It’s cliche, but true — almost everything changes when you become a parent. I knew having a baby would affect my sex life, but I wasn’t prepared for how profound, and sometimes absurd, those changes would be.
When I look back on my early days as a mom, it definitely took me a while to figure out how to be a parent and maintain a sex life. If you’re a new parent, your experiences may not be exactly like mine. But as I consider the things I know now that I wish I knew then, perhaps something will resonate with you.
I’m also bringing you bonus advice from my awesome friend and colleague, Dr. Jess O’Reilly! Dr. Jess is highly respected sexologist, educator, author and public speaker. I’ve attended her workshops and lectures and when it comes to sexuality, this woman knows her stuff.
Here are the top 5 things I know now that I wish I knew then:
I expected that one of the trade-offs of becoming a parent would be less sex, at least in the early days. “A decrease in sexual activity after having a baby is a near-universal experience — especially in the early months, so fret not! You may lose interest in sex, desire intimacy in different ways or prefer masturbating and other non-penetrative activities,” says Dr. Jess.
It definitely took a few months, but once the initial chaos of new-motherhood began to calm down, my libido made a comeback. It was so nice to be feeling sexy feelings but new motherhood had yet another change in store for me. Sex felt...different. Some of my tried-and-true sex favourites now felt odd. My orgasmic patterns were unpredictable. And I was turned-on by things that I’d previously had no interest in doing. It was all very disconcerting.
I’ve since learned about the ways that aging and life events can affect our bodies sexually. If I could speak to my new mom self, I’d tell her not to stress. After a baby it may take a little time to re-orient yourself sexually, but it’s also an opportunity to explore new techniques or try some new products. Masturbation can be a nice, low-pressure way to experiment and an enjoyable alternative to doing laundry while your baby naps.
According to Dr. Jess, “One study found that women are more likely to start masturbating before they resume intercourse, so toys designed for vulval (non-penetrative) stimulation might inspire you to change up your sex life (for the better) post-childbirth. I like the We-Vibe Touch and The Magic Banana which doubles as a Kegel exerciser.”
Masturbation and Kegels. What new mom doesn’t love products that do two jobs at once?
I read a LOT of women’s magazines when I while was chillin' on the couch feeding my baby. The perennial piece of advice to moms wanting boosting sexual self-confidence was to wear sexy lingerie. Well you know what? Having a baby is hard, yo! You should wear whatever you want and like a lot of moms, what I wanted to wear most of time was yoga pants. And you know what? Yoga pants make butts look great AND they're easy to get off during a quickie. Life with a baby doesn't always leave time for push up bras and foreplay!
Before my son was born, my partner and I had had a very intimate physical relationship. It was very important to both of us that that continue once we became parents. “Partner support and pre-baby relationship satisfaction levels have a significant impact on the sexual relationship,” Dr. Jess explains.
As I mentioned earlier, I had to make a lot of sexual re-adjustments in my early parenting days. Fortunately, sex is not the only way for new parents to stay physically connected as partners. One of the reasons sex with our partners can increase feelings of intimacy is that it releases oxytocin — a feel-good hormone that makes us feel trust and connection. Hugging, cuddling and other forms of affectionate contact release those same chemicals in our bodies.
It’s awesome to see that the folks at the show understand that non-sex sex has as much to do with intimacy as the hot, sweaty naked stuff. Showing love in a physical way kept my partner and I close, so that the disruption in our sex lives didn’t pull us apart emotionally.
When I found out I was going to have a baby, I spent serious money on a very swanky diaper bag that I wound up using maybe a dozen times. What I wish I bought instead was a bed wedge.
If you aren’t familiar with the wedge, it’s soft, but supportive triangle of foam that you can place on your mattress if you want to support part of your body during sex. It’s a great accessory for anyone, but they’re especially good for new parents. Dr. Jess agrees, “Whether you’re recovering from a Caesarian, looking to protect your tender boobies or looking for a position to change the angle of penetration, the Liberator Wedge and Ramp offer an easy solution.”
In fact the first time I saw the wedge was years ago at the sex show. If I could send a message to my younger, pre-parent self, I’d say, “Diaper bag, schmiaper bag. Get the wedge! You’ll thank me someday when your baby has you so exhausted you can’t support your own hips during sex!”
Finally, don’t feel that you have to alter your sexual preferences or identities in order to be motherly. As much as I try not to buy into these sorts of tropes, some part of me did wonder if being a mother meant I needed to be more wholesome.
I wish I’d been less concerned about whether my sexual desires fell in line with what I thought a mother should be. In retrospect, all my baby cared about was being loved and having his needs met. What kind of sex you have has nothing to do with what kind of mom you are. Babies could care less if we’re kinky or watch porn or have a fetish. Babies don’t care about our sex lives. They’re adorable, but they don’t know what’s going on.
Speaking of which, if you bring home a new sex toy put it away immediately. Do NOT leave it within reach of your munchkin’s grabby hands. I’ve learned from experience that babies can’t differentiate between a vibrating teething ring and...other things...that vibrate.