The High Druid's Homily

A blog about Druidism, Paganism, Politics, Southern Life, Sex, Entertainment, Sci-Fi, and a lot of crap like that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Post-Partum Sex: Myth or Legend?

It’s not often that I plug another blog, but every now and then you come across something worthy of comment and pee-your-pants kinda funny. When that happens, you want to share. So here goes:

Naughty Mommy. Heh. Anyone who knows me, where I work, or knows my wife realizes why this is personally a hoot. It’s one of those “sex-after-baby” sites, but one written with humor, talent and style. With the motto “Putting the T&A back in PTA” as a masthead, how could you go wrong?

The simple fact of the matter is that once you have a baby, your erotic life changes irrevocably. At first it’s depressing, maddening, and frustrating. By Kid #2 the dull, numbing realization that your genitalia have done their job and can go home, now, sets in. By Kid #3 your thoughts about sex tend to be more philosophical than primal, and you start thinking of your offspring in terms of your Genetic Legacy so you don’t think of them as ruthless midget cock blockers and entertain thoughts of infanticide after a particularly frustrating evening.

Rekindling that pre-child spark in a relationship is difficult because it isn’t going to be just about you and your partner . . . ever again. Apart from the involuntary insomnia and emotional trauma of the first 7-12 months of your offspring’s life, there is a new psychological factor present in your bed every night. The Child. They may not be there, physically, but they’re always Somewhere, and to be a good parent that Somewhere has to be on your mind constantly.

From the Mommy perspective, your body has just endured a year of physiological trauma akin to the transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly. While you are learning to cope with the physical issues and infirmities that arise with labor and delivery, and its ugly aftermath, your hormones are raging like an out-of-control forest fire – but not in a good way. Sex is, literally, the last thing on your mind. You don’t need the intimacy – the bond you share with the New Kid is like fine wine compared to the cheap, flat beer kind of intimacy provided by your husband. Your boobs are no longer property of either you or your husband, and they are about as erotic as a beverage vending machine. Your nether regions are painfully recovering from the most distressing disturbance ever, and the very thought of your man making an erotic advance on you is vile sounding, insulting, and potentially denigrating to the whole concept of Motherhood.

From the Daddy perspective, you are a confused and frustrated ball of hormones and low self-esteem – but not in a good way. You are nearly as sleep deprived as the new Mommy. You also have the tremendous psychological impact of not only being utterly responsible for this new, helpless life you’ve sired, but also for this new, bitchy wife you’ve acquired. And you don’t have a single drop of the serotonin-enhancing hormones your wife’s body pumps out in compensation for the extreme circumstances. Every move you make under her eye is laden with suspicion and mistrust. You have become a junior partner in your marriage, yet the pressure for success goes up by orders of magnitude. You are held up to an impossibly high standard by your wife, her sisters, her girlfriends, her mother, and passing strangers who all have invaded your home and feel obligated to point out your shortcomings as a father, husband, and a man. There is no way you can ever meet this standard. And every sniffing comment on dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, and un-vacuumed rugs becomes a pronouncement on your fitness to be involved in the sacred rite of Motherhood.

Not Parenthood. And certainly not Fatherhood – who the hell needs ‘em? Motherhood is the gold standard, and you will never, ever, ever achieve it. Under the Maternal Microscope, nothing you do will ever, ever be right. This is Mommy’s show, you’re a mere stagehand – it doesn’t matter how many diapers you change, backs you rub, meals you prepare, or the work you take home because the scant compensated “Maternity Leave” your boss begrudgingly extended to you was taken up not with bonding with your new baby, but with catering to the constant physical and emotional demands of wife and child. If that isn’t sapping your self-esteem during this confusing and frustrating time, then congratulations! You’ve found the right medication.

The last ten months have been a roller-coaster of life-changing internal monologs revolving around the implications of the New Kid. The next ten months will be a long and frustrating battle to re-establish yourself as a real Player in your new family, and not a mere servant. You are emotionally shattered, physically exhausted, and psychologically scarred from seeing your favorite piece of anatomy on your wife turned inside out and stretched beyond recognition. Boobs? They seem to be out all the time, big healthy fluffy boobs, too, round, firm, fully packed and ripe for the picking. Just because they are lactating – who knew? – that shouldn’t be a barrier to your enjoyment of them. But. You. Can’t. Touch. Them.

You see sex as a relief, a vital reaffirmation of yourself as a human being and a man. Sex can bring it all back, you tell yourself. That heady orgasmic bliss will soothe your aching ego as well as re-establish the profound love that brought the New Kid into existence in the first place. Perhaps it will also remind your wife of your small, pathetic little needs, as well as the fact that you have purpose beyond Waste Management. You are biologically programmed to use sex as a bridge to your deeper emotional life – you have a difficult time “opening up” without it, so all of these extreme feelings you have are backing up like a broken septic tank. You need sex like an addict needs a fix.

And it just ain’t gonna happen.

It’s a shock when that fact settles in. If you are lucky you will be so busy those first few months that you won’t think about it. That first-six-weeks-no-intercourse rule hangs over your bed like a stern guardian of your wife’s vaginal security, but you intellectually understand the medical reasoning behind it. The Happy Place needs time to heal. And it does give you a goal – if you can’t have sex for the first six weeks, then surely you can have sex after the first six weeks.

There’s a big difference, however, between ‘can’ and ‘will’. Even as you get home from your wife’s six-week-post-partum check up, you are eagerly stripping off your clothes, selecting an appropriate G-string to wear for two minutes, and considering if it’s too early to re-introduce a little light porn, your wife will glare accusingly at you, clutch her baby (HER baby – not yours) protectively in her arms, and snarl “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?!?” Game Over.

The temptation exists to stand around your wife while she nurses, whimpering like a dog begging at the table for scraps. It seems demeaning and degrading at first – and it is – but after a couple of weeks without sex your pride level drops low enough to keep your self-esteem company. Begging doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore. Do it right, it might even be kinky. Get rejected? Go back for more. Maybe if you grovel just a little harder this time . . .

There also exists the temptation to engage in an argument that would have been perfectly normal and healthy . . . pre-Baby. To do so now is to invite untold misery into your personal life. Blaming Mommy because Daddy’s head is about to explode with sexual tension is just a poor idea. It also invites the wrath of her maternal support network, who will have no problems verbally eviscerating you for your temerity. How DARE you blame her for your insignificant problems! And, of course, there is the highly pragmatic issue of an argument just not working the way that you want it to. Best to keep your fool mouth shut. Perhaps if you casually, humorously mention it: “Remember that thing we used to do? Wouldn’t it be cool if we—”

But no. Your natural desire for sex is a perverse sign of your flawed humanity in her eyes. That you could entertain such base thoughts at such an important time reveals your own utter lack of sensitivity. Push it far enough and she’ll start to verbally muse about what she saw in you in the first place. Try to take matters in your own hands – and get busted on it – and you are likely to hear the shriek “How can you jerk off when there is LAUNDRY to be done? What kind of man are you?”

And that’s without the complication of Post Partum Depression. Like PMS and Menopause, this is one of those great female Mysteries that you, as a man, must always be understanding about but must never mention in her presence. No matter how many baby bottles she throws at your head, you must not suggest that she might be feeling a little PPD, lest your possibility of getting nookie – ever – dry up completely. But PPD is a very real and very scary thing, and it is wise to take that into account when you are considering groveling. Remember: women with Post Partum have been successfully acquitted for murder due to insanity. Best not mention that last part to your honey.

Your personal dam will come under strain. Men feel the need to have sex when they are stressed, and nothing stresses you like a new baby, a temporarily insane wife, and a boss who grew up in an era where the Father, as functionary, did not become the focus of the childrearing experience until the kid was at least 12 – “Whaddaya mean you need to get off early again? Can’t she handle a little mommy-crap on her own? You’ve got important things to do! Keep this up and you can be a stay-at-home Dad!”

When the frustration level gets to that certain point, where your subconscious mind is considering which co-workers you would have an affair with in an ideal world and you look forward to a half-hour’s worth of masturbation the way you once anticipated Date Night, it can be hard to successfully communicate these inner feelings to your mate without sounding . . . selfish. And that’s the issue, to her. Your alleged sexual needs, she sees, are a selfish manifestation of your inherently selfish personality. They are something that has nothing to do with her or the baby – just a crude physiological self-gratification, the kind that you should be more than willing to trade in for the august position of Fatherhood.


So you brood, and your mother-in-law wants to know what’s wrong with you. You sulk, and wife’s BFF thinks you don’t like the baby. Show the smallest signs of self-pity and anger, and you get accused of falling out of love for your wife and mother of your child just when she needs you the most. You cannot defend yourself against these accusations. To do so validates them in the minds of the females involved.

The best tactic to take is a kind of perverse stoicism. Cultivate a monk-like serenity. Go ahead, bottle up those emotions. Pack ‘em down tight – that’s the unselfish thing to do. Consciously distance yourself emotionally from your mate during the period where she wants you to simultaneously be an emotional punching bag, a flawless housekeeper, and a sensitive father to your new child. Cultivate that distance, because it will keep you sane during the next year, while she copes with Motherhood herself, recovers from the hormonal yo-yo, and redefines herself as a woman. As much as you crave it, as much as you need it like the breath of life itself, forget that such a thing as sex exists – any less sets you up for continual disappointment. Eventually, she might let you in. Until then, keep your damn mouth shut and your mind on the laundry.

Of course by that time your own emotional development has become stunted, and your self esteem shrivels up to a ghost of its former self. Your emotional survival and self-image as a man is in jeopardy. You suddenly understand that certain expression on your father’s face. Despite yourself you come to resent your wife and kids and know, instinctively, that your value to them is based solely on how useful you are, and not much more.

Someday, perhaps, your wife will want to have sex with you again. She won’t feel like it, she won’t like it, and it won’t be any good, but by that time a three-minute quickie while the baby naps is like tantalizing dew-drops to a man dying of thirst. No matter how bad the sex is – and it will be bad, mark my words – it will be the first tangible sign that you may have a relationship again.

Emphasis on may. There are no guarantees. Sometimes the strain of the new baby on a relationship is such that it becomes permanently broken. I’ve known even the strongest of relationships to break under that stress. And again, it isn’t just the two of you any more, even when it’s just the two of you.

A co-worker of my wife’s once explained to her the downfall of his own marriage one late night before we were married. He blamed it on the “little shit” scenario, the typical masculine response to the Big Freeze after labor and delivery.

The short version runs like this: New Daddy loves the baby, loves the New Mommy, love, love, love. But New Daddy gets no love of his own, knows New Mommy used to love him, and recognizes the New Kid as the alienating factor. New Kid goes quickly from being the light of your life to the little shit that’s monopolizing the woman you spent years, probably, making into the wife you love. Once the New Kid is weaned successfully, and the Boobies return to your ostensible possession, the little shit still keeps your wife from thinking about sex for the first year or so. The milestones of development progress – sleeping through the night, the need to belch, solid foods, etc. – and the excuses for no sex gradually fall away, but the little shit keeps getting in the way of you having the sex you so richly deserve.

Resentment builds, until you can barely look at your cute baby without blaming the little shit for the longest cock-block in history. Any experiences you do have are furtive, at best, with the constant possibility of the little shit crying or otherwise interrupting your savoir fare looming over the pathetic “moves” that used to work with your wife. Only now, instead of her warming up with your caress and laughing at your stupid pre-sex jokes, she blithely strips off her nursing bra and says with a sigh “We have to hurry – and don’t touch the boobs yet.” Keep it up, and the Little Shit will become a permanent wedge in your marriage, and ultimately keep you from a fulfilling relationship with your own kid. As you grow more and more resentful, your wife becomes more and more dissatisfied with your emotional distance. And your chances of scoring slide quickly to zero.

The one issue I have with Ms. Raykeil’s blog is her emphasis on quality over quantity. I respect it and understand it – to a new mother, few things are more sexy or life-affirming than a husband who changes diapers without complaint and folds laundry without being asked – but I take issue with it. No doubt there is a part of the New Mommy that finds new orgasmic heights in post-baby sex. But to a New Daddy, a single earth-shattering experience a month is a poor substitute for more regular, more mediocre sex. While New Mommy might see once-a-month Date Night as an opportunity for superlative romantic and passionate married-people sex, New Daddy would be so much more appreciative of a weekly handjob or so, just until things return to some semblance of normalcy. It isn’t a character flaw in us – it’s just how we’re wired. We can’t help it any more than y’all can help menstruation.

Now, all of this being said, I want to emphasize that the problems and situations I’ve discussed are by no means a reflection on my wife’s behavior during any of the three New Kids we’ve had. I won’t say that we had a seamless and problem-free transition between pre-baby and post-baby sex, but we were forewarned about the matter, and both of us made a conscious effort to deal with our mutual psychological conditions without recourse to personal judgments or verbal condemnations. But we’re weird. Most couples go through this long and painful transition with no clue what’s going on in each other’s heads, and little desire to add the complications of a real sex life to the already-complex world of New Kid. Not everyone has my wife’s obsession with communication or my own passion for personal introspection. They aren’t told about this by their elders, largely because they don’t want to re-live those wonderful, ghastly days, or discuss it with the grown up Little Shits who still get in the way of their sex life. And I can’t blame them. This column was hard enough to write, knowing how many of my friends, family members, and passing strangers will read it. But it is important that this point of view is expressed, and likewise important for my wife to know that I rarely, if ever, entertain the “Little Shit” model of post-partum sexuality.

Now, if I could just keep “Elmo’s Song” from playing in my head when I’m “doing it”, and I could look at a sexy bra without thinking “How the hell could she nurse in that?!?” I’d be one under par. As it is, I get more than most men in my situation, and my wife is a princess among women.

Maybe that admission will be enough for me to score tonight. But I doubt it.


Blogger Kira said...

Hmmm...well, I'd agree with many of the issues discussed here based on my other friends' comments on post baby sex, but I have to say that in my relationship with Rob, I ALWAYS wanted more sex than him--post baby, pre baby, while pregnant, whatever. So, it's harder for me to see the perspective of the female as you write it here. I'd wake up in the middle of the night to feed Ariana, and hell, I was already awake...let's go for it! But noooo Rob'd rather sleep. I think I have libido issues.

Now, the one area I can definitely understand and agree on is DO NOT TOUCH MY TITS WHILE I LACTATE. They return to being the guy's property after a year, but before that, well...would YOU like it if some gal came up and gave ya a half kick to the nuts as a sign of love and affection? Damn, my boobs were soooo sore. Like, DD worth of sore. Rob'd come up and just squeeze like one might do on a cow, seeing if the milk would squirt across the room, and I'd start bawling. He'd then look confused EVERY FUCKING TIME and say, but I don't understand! It SHOULDN'T hurt! ARG! It's not a matter of "don't touch the baby's food" for me so much as, "my goddess that screamingly hurts like a bitch! don't touch!"

And yes, once a month is not enough by far. However, that being said, I have to state that my libido generally didn't kick back in until 12 weeks post baby, so weeks 6 through 12 were often sexless for me. Again, though, there's something wierd about the libido of women in my family anyway. My mom confessed to me once a couple of years ago that her doctor nearly fell off his stool when he asked her about sexual frequency due to some issue she had going off. When she confessed that after 40 plus years of marriage, it had "slacked off" to five times a week, he died. He just couldn't believe it. And that's after four children (and three miscarriages) too. Of course, us little shits have grown up and are long gone from the house by now :)

1:15 AM  
Blogger The Naughty Mommy said...

Hey high druid -- thanks for the props and I like what you have to say here. Of course we should let any of the new parents to be that might find there way here that it's not all bad -- they can be little shits, and those early months can suck, but dammit, if it's also not the best damn thing.

Also, I think it's important to point out that like Kira said, libidos range in everyone, there's no real standard. Wherever we start on the libido spectrum it most likely will be changed by parenthood in some way. And damn, kira, I wish I had your libido issues....

Also -- just to clarify, I'm actually all for quickies simply to satisfy the higher libido person in the relationship. But I think it's important to call those what they are, and not let them take the place of good sex. In my book I make a distinction between "pity sex" and true "charity sex." For me, pity sex is bad sex, given to your partner because of excessive whining or a need to check it off a list. Charity sex, on the other hand, is willing and happy time spent engaging in sexual acts openly together, even if one partner is not getting off. But it's not bitter, it's not something you "have" to do as much as it is good messy fun together (even if it's only five minutes here or there --I think weekly handjobs fall into that category). So I guess I'm just saying it's not as simple as quality vs. quantity. Date night mind blowing sex can be quality, yes, but so can a fun midweek handjob, as long as expectations and attitudes are adjusted accordingly.


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