For nine months you and your partner have been focused on one thing…the pending arrival of your future child. Whether one of you is carrying the child or not, there is nothing that can compare to the all-encompassing stress and excitement of that wait. Will the baby be healthy? Will she have everything she needs when we bring her home? Did we get the right kind of stroller? (And will we be able to open and close it when we’ve got a screaming baby in our arms?) And then she arrives, and she’s healthy and beautiful and the stroller works fine and you and your partner feel like your world is complete. And then…
You start to ask other questions like: Will we ever sleep again? Will my skinny jeans ever fit me again? Will I have the opportunity to speak to grownups again about politics and current events? And the question that is on everyone’s mind but is almost never uttered aloud: Will I ever have sex again and will it be enjoyable?
Those of us with close girlfriends, aunts or sisters sometimes have the courage to take the phone into a closet and ask that question when our partner is busy changing the baby and we probably will get lots of answers ranging from, “Sure you will…when the baby’s in college,” to “Yes, but it will never be the same.” I was lucky to have a close friend who is a mom and a doctor who said, quite realistically, “Yes, but it will take a year for you to really feel like yourself.” As with all things as new parents, it takes time to adjust. It takes effort to get your body back, your professional life in order and your relationship is no different. It requires work from both of you.
Here’s some advice for post-partum intimacy:
Have a friend or family member or a babysitter stay with the baby for two hours when you can so that you and your partner can grab a quick bite down the street. Make the effort to get dressed and to see each other apart from your new child.
Set clear expectations for intimacy – doctors will tell you to wait at least six weeks before resuming physical intimacy but you may not be ready just because the doctor gives you the green light. Talk about it – don’t just roll over and go to sleep!
Make sure your baby is sleeping in his own space. It is common for babies to sleep in the same room as their parents for the first several months. The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article advising against bed-sharing with newborns, citing an alarming number of infant deaths. Babies should be sleeping in a crib or basinet, or in a proper co-sleeper that is attached to your bed. (We highly recommend moving your baby into his own space after six months – it is important for you to have your bedroom back and everyone will sleep better.)
Sleep deprived parents are cranky parents and it’s hard to be loving when you’re exhausted. Make sure you start establishing healthy sleep habits early. By 2 months, babies should be napping in their crib in a dark and cool room with minimal noise. By 4 months, babies can have an established sleep routine.
Don’t focus so much on intercourse, rather focus on intimacy – that looks different for different couples. Putting pressure on you and/or your partner is probably the least sexy thing you can do!
Night time isn’t the only time for intimacy! Get creative and don’t get stuck in what used to be your normal – after having a baby, you and your partner need to establish a “new normal” which may include spending intimate time together at different times during the day!
Finally, when we resent our partner, it’s hard to love him/her. Make sure you’re talking about sharing responsibilities with your child – especially the middle of the night duties. If your baby is still waking often at night and he’s older than 4 months, consider starting to sleep train him. As I said earlier, when you’re not getting sleep yourself, it’s hard to give any energy to other people. Make sleep a priority – yours, your partner’s and your baby’s. Please let us know if we can help.