramatic event, and healing takes time. Share with your partner everything your medical provider has told you about recovery from labor and delivery, and be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling and what you need. While textbooks might say you need 6 weeks to recover, many birthing people find it takes them longer to feel like ‘themselves’ again.
Is my body even mine anymore?
Parents of young children often express feeling that they’re “touched out” by the constant contact with little bodies, and so by the time a partner comes looking for some action, the looming possibility of one more touch is enough to send the primary caregiver hiding in a dark closet. If this sounds familiar, the solution is often as simple as some alone time before you attempt to engage with your partner. Don’t take pity on your partner and give in to something you’re not physically ready for; instead, use this opportunity to advocate for yourself and talk openly about your concerns and possible solutions. Intimacy after childbirth often requires a bit more flexibility in your routines as well. You may find that what worked pre-baby, isn’t quite right any longer, and your new postpartum body requires a bit more patience. Take the changes as an exciting cue to learn as a couple, just like you did when you were first together!
Lack of time and space
The logistics of time and space can also interfere with romance, even if you feel physically ready. You and your partner may be exhausted, particularly if one or both of you have returned to work. There’s so much to do around the house, always! And the baby needs to be fed, and older children need so much, so it’s natural to assume that dating and sex will have to be shelved indefinitely. If you are a room-sharing family, you may need to be creative about where nighttime fun time will happen (and there’s nothing wrong with a little creativity!) if it’s going to happen at all. Couples who manage to set up a routine of connection, no matter how quick or simple, will find that they have paved the road for further intimacy when things settle down around the home. A morning kiss, a two-minute hug, a sexy text, a shared weekly podcast to listen to—find something that works for both of you and has nothing to do with babies or household concerns, and stick with it.
Sex and Romance After a Baby? How??
The tips our clients have thanked us for:
- If you are breastfeeding, introducing a bottle when you feel that your nursing routine is secure can free you up to escape the house for a date night. (A postpartum doula is happy to help with that!)
- And if you are not in a position to leave baby behind, find a new and interesting outing for the three of you and call it a date.
- If you’ve been living without a shower or your normal beauty routine since your new one arrived, take a little time to find an outfit and accessories that make you feel great, and remind you of how it felt to be yourself before you became a parent. You may want to hit some sales and find a new outfit to fit your new post-baby body!
- Compliment your mate on what a great parent they are, and remind them of your last amazing date. Your goal is to set the stage for both of you to feel like two people who remember that they love and miss each other, and who want to make each other a priority.
Communication is the key
Couples who have made their relationships last for decades will tell you that the backbone for success is having open lines of communications. Many partners fear asking for what they want, and may dread criticism or fear rejection, so end up avoiding difficult conversations. It’s particularly common to feel vulnerable when emotions are high, hormones are out of whack, and sleep is a distant memory, but this is precisely the time when asking for what you need is essential.
There are professionals for this??
Don’t discount the benefits of professional help either- if you’re struggling to get your groove back after baby, seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist, talk with a counselor, or reach out to your care provider if you feel your hormones are playing a more significant role than some minor lack in libido. Setting aside some couple time to check in with each other and support each other will pay rewards both short term and long term. Whether that couple time means a fancy dinner, or sitting on a bench in a park with cups of espresso and watching the setting sun together, is up to you.
You may find that taking the lead and asking for what you want is precisely what your partner is hoping for; your new role as parent may have them walking on eggshells around you, and they may not know how or when you want to be touched or how best they can take care of you. With some advanced planning, patience, humor, and grace, you will find that you can reclaim romance, and that it can be deeper and more meaningful than ever. Happy loving!