I was tempted to title this post “When My Sex Life Sucked (and Not in the Good Way)” but decided that my junior high locker room humor probably didn’t need to take main stage. After all, this is a serious subject.
If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts, you know that I am highly in favor of marital intimacy. I flat out love sex with my husband. I desire it. I welcome it. I sometimes initiate it. I revel in it. I thank God for it.
But lest you think that my marriage has always soared in the shake-your-groove-thing department, I will burst that fantasy bubble today. There was a time in my marriage when our sex life was gasping for air like a silent movie actress in a death scene. I had almost no sex drive, and he became very frustrated with my lack of interest.
When and why? It was around the pregnancy, childbirth, and infant years. That time was so hard on me and my body that I didn’t have anything left for the sex area of my life. In hindsight, several things should have happened. In this post and the next one, I will share the lessons I gained in hopes that another couple might learn from what we through. The first set of lessons here involve what the wife can do to sustain, or even improve, physical intimacy in the marriage. In the next post, I’ll speak more generally to couples.
Actively pursue personal health. When I was carrying babies, bearing babies, nursing babies, and caring for babies — better known as the alien invasion years — my body did not feel like my own. It was me, of course; however, my body had been irrevocably changed.
I’m going to interrupt myself and admit that I don’t know whether all of the changes were due to pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones, or other issues such as sleep deprivation and stress. Having only gone the biological route, I don’t know any other. I would presume that adoptive mothers can have the same challenges with an infant in the home.
For myself, however, my body was low on estrogen and likely testosterone as well. I should have told my doctor how I was feeling and asked to have a blood test checking for vitamin and hormone deficiencies. I might have even considered an anti-depressant during the most overwhelming months. Perhaps that seems extreme; yet a temporary boost of energy to make it through those tough months might have done wonders for me feeling better about myself as a mom and a wife, and I would have been more available for my husband and my child.
Continue to emphasize your role as wife. For the pregnant or new mom, almost all of your body’s energy seems to go toward children. After having my hands on my child all day, and my child’s hands on me, the last thing I wanted was for anyone to touch my body. Multiple children means that there are multiple hands on you — some days making you feel like an octopus’s plaything. When you finally tuck those sweet babies into bed at night and listen to their surrendered breathing, and then your husband comes from behind and grabs your tush, your brain may scream, Get off, get off! Having another set of hands can feel like another set of demands.
But intimacy with my husband isn’t a demand; it’s a command from God, a way of being close with your spouse, and a sweet pleasure in its own right. I should have made more time and opportunity for those moments. I should have remembered that I was not only a mother, but a wife.
Let me be clear: I am not saying to ignore your parental duties. But I didn’t let my first child cry for a full minute before I was in there taking care of my little one. My infant always had my attention first. Looking back, it might have been okay to shove in some ear plugs, have a fun quickie, and then go get the fussy baby out of the crib. It’s easier to put off your husband’s needs since he is less likely to wail like a banshee for attention like your kids. But the need to be intimate doesn’t go away merely because you now have a tangible, physical result of intimacy.
Make sure your “Me Time” includes rejuvenating activities, not merely escapism. I took breaks from my kids, but the activities didn’t necessarily energize me. We all have activities that give us a respite from our daily ho-hum, and others that make us feel alive. Those two things are different. Escaping with a good film is fun, but for me reading and writing light a fire in my belly. Attending musical events and singing enliven me. Spending time in nature and dancing make me aware of my senses and surroundings.
But as much I love my scrapbooks, attending scrapbooking crops were social gatherings that I enjoyed but they didn’t refresh me. They drained me more and kept me in mom-baby mode as I slapped on picture after picture of my precious little ones. I wish I had taken piano lessons or joined a book club or started this blog back then. Of course, scrapbooking may be just the thing for you, or karaoke, or roller derby. The point is to find something that energizes you outside your role as mom. You’ll always be mom, but you are more than that as well.
Do things to make yourself feel sexy. It’s hard to make that mental transition from Mommy with the children to Hot Mama for the husband. I wish I had taken more time to have a bubble bath, get a massage, find pretty lingerie to fit my differently-shaped figure, or have a glass of wine or herbal tea now and then to tune into my body. I now know how important it can be to find those activities that trigger feelings of sensuality and self-confidence.
Despite the changes that happen in a woman’s body from childbearing, she is usually still very sexy to her husband. In fact, some husbands find their wives even more appealing after having seen the miracle that grew in her body. The female form is beautiful, and young moms may need some extra time to reconnect with their sexiness so that they can feel good about themselves in the arms of their husband.
It can feel selfish to indulge in these ways. After all, you don’t want to neglect your children just to luxuriate with Calgon. However, your children will be blessed by having a mother who has a great sex life with their father. And you are still totally hot! Tap into that and enjoy it.
Ultimately, all of these suggestions are about taking care of yourself. The responsibility of caring for a tiny little one (in and out of the womb) can be overwhelming for a woman. Your whole life is changing in a way that rivals an Extreme Home Makeover episode. Forget that. It surpasses tearing your home to the ground and rebuilding it. It is big.
It’s also wonderful in the long run to be Mom. However, as easy as it might be to get consumed by parenthood and lose yourself in the role of mother, you will have a child in your home for eighteen or so years and a husband in your home for hopefully many more. (I’m going for golden anniversary. How about you?) It is not selfish to prioritize your health, your personal identity, and your marriage. In fact, if anything, you will be a better parent for adding mother to your roles but remaining the fabulous you that you already are.
How well are you doing in balancing motherhood and self-care? Do you still feel sexy to your husband? Have you struggled with physiological changes?