Q – How can I get my sex life back after the birth of my next child? Our daughter is 4, and we joke about “before Lola and after Lola” in terms of how becoming parents seemed to kill our passion. Now we are preparing for number two, and I am afraid we’ll never make love again.
A – Well, mommy, you are stuck between being a parent and being a Lover. Research shows that the greatest drop in marital satisfaction comes after the birth of the first child. (from research by John Gottman, Seattle Marital Institute, quoted in his books) How sad that something as wonderful as parenthood can deeply undermine the loving bond a couple had before there were three. Kids can kill not only your sex life, but your Lover life. Being a Lover is an active process; a verb, not a noun. You both need to cultivate passion and intimacy – it is not going to just show up when you are in the middle of breastfeeding and burping, hockey practice and homework.
You are no doubt aware that once the baby arrives, many new parents struggle with fatigue. In addition to disrupted sleep, you are responsible for all of the needs of this newborn. An infant cannot regulate their emotions, so you may “take them on” and at times become drained by the intensity of their feelings. The last thing you then want is emotional contact with your spouse. In terms of physical contact, my new-mom patients say they have a child hanging onto their body all day long, and at the end of the day they can’t bear to be touched by their husband. Suddenly this glorious baby is coming between you, like an unintentional Lover life vampire, sucking out much of the love, connection and intimacy you used to save for your sweetie.
For a woman, there are hormonal changes that can lower your sex drive. If you breatfeed, lowered oestrogen can decrease sex drive and lead to vaginal dryness. Physically, you can have pain with intercourse as the normal post-birth healing is taking place, and the layout of your vagina may change so that penetration is uncomfortable or less satisfying. Psychologically, it may feel awkward to navigate between the roles of earth mother and sex kitten. For a man, whether he is a caveman or a car salesman, becoming a dad can cause a psychological shift as his biological imperative shouts “provide!” I have counseled men who state that they became all work and no play as soon as their child arrived. Plus, he has seen a child come out of your body, and he can have difficulty relating to your body as his pleasure palace once more.
After baby number two, make your Lover life a priority. Invest some time, effort and play (not work) into protecting your sensual and romantic bond. Make love within a few weeks of birth. If you are sore, skip penetration but enjoy mutual masturbation or oral pleasure. It is important to reconnect sexually, and remind yourselves of this part of who you are together. Help your husband understand that being touched all day by the baby leaves you craving some alone time. Take that time, but then embrace him and invite him in. And get a lock for the bedroom door. I have had patients who cured their lack-of-sex problems by making sure Lola wouldn’t walk in on them doing the deed. You are a parent all day long; make sure to give your inner Lover the opportunity to come out and play.