A lot of men and women, post baby bubble, are left wondering what had happened to their sex life. Making love is important and nourishing for intimate relationships, and often strains are felt in intimate relationships after childbirth. Research from the Gottman Institute showed that two-thirds of couples become dissatisfied with each other within three years following the birth of a child. With two or three consecutive births relationships are certainly be put to the test, sadly too many couples do not survive the strain. While there are a multitude of factors that can come into couples separating or becoming dissatisfied with each other after childbirth, and there are a few key aspects to keep in mind to help nourish the parents relationship:
The first one, communication, may seem like a no brainer. Still many couples struggle with their communications after the birth of a child. It can become more of a struggle with the additional stress of being responsible for a child. Parents may experience inadequate sleep, conflicts in parenting values, and a reduction of quality time together as a couple. These stresses come along with additional housework like washing baby clothes and cleaning up mess, and new financial strains.
Under stress clear and compassionate communication may go out the window. Resentments and unresolved small conflicts can build and left unspoken about as it becomes too hard to communicate or to find the time. If this is happening it is unlikely that making love will be fulfilling or even desirable.
It is helpful to be aware when speaking from a sense of being stressed or tired. Simply naming the state you are in can help you and your partner have more understanding together. For example, you may say something like “Babe, I am feeling so angry right now and I know my stress is contributing, I'm stepping away for a moment to gather myself”. This is vulnerable and gutsy but also intervenes the possibility of lashing out on your partner. Come back together when you are 100% sure you can be present and be able to communicate clearly, which may mean listening to difficult to hear messages. The goal is to reconnect with your hearts in the messiness for the purpose of understanding rather than defending and blaming, without avoiding issues.
Be aware of sharing your gratitude and appreciation for your partner. Remember too, to invite your partner into your interests and inner world, as much as to have interests in theirs. This part of communication can easily slide under the stresses of being a parent. It is the foreplay in a loving relationship, not in a manipulative way but in an authentic sharing of your lives together. It provides a context and day-to-day intimacy for love making to be able to follow naturally without trying.
2 Change in Identity
After the rite of passage of birth, a woman finds herself with a new identity – the embodiment of mother, and this comes with all the flavours of learnt generational and cultural norms. A father also experiences this new parental identity as well as his ideas of what a mother is. Often there can be an inner conflict in beliefs around the sexuality of a mother or a father figure. A father may lose attraction to their partners if they are not able to reconcile that their partner, now a mother, is still also a sexual being, a lover and a mother at the same time. Mothers have similar struggles with their new identity; as well they may struggle with their new body changes and not feel as attractive or sexy.
On an energetic level a new mother tends to become more in touch with deeper levels of feminine expression such as receptiveness, softness and lovingness, or at the least a deep desire for her experiences to be this way. There is a natural desire to nurture the new child into this energy field and naturally she becomes less available to her partner and others in her life. Dedication to the new fragile life of a baby can be seen as far more important than anything else. It can be overwhelmingly so, to the point of neglecting other areas of life such as love-making and intimacy. The irony of this is that a deeply loving and nourished parental relationship supports the nurturing of a child.
Approaching a new family lifestyle in a bigger picture where everyone's needs for love and affection are met we experience more harmony, joy and cooperation in the family. It is helpful to question beliefs around parental identities and how they may be affecting love and intimacy.
3 Change in Libido
It seems to be a given fact that libido crashes after childbirth and this is true in many ways. On the biological level a breastfeeding mother's body is flooded with prolactin, a hormone that is known to reduce libido. Some men say they can be patient in understanding these hormonal changes, the lack of sleep and so on. At the same time, this patience can wear thin over years with multiple births. Yet there are a lot of women yearning for their libido to return. It may seem like a no-win situation and may set a precedent for the relationship in the long term.
Considering the biological view of what is happening hormonally, a new mother also tends to desire feeling more feminine expressions of love, receptivity and softness. From a tantric love making perspective, the prolactin hormone actually contributes to tantric ways of engaging sexually, because it calms and relaxes the woman. A new mother will naturally be reluctant to engage in conventional sex that is friction based and orgasm focussed. Whereas, sex focussed on heartfelt connection not orgasm contributes to a woman feeling more of her femininity that she desires.
Slow sex practices like tantra or kerezza create an atmosphere where she can relax and receive her partner, and be open to deep connection with her beloved. It is not so much 'doing' but more simply 'being' together, and can be a relief to the stresses of parenthood. Unless there has been birth trauma or previous relationship difficulties, it is easy for a woman to be receptive to this sort of sexual engagement a relative short time after birth. It is slow, gentle with little friction yet profoundly connecting and nourishing.
This type of lovemaking can greatly enhance a couple's relationship in a way that not only are they more easily available and present for child, the child is bathed in the nourishing love flowing between the parents.
Our culture does not teach boys/young men about engaging with women in ways that take them into deep sensual pleasure and opening of their hearts. So it is predictable that when women give birth without complications and they naturally desire this kind of connection, men tend to withdraw their physical affections with a lack of understanding of how to meet their partners in this way. The same can be predicted that when women have not experienced this kind of interaction they have no basis that love making can be less about libido and more about connection and so are reluctant to engage sexually.
If patience is not serving your relationship, it can be helpful to discover new ways to make love or to connect intimately. Being open to new ways that are focussed on connection can increase a woman's desire to make love and for physical closeness even with hormonal changes in her body. This is because the desire is for closeness and is not coming from a biological drive. If this is new take your time to introduce these concepts into your relating to allow trust and understanding to grow.
The complexity of intimate relating and sexuality is never going to be covered in a single blog post, however I do see these three aspects come up a lot for parents. With a little research and putting things into practice, this can go a long way in nourishing the family. There may be areas of unresolved issues before a baby that are complex and unwitting, or birth traumas for either the mother or father that may need some extra care, attention and support.
Becoming more present and vulnerable in your communications, reconciling the idea of being a parent and sexy at the same-time, and finding new ways of engaging affectionately and sexually that are aligned with hormonal changes are sure ways to boost your intimacy levels adding more love, vitality and harmony to your family as a whole.