Here is the final installment of what I hope has been a helpful series. I have to admit, it’s not exactly comfortable getting so vulnerable with this topic, but I want Out of the Nest to be a place where we can lift the lid on some of these difficult issues. We’ve looked at the physical obstacles, we’ve looked at the social obstacles, and in this last post, I want to look at the mental obstacles. Let’s start with the obvious one: sleep deprivation.
Who needs sleep, right? Not your baby most of the night, and as far as the baby’s concerned, neither do you. Forget about a baby, you may have a toddler that is still not sleeping. No amount of coffee is taking away that zombie feeling, nor is it curing that baby brain and the feeling of being a half-functioning human being. You know where this is going. I can’t say I’ve ever fallen asleep during sex, but I can see how it would happen. But it isn’t just the baby making you exhausted, there can be much deeper causes.
This is too big a topic to flesh out here. Post-Natal Depression is big and ugly—full stop. It’s heavy, it’s debilitating, and it can be completely demotivating. It’s a battle, right down to the hormonal fluctuations that cause bouts of depression or feeling emotional—none of it helps the libido in any way. Adding to the emotional burden can also be your brand-new body.
Poor Body Image
You’ve just produced a baby; needless to say, your body is looking different than it used to. It’s probably larger in areas that it’s never been and your whole shape is probably unrecognizable. Then there’s stretch marks, cellulite, varicose veins, extra belly rolls, and the list goes on. You probably find it hard to feel comfortable inclothes, let alone out ofclothes. And let’s not forget hygiene. Simple things like not getting to shave or even shower as often as you need. There was a time when you wouldn’t be caught dead like that. These are the obvious body issues, but what about things like your body’s new dual function?
Feeling maternal over sexy
As a breastfeeding mother, you may be nursing a baby several times a day, and you see your breasts very differently. You used to see them as something sexy, but now they are for nurturing. I know for me in that first year, my breasts were for my baby, it made me uncomfortable at times when my husband thought otherwise. This can be a real struggle. I mean, how do you go from breastfeeding a baby off to sleep, or cuddling your children goodnight, straight into the bedroom where your body is now potentially a source of sexual pleasure? And in the back of your mind knowing that it will be breastfeeding again in an hour or so. It’s compartmentalizing your body, your identity. It’s hard to blend the two, at least for me it is. Those are a few of the body issues, but what about the all-consuming, overwhelming, continual sense of never measuring up?
With motherhood comes a huge learning curve. I’m not just talking about the early weeks and months, I mean the “from now on” where we are continually learning (often from mistakes), worrying that we aren’t doing a good enough job, growing and navigating every new stage of our kids’ lives. It can be a daily grind, where we get to the end of the day and analyse in our heads everything we wish we had done better. If we’re lucky we walk away from it thinking we had a win or two. In that headspace, sex can appear to be another opportunity to drop the ball.
Well, that’s quite a list. And I’m sure there’s more you could add yourself. Why am I writing all this? I simply want you to know that it’s normal to experience any of the above. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not an anomaly. As I said previously, less than 50% of women can enjoy sex if the context isn’t just right. When you read through my 3 blogs worth of things effecting context, I hope you can appreciate that the percentage is probably smaller amount for postnatal women.
That said, if you are feeling concerned, have a chat with your GP. But the odds are, you are simply going through what (probably) every other mother is going through. If that’s the case, the best starting point to deal with it is a conversation, either with your partner, or with a close friend who knows the journey, or both. Whatever you do though, my hope is you don’t feel isolated by the issue.
Support and Resources: