Every woman’s sex life is, like her thumbprint, her childhood and her attempt at spaghetti bolognese, entirely unique. After you’ve had a baby, there is no “right” time, position, appetite or inclination when it comes to jumping back on that horse. You may have scars, tears, stitches; you may be horny as a hotdog, bewildered by your new body or traumatised by a tricky birth; you may experience the fairly common but largely unmentioned vaginal dryness as a result of breastfeeding (do stop me if this is getting you all flustered); you may have had to move back in with your parents to save money and be sleeping under the duvet cover you received for your 13th birthday; you may have conquered your pelvic floor and girded your core with pilates; you may enjoy the sort of sex that doesn’t involve a penis; you may have a baby that sleeps so lightly your only option is to have sex on the kitchen floor, in the middle of the day, while they’re at a playgroup with someone else; you may be eager to get pregnant again or terrified at the thought; you may now be single, divorced or newly-married; you may be in love; you may be in pain; you may be in the sort of underwear that can double up as a marquee.
After a vaginal birth, to a fairly small baby, after weeks of fairly serious perineal stretching (or “slackening the main sail” as I called it) I was in an extremely lucky position. My body didn’t need much time to heal and my libido came back like James Brown. Four weeks after I heaved my son into a lukewarm birth pool at the hospital down the road, I was back at that very same hospital, visiting their walk-in GUM clinic, getting a coil fitted while my friend and her girlfriend rocked said son around the waiting room for 20 minutes. I still remember the gentle and sardonic doctor putting her hand on my leg and saying “I normally say that this is going to hurt but, after what you’ve just done, I think it’s safe to say you can just relax“. For many women, perhaps even most women, things will be different.
If you are in the happy position to be having sex with your co-parent, particularly if they are the person who got you pregnant, you may be surprised by the change in the way you have sex. Not because it’s like throwing a salami down a log flume, as all those spiteful, misogynistic jokes might have you believe, but because of how you feel emotionally towards that person. If your partner was involved in the pregnancy and birth, then they have seen you at your most heroic and most vulnerable. After we became parents, my boyfriend seemed like a second skin, holding me together, giving me shape and protecting me from the harsher edges of the outside world. My body may have felt a little looser, a little softer, a little more open, but in my heart, I was more open, tender and yielding than I’d ever thought possible.
There are a few practical points that I wish someone had made clear to me early on in the game. Firstly, unless you are very lucky and have an exceptionally lazy baby, you can probably kiss goodbye to morning sex for quite some time. Secondly, the milk let-down reflex is triggered by a release in oxytocin, which often happens during sex, which may mean your early attempts at intimacy become quickly doused in a spray of milk. If you can laugh this off, good on you. In my case, I chose to keep my bra on. Also, if you have one of those baby monitors that records footage overnight, or is broadcasting your bedroom soundtrack to the living room, a gentle reminder to turn it off before things get interesting.
Sex is about so much more than making babies. But making babies shouldn’t be the end of having sex.