Article written by Monica Cook
Original article featured in Monica’s website
“It’s ironic that they [children] can be so adept at crippling the very act that got them here…” [Colleen Meeks – author]
It’s the news my husband was eagerly waiting for and I was hesitant to receive just six weeks after our first son had been born – “Yes, Mrs Cook, everything has healed up just fine, you’re good to go” – and that was it.
I may have been physically good to go – but that was only half the story – mentally and emotionally I was a mess. I had a completely new body which ‘leaked’ at regular intervals and that was now ‘functional’ rather than aesthetic. Where sex used to be spontaneous it now only occurred at night when all I wanted to do sleep. I felt absolutely no sexual desire and for the first time ever felt over-touched, over-tired, over-needed and on top of it guilty for feeling all these things!
As I sat on the sofa with my granny undies (the only underwear that now fit me!) and messy pony tail, I wondered whether things would ever be the same – would I ever be a ‘sexy’ wife again?
No one ever tells you about the impact that having children can have on your marriage and one facet of that– your sex life. To some extent, bodily change is assumed (after all, a baby has to exit from somewhere!), but while much is spoken about in relation to pelvic floor recovery or breastfeeding ergonomics – there was much silence with regards to navigating the new world of sexual dynamics with babies and young kids.
No one told me about hormonal changes and their impact on libido or how to cope with physical changes that may mean sex is painful or different positions required. No one prepared me for the hit to your self-esteem or told me how to maintain an interest in sex when there is a never-ending list of chores or a baby crying in the other room. And there certainly wasn’t any discussion for the husbands regarding possible change in their sexual desire (heaven forbid!). The lack of information was quite frankly depressing…and isolating.
When my husband and I started asking questions all we got was the fairly consistent answer that this was just how it was going to be – having children undoubtedly killed a couple’s sex life and that was the end of that. This was evidenced in jokes made to my husband like ‘didn’t you read the male edition of what to expect when you’re expecting?….nothin!”
There’s no doubt that a measure of grace does need to be shown during this transitionary period of physical and emotional recovery and adjustment where roles have changed for both husband and wife as they tend to the primary mission at hand: keeping a small human alive. However, from my experience the tiredness, the fatigue, the mental load (for both) doesn’t go away– it continues on for months years even and by then there might be more children on their way. So, what do you do during this season?
In my experience, an attitude of indifference or acceptance that ‘this is just what happens’ is an unhelpful narrative that can excuse couples from giving their sex life the attention it deserves. So often long periods of abstinence can leave couples feeling hurt, inadequate, broken, guilty, resentful, stuck and unable to move forward. Such silent erosion within the relationship can start out very subtly with low level resentment but can quickly spiral into lack of intimacy and for some a seeking after sexual gratification in other places such as pornography or with other people. Sometimes, this is the easier option than having to face your spouse with issues you don’t have the words for. It’s difficult to say ‘having sex with you really hurts’ – or as a man ‘I’m just not feeling the same desire as I did before kids’ Whaaattttt? Aren’t men always thinking about it?!
The truth is lack of sex in marriage is extremely common especially after kids, but it shouldn’t lead to shame and silence. The first step is in realising it’s completely normal that your sex life might change from season to season and that adapting to this might actually take some work and evolve to look quite different to what it did in the past. The next step is then to get working knowing that change is possible.
The bible speaks beautifully into this space on a number of levels – if you want to find out more tune in for Part 2 of ‘Sex After Kids’
Monica is a sex and fertility educator and speaker with many years of experience presenting to a range of audiences including couples, parents, students, doctors and church congregations.
Holding a Masters of Sexual and Reproductive Health (Psychosexual Therapy) and with qualifications in medical research [PhB Medical Science] and health education [Grad Dip Sci Comm], Monica is well placed to translate the most current information on these topics into practical concepts that enhance sexual wellness and help couples manage their fertility.
In 2018 Monica was offered a position as a Senior Research Fellow at Anglican Deaconess Ministries. It was here she had the unique opportunity to design a sex and fertility program built on theological principles for the Church.
Visit Monica’s website to learn more about her seminars, workshops, education and counselling services.