“I am a new mother of my fourth child. During the last couple of months of my pregnancy, my husband was uncomfortable having sex with me. I felt rejected, but kind of understood. This led to a good three months of no sex. By the time we DID it, it was awkwardly uncomfortable for me. I still felt like a whale. It is now two months since that first time, and we’re still not at normal speed. We used to have sex at least twice per week. The last time we had sex was three weeks ago. I feel rejected, further, and I have no confidence to initiate anything. I feel lonely and heartbroken. I love him, and I have no intentions of leaving him, but I can’t imagine allowing him to see me naked again. Is it possible to put off sex until I lose more baby-weight? I know that it could boost my confidence to tone up and give my body a good makeover. Can a relationship survive no sex during the time it would take to lose about 30 pounds?” — New Mom In Crisis, via emailI recently had a conversation with a friend who is a soon-to-be first-time Dad. He’s always been attracted to his wife , but ever since she’s gotten pregnant he’s having some major issues. He still thinks she’s beautiful, but he has lost ALL desire to have sex with her. The reason he gave me was totally honest, open, and…totally male:
“I don’t want to have sex with her, because every time I do, I’m f–king a pregnant woman.”
My response to him was, “Well, you made her that way!” And then I got mad. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t fault him for it. It’s his OWN insecurity that he’s going to have to deal with and talk about with his wife, which I encouraged him to do.
Carolyn Hillman, a sex therapist and author of Recovery of Your Self-Esteem, sees this situation all the time. “Many men are reluctant to have sex late in a pregnancy. Even though they may know better, they’re still afraid of hurting the baby,” she says. “This leads to you feeling rejected and you start to think it’s because of your size. “ This, says Hillman, leads to a vicious cycle. “He sees that you’re not initiating, and he takes it as a sign that you’re not quite up to sex.”
To get out of this cycle, there are two things you need to do ASAP.
1. TALK TO YOUR HUSBAND
A sex hiatus is NOT the answer. You have to sit down with him and talk about why you’re not in the mood, and see how he responds. Having sex during marriage isn’t limited to days you fit into your skinny jeans. You just had a baby, for Christ’s sake! It’s not like you ate too many Twix! Even if you did, marriage is about being there for each other (sexually and emotionally) through mental and physical fluctuations.
2. GET IN THE MOOD
While you work on the emotional issues, which are (BY FAR) the most important, go ahead and work on getting the old you back. A new workout/diet routine will get your feeling proud of your body, and is easier than you think. Eric Marlowe Garrison, a consulting sexologist, points out that the best and fastest way to lose post-baby weight is by breastfeeding. “On average, breastfeeding burns 350 calories per day,” he says, adding that any plans for diet, exercise, AND sex should be “on your own terms, not your partners.”
If you still need more time to get your self-esteem back before you hop into the sack, remember you don’t have to go on a TOTAL hiatus. Sexologist Garrison reminds us: “Sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy in a relationship. Let your mind wander, and you’ll discover more.”
I think that’s a pretty way of saying ‘oral sex, please!’
Carolynn Hillman, Sex Therapist, Author of Recovery of Your Self-Esteem and Love Your Looks.
Eric Marlowe Garrison serves on the health services staff at The New School in Manhattan and runs a successful, international, individual practice as a consulting sexologist. Quiver Books will release his Orchestrating Multiple-Position Sex in Fall of 2009.