Intimacy after the babe arrives - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 10:25 AM - Thread Starter
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This is a topic that has been on my mind for the past few days and I would love to hear what all of you experienced mamas have to say.

My DH and I have a very strong and close relationship, physically and emotionally. We have (I think) above-average communication skills, and we make our marriage our priority. But it seems like lately, I've been hearing from all over the place (media, friends, etc.) about how drastically marriage changes after the birth of your child to the point that closeness and intimacy are a thing of the past. And, that the mothers don't miss it at all!

I was talking to a very good friend of mine who has a 13-month old, and she said that she recently went to her OB for her 1-year follow-up appointment, and her doctor asked about her sex life. She said it's non-existent, and the doctor said that is totally normal. She went on to say that when her DH comes home from work, she doesn't want to be touched or hugged or kissed. She said, "I tell him, don't even look at me!" She then hands the baby over to him and goes to read in another room. Now I must qualify this by saying I'm not sure they had the strongest marriage before their daughter came, and I also want to clarify that I am not judging her and that I totally think both parents need time alone too. But the whole conversation just left me feeling kind of...sad. I don't *want* to get to the point where I don't want to share affection with my husband! Even going through this first trimester was kind of emotionally difficult for me because I did find myself wanting MUCH less intimacy, and at the same time missing our usual closeness.

I also watched a recent show on Oprah about marriage after kids, and it seemed that the resounding feeling of most of the moms was that they were just so exhausted all the time that they didn't have anything left to give their husbands and they basically resented their husbands for having needs at all.

Well, after thinking about this and kind of putting it all together, I have come up with a hypothesis, and I wanted to see what y'all think. (And admittedly, I am now pregnant with our first, so I am TOTALLY naive about all of this.) My feeling about the whole thing is that what keeps women from wanting intimacy is *not necessarily* the exhaustion of being a mom - but more the resentment about how much parenting they have to do and how much is demanded of them. A lot of the women on the Oprah show and even my girlfriend say that their husbands don't understand that after a full day of nurturing and having a baby (or multiple children) attached to them, the last thing they want is another person making physical demands of them. This makes sense to me.

What I'm wondering is whether these women, and moms in general, would be more open to intimacy and closeness if they felt that their husbands were helping them parent more AND - probably more importantly - if they felt that there husbands were interested in "giving" instead of "taking" from a physical intimacy point of view. For example, would intimacy be facilitated by the husband offering a foot or shoulder massage, or offering to take a bath/shower together, or making dinner....or something else nurturing to the mother? It just seems to me that what is missing in most of these cases is the husband taking an active role in replenishing the mother's physical and emotional needs. As partners, I think that is one of our most important roles to each other!

I had a long talk with DH about this yesterday, and we are both committed to trying to avoid this cliche of marriage. What I am hoping is that some of you mamas who have been through this will be able to help me come up with ideas, strategies, and inspiration! What helps you feel close to your husbands? What makes you welcome physical contact and intimacy?

(PS: Of course I mean after a few months, not like immediately after birth!)

Thanks Mamas!!

Ever-evolving mama to my beautiful Brynn, and my little dimple-faceĀ Noah .
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#2 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 02:51 PM
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i definitly felt this way after elwynn was born, but maybe i would have felt differently if my parter and i had known eachother better and i felt like he respected my need for space and time to be a momma more.. i think if you have a compationate partner this wont ruin your relationship, but all of the hormones going on in you arent really focused at making babies, they are sending all energy to nursing and protecting that wee one..

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#3 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 03:25 PM
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Well, given that I'm not married to my boys father any more, you're probably asking the wrong person. BUT IME, there are two things that make for a successful husband-of -a- mummy. The first is an amazing sense of humour, and the ability to see the funny side. The second is being able to take a need for space as just that, and not as a rejection. This is one of Steve's big strengths, and I love him for it.
There's a lot of good stuff out there atm on the after- birth stuff. I'm re-reading The Politics of Motherhood by Melissa Benn, and loving it, but there's much, much more- worth visiting the library??

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#4 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 03:25 PM
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I'm sure your hypothesis is probably correct is 50% of the situations but quite honestly for me after #1 it was severe sleep deprivation and I was just "touched out." I just couldn't imagine being touched anymore. I love my dh to pieces and we have an outstanding relationship but with #1 he very much resented that when I got in bed all I wanted to do was sleep. My body craved my BED more than anything other physical thing (like sex). LOL
After #2 we pretty much went through the same thing but I think he had a better understanding of my level of physical exhaustion.
We are AP through and through and I am the primary caregiver. AS much as I love it, love my children and my dh ... I'm tired when I go to bed. Sleep most nights takes precedence. I think my dh was initially resentful because he didn't understand just how physically exhausted I was.
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#5 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 04:10 PM
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I think your hypothesis is really good, Amy. There was an interesting article a while back about how in many marriages, the amount of house work and parenting that the male partner was willing to do corrolated directly to how much sex the couple had. The more housework he was willing to undertake, the more nookie he got. I cite this study all the time to DH, who would rather play video games than wash the dishes.

I think it's hard for people who chose to AP, too... because there's so much more active parenting involved, rather than setting the baby somewhere and walking away. So it seems like it would be easier to get overwhelmed and touched out. Not to mention that I think AP encourages us to focus on AP *mothering* rather than *parenting*, which seems like it would put more pressure on mothers. I don't know how empirically true this is, but it's something that DH and I are really worried about (especially since he has literally no actual experience with children) -- that I'll become the 'primary parent' and he'll be shuttled to the sidelines and that it will seriously effect our intimacy and our marriage.

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#6 of 14 Old 05-01-2005, 07:11 PM
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I would have to agree that having children is very taxing on a marriage. However, if you have a good enough relationship you and work as a team you can get through anything together. My DD is 18 months old now and I am pregnant with baby #2. I had a c-section with #1 and it became infected. For 2 months my DH cleaned my wound and dressing every day. Sounds gross, I know. We couldn't have sex for those two months after because I needed to heal. The thing is that I REALLY wanted to have sex.

I think that if you have a good husband from the start... one that is willing to meet you half way and nuture you then that is half the battle. There have been ups and downs when I haven't felt in the mood. Mostly because I am a SAHM and I get constant contact from DD. When DH gets home sometimes I don't feel like being touched. I can totally relate to women who feel that way.

My advice would be "spend quality time". When the baby goes to bed play a game together (cards, scrabble, etc.) Instead of just going your separate ways. Go out to dinner when you don't feel like cooking after a hard day with the kid. Have a date night just you and DH. Make sure that you are fostering other ways of being intimate instead of just SEX. Remember that men aren't like women, they don't always know how we feel. Sometimes you have to ask for what you want (massage, time to yourself, etc.) Just communicate. That is the key. I think the big problem is that a lot of husbands are spoiled and aren't willing to meet half way.

Also I think that it is important that you take time for yourself. It is okay if once in awhile when DH comes home you pass off the kid. He helped make that baby, he is just as responsible for it. Maybe have a girls night once a month. Or treat yourself to a professional massage or facial if you can afford it. You have to take care of yourself to some extent too. I got in the habit of staying in my PJ's all day. You can be amazed at what a new outfit or haircut can do for your self esteem. Maybe some women just need to be reminded that they are more than just a diaper changing, spit up cleaning, milk producing mom. They are women too! Sometimes men end up looking at their wives as just the mother of their children. I think that there are a ton of factors that go into the ruin of a marriage. I also think that divorce is ramant in America and that people are spoiled and always think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Marriage takes work.

There... I am done with my rant!
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#7 of 14 Old 05-02-2005, 12:38 AM
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Well, I'm in the minority, I guess. DH and I's sex life really hasn't changed at all since the birth of our son. We're intimate about twice a week - before and after our son was born.

I honestly don't get the whole "touched out" thing. I love breastfeeding and cuddling my baby, but its so different from any sexual contact that one doesn't affect the other for me. I get really bummed if DH and I can't be intimate - I feel like I'm loosing an important part of myself. (I'm supposed to avoid intercourse till after the first trimester because I've had spotting/bleeding - and I hate it!) We had a tough time waiting the 6 weeks after birth to be intimate again, and had great make-out sessions while waiting - it was like high school all over again!

Your personal hormone levels make a huge difference, and if you naturally have lower levels of testosterone that will make a big difference in your sex drive - and breastfeeding just exacerbates the problem, from a hormonal perspective. Also, it probably helps that neither DH nor I require a lot of sleep. But, then again, with breastfeeding and co-sleeping our sleep really hasn't been affected that much by having a baby. (I actually get more sleep now than I did pre-kiddo.)

The biggest problem we've had is DH just not comprehending that I cannot do as much as I used to. Luckily, I had a healthy pregnancy and easy birth last time - but your whole body is thrown out of whack, and your mental state is, too, to some extent. He just couldn't understand that I physically couldn't do all the things I used to while pregnant and just after birth, and that I was overwhelmed at times with all the life changes (we also bought a house and moved the same month DS was born, and I quit my job). Its just not the same for a man to become a father as it is for a woman to become a mother - especially when she gives up her career. I wish we'd talked more about that before it happened, to help prepare both of us. There were times in the first couple months after birth when he told me in all seriousness that he thought I was insane - and talking to friends of mine, most of them heard the same thing from their partners in the first couple months after birth.

Mama to DS (05/04) and DD (11/05), married to a wonderful DH.
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#8 of 14 Old 05-02-2005, 01:29 PM
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Amy, I do think resentment can play a role in partners' withdrawing from one another. If you drop by the Parents as Partners forum, you will see a ton of posts that are heavy on the resentment, such as, "He comes home from work and plops down with his computer games, and meanwhile I cook dinner, feed the kids, bathe them, and put them to bed. And then he tried to interrupt me from cleaning up the kitchen to have sex. Um, maybe I would have time to have sex if he did something around the house."

But my DH is a full participant in childcare and does the bulk of the housework, and I still identify with your friend who just wants to give her DC to her DH and have some time alone. I feel so tired at the end of the day. I'm just so exhausted from being on call all day long, that all I want is just 15 minutes by myself. Even if I'm still working, like I'm fixing dinner, or something, it's still just such a relief not to be listening for a thud, or a wail, or splashing in the toilet or [shudder] those long silences.

DH and I used to be very cuddly before DS was born, but after he was born, I just didn't need all that cuddling anymore. I started needing time: time to write a paper without distractions. Time to get my haircut. Time to take a shower. Maybe even time to go have coffee with an old friend.
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#9 of 14 Old 05-02-2005, 01:59 PM
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Okay, so I'm married to a man who admits he is oversexed... even for a 23 almost 24 year old male. We could have sex twice a day and it still wouldn't be enough for him. I would say frequency before baby averaged about 4 times a week while after baby down to once maybe twice a week. We didn't try until like the third week post birth because of some skid marks in my perineal area that really stung. And for me, I guess I'm one of those women for whom sex hurts post baby. The experience just wasn't the same for (me) a long time. He was patient with me for a while and we have had our ups and down. I don't really buy into your hypothesis because in our situation we have both taken on the parenting responsibilities. And he has done all the things you mentioned and more and continues to do them but... Hormones played a huge part in my lack of sex drive and I think that while the baby is deriving their nutrition solely from breast milk that your body is totally focused on making that and not on making another baby. I was also very stressed with school and my internship at that time and stress is another downer for your sex drive. I think the term touched out is overused even though it is right on. I am the type of person that literally needs about 2 hours a day to myself to really function properly, be centered and be able to take on the day. Now I don't remember the last time I got that because it would mean I would have to wake up at 4 am and that just hasn't worked for me yet.
As a couple we really try to remain open and honest. I tell him when I just don't want to and he tells me when he really needs it. And we try to meet somewhere in the middle.
For me, I feel like even though I had no sex drive I was still willing to participate but it was even more of a turn off for me because of HOW MUCH my body had changed. I went from a prepreg size of 4 to post preg size of 16 (at 6 wks post partum). My body just didn't move the way it did before I was pg. It felt like a lot of my muscle had just melted into fat and I couldn't move the way I wanted to. It was really frustrating for both of us. And when I started to have a little more of a drive timing was our problem... mornings were impossible because I had class at 7 am and dh is not a morning person, our baby weaned himself to one nap a day at a very young age, and nights were impossible because I was too tired.
I try to be very conscious of our sex life because it is important to me that my husband be supported in this very tangible expression of my love for him. But I also take my feelings (physically and otherwise) into account. IMO it takes a little more effort than before but yet this is just a stage in our relationship that will pass in its own time. We won't have small children forever...
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#10 of 14 Old 05-05-2005, 10:36 AM
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For me, my hormones were so out of whack that I didn't really get my sex drive back for about 2 years. I loved nursing Sam and nursed him till he was about 2.5, but I didn't really want DH touching my breasts during that time, because I just wasn't in to it. I really needed intimacy, but I think what I needed more than anything was some cuddling and holding and knowing that everything was going to be ok with my PPD and everything else. It was very hard for us, but I think we are better prepared for it this time around.

Right now, I'm having a very low sex drive and we are struggling with that, but I think that should improve in the coming weeks. I have gotten something into my head that we can't do it till after the u/s next week, which I know is totally silly, but I am having a hard time letting it go right now. So Wednesday night ought to be a good one!
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#11 of 14 Old 05-05-2005, 04:38 PM
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I wanted to have sex- dh did not...he also would not do it while I was pg- so that set it up for low sex.... he was worried about another pg- and I think I just looked weird to him. We are starting to pick it back up now.
I think that you are definetly onto something. I watched that show with Oprah too- there is a thread on Television about it. I was not into what was going on- blaming it on the mom for NEGELCTING the husband- maybe sometimes- but seriously- if they want it that bad- could they not help unlaod the dishwasher or give a bath?
I for one seriously resent my husband for the lack of things he does- he wants the perks of the dad job without the work. Start talking now about how you each see the future- who will give the baths, who will help with the laundry- etc....
My dh does nothing and I hate it. He thinks his job covers family responisbility- it does not.
You will be tired- and you can have sex tired.... you will find that sometimes- just sitting together to read may do the trick too.
Your life is going to change drastically, not all for the better- and I am so glad that you are talking about this!
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#12 of 14 Old 05-06-2005, 09:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all so much for sharing your experience and your wisdom! It has given me a lot to think about, and I shared a lot of your posts with DH as well. We've been talking about it quite a bit.

One thing that surprised me, but is at the same time reassuring, is the fact that each experience is unique. I mean, of course this makes sense, but it also makes me feel that there isn't a cookie-cutter response to birth and parenting.

DH and I are already very good at, and comfortable with, sharing our expectations and needs with each other, and I think this will help a lot when the baby arrives. And, just to clarify, I am definitely not resistent to change - I know that relationships are dynamic and change constantly. I am open to that, but I just don't want us to lose our connection with each other on a fundamental level.

I have great trust and faith in DH that he will be a full partner in parenting, and I also know he loves me, values our marriage and family, and wants to be a parent as much as I do. I'm sure there will be rough spots, but I definitely know in my heart we will grow together.

Ever-evolving mama to my beautiful Brynn, and my little dimple-faceĀ Noah .
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#13 of 14 Old 05-10-2005, 11:04 AM
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I've had this discussion with so many of my friends. What I found, personally, is that my relationship with my DH did change drastically after DD was born. We saw each other differently, and had a whole layer of responsibility that hadn't been there before. We had to grow up, really. It didn't impact our relationship negatively, although the first year did have it's challenging moments. I'm very fortunate, though, to have a partner who does a lot of the housework, doesn't expect me to cook every meal, etc.

I found that I *did* want to be intimate soon after DD was born, which surprised me (because friends had told me there'd never be sex again!). Even though I was co-sleeping and breastfeeding, I didn't feel "touched out" at all. In fact, I craved the intimacy, I think, because I needed the reassurance that not everything in my world had changed -- I needed to know that DH still found me attractive, and that I wasn't just someone's mummy, KWIM?
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#14 of 14 Old 05-10-2005, 01:58 PM
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