“6 more weeks and you can be back at it,” my doctor parroted, distracted on her way out of the door.
It had been a rough pregnancy. Spent almost entirely on bed rest and ending in an emergency C-Section at 30 weeks, the ordeal would soon be over. The baby was safe in the NICU, and in 6 short weeks I would be able to do everything I could do before the pregnancy…including sex. At least that is what the doctor said.
6 weeks flew by. The baby came home. And one fateful night in October, eight weeks after the C-Section, my husband and I headed to the bedroom to do a little more than sleep for the first time in almost a year.
It didn’t fit.
Yep. You heard that right. It didn’t fit. And it was so painful trying. I broke down in tears. Postpartum sex pain is real.
Was this our life now? Would we spend the rest of our lives celibate? How were we going to have that second kid we always wanted?
Yeah, hormones suck. And doctors suck at disseminating information even more.
People do not heal from birth in 6 weeks. 6 weeks after birth you cannot do everything you used to do. Going up stairs might still be a challenge. Your lady parts might still hurt. Bending over and tying your own shoes or putting on socks easily could still be a long way off.
My mom used to tell me that after surgeries 6 weeks is how long it takes for your body to be able to do things without breaking open and spewing blood everywhere. It took giving birth for me to understand how true that was.
Over the next few months, we kept trying. It was torture. Anything touching down there might as well have been sandpaper.
We let the baby get in the way. “I’m too tired. The baby was up 4 times last night,” was a common excuse. Until one day, in a fit of frustration, I turned to the internet.
I have never been more angry in my life! Here I had been sold a lie by both the media and my doctor, and I thought I was the one with a problem.
The media loves to portray pregnancy as little more difficult than a long period with extra hormones. You give birth, then BAM, 6 weeks later you are back in shape pushing a jogging stroller with a latte and having a glorious sex life. The doctors did nothing to indicate that might not be true.
But it isn’t true. For most women, pregnancy and postpartum are not like that at all. We struggle. Sex evaporates. And the taboos surrounding all of it isolate us at our most vulnerable.
The internet taught me that it could be a year or longer before my body was actually ready for sex. It could be a year or longer until I was really ready to start working out again. It could be a year or longer before I would start to feel like me again.
Armed with information, I approached my husband. We went through all the data together and came up with a plan. We would schedule sex once a month and re-evaluate after each time. We wouldn’t push. If things didn’t work, we would stop and there would be no hard feelings. After all, we could still do things that weren’t painful. Like cuddle.
Sex had become work. A chore. Like physical therapy or taking out the garbage. Something that had to be done, but that no one really wanted. After all, if we didn’t try we wouldn’t know how I was healing.
We had lots of false starts. A few nights that ended in tears for one or both parties. But we knew, eventually, my body would decide we could do this. So we kept going.
Fall turned to winter. Winter turned to spring. It was May before sex stopped being prohibitively painful. October again before it started being fun. And now, 16 months after our daughter was born, we are finally back to our pre-baby sex life.
So, for everyone out there struggling: your sex life isn’t over. You won’t feel like this forever. Sex might not be the same for a while (or ever again), and it will never be as easy as it once was to make time for, but it will be back. And it will be just as good (if not better) than it ever was.