Friday, 10 December 2010

Sex after Childbirth

I’m the first out of my friends to have a baby, and as a result have been bombarded with an array of weird and wonderful questions. In the early days, there was much interest about labour and the pain, but as the weeks went on and Phoenix was getting older I could see that there was only one question everyone wanted to know “have you done it yet, and did everything still work?”

Personally, I felt quite prepared for labour. I’d read enough and surveyed the physical challenge in a way that I just accepted it would the most pain I would ever feel. I didn’t expect the overwhelming feeling of empowerment I felt whilst giving birth. It was just me and my little boy, working hard to meet each other. Truly, it was an incredible experience. But what I also wasn’t prepared for was the state my body would be in afterwards and how long it would take until I felt ‘normal’ again. And that has been truly a difficult and at times upsetting experience.

My labour was relatively ‘text book’, with no complications, no epidural and just a few minor stitches. Well, that’s what they were described as anyway. Apparently very teeny tiny tears but in quite awkward places – a couple inside and one right next to the urethra; hence my first cuddles with my gorgeous newborn being undertaken whilst having a catheter inserted and filling bag after bag of pee. Who said motherhood wasn’t glamorous hey?!

In the first few weeks after the labour I felt like I’d had a full body operation. Everything ached, I still looked pregnant and it was quite hard to walk normally. I did have to chuckle at being on the postnatal ward as it full of women waddling at the speed of a snail looking like they’ve been horse riding for 10 years non-stop. And so it will come as no surprise when I say that at this point sex was far far from my mind. When the health visitor mentioned a return to contraception I literally blanked it from my mind. The thought of sex at this point was actually frightening.

A few weeks later, about 6 weeks in my husband was, well, to be blunt ‘gagging for it’ but I was still totally uninterested; the last time I’d opened my legs, I’d pushed out a whole human being, that thing needed a serious rest. But as time moved on I wanted to feel close to my husband again and wanted to claim my body back for my own, so one morning I took a trip to family planning. I remember this visit so well. I’d had a really rough night with Phoenix and nearly missed the appointment. I turned up with no make-up, in a tracksuit, hair like a scarecrow and puffing and panting from running there. I was exhausted. Talking about the pill and sex felt like such a bizarre thing to be doing. I was so convinced that sex would be excruciatingly painful I wanted someone to give me a date when I could ‘go for it’. But, alas it doesn’t work like that and the nurse proceeded to offer some advice on how to go about it by starting off with having a bit a ‘fumble’ and indulging in some ‘heavy petting’. ‘Heavy petting’? Do people really use that term outside of swimming pool rule signs?! Well, that was it, exhaustion aside I just got the giggles like a school girl. And it only got worse when she informed me that the pill she was prescribing might make me ‘randy’. In a way, it was quite therapeutic to have a laugh about it, I’d built it up to such a massive thing it reminded me it was just me and my husband doing what we’ve always done and if it was painful we could just stop and try and again another time.

Unfortunately it would be a while until I was able to have full sex again and I needed additional gynaecology to help heel a skin tag on one of my stitches. Ouch. I also had (disclaimer, look away if squeamish/eating) really nasty haemorrhoids, which are common in postnatal women because of all the pushing during labour. This was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced and it took a really long time to heal. Both of these repercussions from labour really got to me; I felt like I’d never be ‘fixed’ and felt extremely unsexy.

Phoenix is nearly 5 months old now and if I’m honest, it’s only now that I’m starting to feel back to my old self and am ready to begin a new sexual journey. I would never have imagined it would have taken this long to recover and I feel like sex after childbirth is a subject that is steeped in taboo. I felt really embarrassed admitting that I was just ‘not up for it’, but hey here I am on the bloody internet telling all you lot that I really wasn’t, and if I’m honest again, I’m still not 100% ‘back in the game’.

Now that I’ve been patched up and am back to full health I am learning how to love my new body and enjoying the added closeness with my husband that having a baby together has created. When your unmentionable bits have only ever been used for sex you have a completely different relationship with your body. Once you’ve experience the sheer ‘hardcoreness’ of labour, it’s only natural this relationship changes and evolves. You view your body differently, I think it would be hard not to. It is however important to make sure that way you view your body is by being completely in awe of it. Only us women could go through all that and still come out the other side wearing high heels and lipstick and rocking our inner glamour. I think I’ve finally rekindled my inner glamour puss and I hope you all have yours back too. Miaow ;) 

Yes, Emma's blog posts really are usually this great. If you nip over to Mission to Motherhood you will be absolutely stunned by the funkiness extreme that brings the blog to life, reflecting Emma's fantastic personality. Her posts are down to earth, real and honest memoirs of life as a was pregnant, now brand new mummy to be. With little Phoenix now on board nothing can stop this luscious little lady from taking over the blogging world.


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