-By Talia Ambar-
Eat, poop, repeat. If you have a baby, you know the drill.
Hardly any time for your morning coffee. Hardly any energy to brush your teeth in the evening. Definitely neither time nor energy for sex.
This is where Divya Kumar comes in. Divya is many things: postpartum support professional, postpartum doula, lactation counselor (to name a few). And she is also a “teller of truths about motherhood”, and on Monday, February 29, she gave us some very important truths.
As Divya says, “labor and delivery are finite”; it’s what comes afterwards that stays with you, and yet there are so many things people don’t tell you about it. One of those things is how birth and parenthood can affect your relationship with your partner, and more specifically – your sex life. Yes, it is a sensitive topic to talk about, but Divya managed to make it light and funny by sharing her personal experience, saying things the way they are, and using lots and lots of humor. She also managed to relate the topic to the very diverse audience: we had new parents, second-time parents, expecting or just thinking-about-it couples; we had different cultures and backgrounds; and we had mothers after vaginal deliveries and after C-sections. But one thing was in common – we were all there because we care about our relationships.
So what have we learned? Many things can affect how you may feel after birth: any interventions or tearing you may have had, the process of recovery, or a possible trauma. When you have a newborn, you’re exhausted, stressed, physically and emotionally drained. You may have financial concerns, and you have no time or privacy. Breastfeeding causes hormonal changes, and you may feel differently now that your breasts have a different function. You and your partner need to adjust to being a family of 3: someone may feel left out, jealous, or resentful. There’s lots of imbalance in parenting, and in sex – one partner may want to have sex while the other partner may feel like they need to do it. Infertility might affect the way you view sex. And of course, perinatal emotional complications, such as depression, will have an effect.
All of these can affect how you feel about your body and your sexuality. But all of this is also normal. And Divya assures us that it is also normal to not want sex after a baby arrives.
But not to worry! It isn’t all bad. Divya also has some great tips to dealing with the situation:
Communicate with your partner, because no one is a mind reader.
Don’t forget that you’re still the same person you were before.
Figure out the logistics and don’t wait for the perfect time and place to have sex.
Explore new ways and change the way you have sex.
Shift your expectations – it won’t be the same as before.
Be physical without sex, because we all need that.
Divya also reminds us the small things that are easy to forget: to be patient, to keep our sense of humor, and to invest in ourselves and do something that would make us feel good. It’s important to find a way to make your relationship a priority, and planning in advance (and getting a babysitter) is a great beginning.
Of course, in some cases something still won’t feel right. And if that happens, remember you don’t need to suffer alone – there is help. Talk to your pediatrician or your doctor about your concerns. You can also contact Jennifer Recklet Tassi at MIT Spouses&Partners Connect or Amanda Hankins at the Violence Prevention & Response office.
In conclusion, know that whatever you may be feeling – you are not alone. And what I personally believe is the key to happy parenting – don’t forget that you are more than just parents. You are also you.