Reestablishing Intimacy in the Post Partum
While sitting with a newborn Mama who was nearing 6 weeks postpartum, the topic of sex came up. After having had a rather large baby and a repair she felt (very appropriately) cautious about reengaging her partner and was seeking some input around how to best do that. Through our conversation we explored not only intimacy, but comfort, creativity, obligation, power, and self-determination. It seems the question around when it was “safe” to have sex again was an overlay for deeply rooted dynamics in the relationship that this Mama was called to face and sort before feeling fully invested in allowing entrance into her postpartum body.
Below is a reflection, inspired by that conversation, that may feel helpful or relevant for those navigating a similar space.
If you have recently given birth then you have engaged your root in intense, multifaceted, and productive work that resulted in miraculous change. In addition to establishing the care taking relationship you now have with your baby, it is vital to fortify the relationship you have with yourself…but not the self you knew. Emerged is a new woman whose old needs and desires have been transmutated. How we integrate our updated selves into our established relationships takes patience and grace; not unlike the energy we extend to our newborn babes as they discover themselves in the world.
Regardless of whether we are having our first or fifth baby, the unavoidable truth is that pregnancy is a period of change and transformation. We live in an overculture that is grossly opposed to change and thus, receive constant messaging about making “speedy returns to our pre-pregnant bodies.” Without question, aesthetics and media driven social norms are valued over actual core wellness, fitness, and health. This can present major challenges when it comes to Mama’s ability to accept change in her body. Media may show us celebrity moms who tummy tuck or have personal trainers working with them in their first weeks postpartum, but they fail to show the underbelly of these same behaviors; long term damage to the pelvic floor, subsequent physical and physiological challenges, as well as psycho-emotional interruptions in the bonding process.
How we observe and appreciate ourselves through the expansion and transformation of pregnancy lays a foundation for how we accept continuing changes during the time of postpartum. Framing birth as an event that takes place in the middle of a period that lasts roughly 18 months instead of the climactic end of nine months, gives time after the baby is born to move gradually from our full-moon bodies forward into our post-pregnancy form; as much time as it took to transform our pre-pregnant selves into birthing a baby. Acknowledging this can relieve us from the pressure to snap back days after pushing our babies out.
Feeling confidence in our bodies as they are (recognizing that they are AMAZING and have accomplished so much) can be hard when we hold rigid ideas of “what female bodies should be.” Often it is women themselves who hold fast to expectations established long before their pregnancies. What expectations can we have for our partners to honor and celebrate our Goddess bodies if we only find flaw in them? Taking personal time to acquaint oneself with our new contours, where new sensitivities have presented, and what is ‘good’ or ‘bad touch’ before engaging our partners uncovers valuable information we need to connect with self-confidence.
What does this mean? Begin by experiencing touch from an intentional space. Take a moment to notice where your feet touch the ground; where your bottom touches the surface you are seated on. When you hold your children, feel where your hands are placed on their bodies and how their bodies feel to your hands. Feel your hands when you wash them. Even becoming more aware of smells, and the sounds around you help to engage the sensory of your root. It is the root that has served as the anchor and generator of so much energy throughout the course of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and it is this energy center that organizes our capacity to create our future experiences.
Even if it is just a few minutes a day, take time to fully connect with what you are feeling, allowing the feeling to cascade over and through you so that it permeates your body. As you assess the needs of your child/children and families, be certain to include yourself; get into the habit of checking in with yourself about what you need, what you are inspired to create, or what you are drawn to. Again, these questions help to clarify what is necessary for our own balance and experience of satisfaction and joy. Once you are clear about your needs, you can source yourself AND communicate your needs more effectively.
How does this enhance intimacy? Self- love and confidence are sexy! Many women express concern about the length of time they have been sexually unavailable to their partners and will push themselves to engage in penetrative sex before they truly feel ready. This can exacerbate feelings of imbalance, “i’ve lost ownership of my body” or “I’m all touched out”; common concerns after having a child. Most of us have framed sexual encounters through a masculine lens that discounts sex if it is not penetrative and does not lead to male climax. For many, postpartum presents an opportunity to rethink what lovemaking actually is. Most of us came to our partners having some ideas and desires about what we liked and what we wanted. Those ideas, in combination with our partners ideas and desires, created a culture around sensuality and sexuality that brought us to pregnancy. Redefining intimacy with your partner can be an empowering and satisfying journey that the two of you take together.