So you’ve just had a baby.
You’re stretched, you’re stressed, you don’t feel sexy. You do want to have sex. You really want it. But in the words of Linda from Bob’s Burgers, “You kids ruined three out of five of my sexy bits!”
Interpret that as you will, I think we can all identify with her. But trust me, you’re over-thinking it. Nature wants you to get back to the bump and grind.
You’ve just been “eating for two” for nine months. You grew to the size of a blimp and now all that extra skin is flapping around like a superhero’s cape. Even if you stayed slim and trim throughout the pregnancy, and are snapping back like a fresh elastic, you still find yourself a different size and shape than you once were.
You probably don’t feel sexy. I know I didn’t. When you have to lift fistfuls of floppy flesh to find your ruined sexy bits, you don’t feel like your partner wants to get back into those sexy bits.
But…a study found that men under stress find that junk in the trunk more attractive. And who is more stressed than a new father? (Well, a new mother, obviously). Stressed men are hardwired by evolution to be more turned on by hardy, fertile, famine-proof women. So have that full-fat ice cream and rest assured that your ruined bits aren’t ruined for him.
Being a parent means that you, definitely and irreversibly, are a grown-up. So maybe it’s time to move the bar a bit. Your attractiveness and worth are measured differently now.
Your partner should be turned on by your mind (however clouded with baby brain), your personality (however hormone-altered, temporarily) and your sweet, sweet, painfully engorged lactating breasts (or shrivelled, empty chest husks). The point is, this person has made an investment in you, and, hopefully, watched the withdrawal being made. Which means that they should have a respect for you that transcends how tight your stomach is, or how clean your hair is.
You are a vessel of life. Accept the adoration you are due. When your partner says, “You’re beautiful,” accept it. Why not? Even if you think they’re lying, at least they’re lying because they love you enough to want you to feel good about yourself. But they probably aren’t lying. Stop looking at yourself and look around for a minute. Are you the only saggy, tired, weirdly both too wet and too dry, red-eyed shambling beast out there? Not by a long shot. Don’t look at that magazine rack. That won’t help. Go to the pool on seniors day. You’ll feel like a goddess. And you’ll get some gentle exercise.
Physical stumbling blocks aside, a lot of what holds us back is mental. If you co-sleep with your baby or sleep with them in your room, there’s always the worry that you’ll scar them for life. But don’t worry. As long as that little bundle is fast asleep and under the age of two, they won’t be scarred if you have a horizontal workout in the same room.
Research has shown that memories aren’t formed before the age of two, so put the slumbering wee one aside and have at it. For many centuries, and still, in many cultures, separate bedrooms were not a thing. Everyone in the family slept together in the same room or bed, and so sex was and is still something that happens pretty damn close to where the kids are passed out. This will not turn your children into perverts. Best case scenario, it will ruin porn for them.
We also often worry about dividing our attention. No one wants to be the one behind the headline: Baby Dies of Suffocation While Parents Have Sexy Romp. But parents in Mongolia wrap the baby up and leave it in the yurt while they go out and herd the yaks. Those babies are fine. If you’ve put the baby down to sleep safely, you can relax. Turn off the baby monitor and let your adult side do what it needs to. This does not make you a bad parent. It makes you reasonable.
So, when you feel horny and a window of opportunity opens, jump through. Don’t worry about how sexy you look (You’re fine!) or whether it’s socially acceptable (society is way too uptight). The only things you have to worry about are: Do we both want it? Have we got some form of birth control? And what are the odds we’ll get through it without one or both of us falling asleep?
Once you have consent, a condom and enough pillows that you can pass out comfortably, have at it. After all, as Linda sang triumphantly at the end of the episode, “I’ve still got two out of five sexy bits left!”
Camille Atebe is the mother of three kids, ages 18, 11, and 1. Camille acts, writes and paints in between mothering stints.
You can find her at www.camilleatebe.com