Wow! The topic this month at our normalizing postpartum mom’s group is “Sex after Baby.” Nothing like getting real personal with each other! I’m so thankful for a safe place to discuss these very real parts of life after having a baby. And I am no stranger to that very need.

Note: I am sharing my story courageously and openly and want to say that the details may be triggering for some.

After finding out that my husband and I were expecting our 2nd baby, much of the postpartum struggles we had after having our first baby, began to flood my mind – including what sex was going to be like this time around.

With baby number 1, I was an uneducated, hospital-going, just-trust-the-doctor (since after all, they are the doctor) first time momma.  Unfortunately, much of my labor and birth with baby number 1 was, to put it lightly, not ideal. This created many factors that led to a severe tear while pushing, resulting in a trip to the OR for better lighting, just to be stitched up.  After another 2 more days in the hospital I was sent home with my baby, an inflatable donut ring to sit on, a sitz bath, and a prescription for a heavy duty pain killer. I was told to come back to my doctor in 2 weeks and was sent on my way.

Fast forward two exhausting and painful weeks later, I went to my appointment and found out I had “overdone it” and re-tore. “No problem,” the Doctor reassured me, “I can stitch you up again right here in my office.”  Fast forward four more weeks to my six-week appointment, and I am told, “You over-healed, and now the opening to your vagina is the diameter of a quarter. You have 2 options:

Option #1: “I can prescribe you lidocaine jelly to apply before intercourse and you can have lots of sex to physically re-stretch yourself back out.

OR

Option #2: “I can cut you back open and hope ‘things’ heal better this time.

I immediately knew I was opting for the one that didn’t involve a re-repair and so began the year long journey of difficult and painful sex.

The first couple months, sex was not even really able to happen and our attempts would end in tears. I remember crying to my husband many times that I didn’t think we’d ever be able to have a baby again because I didn’t think we’d ever be able to have sex again. After a couple months, sex did slowly improve. We both learned many lessons. Like for starters, we learned the hard way that we needed to wait a little for the lidocaine to work before getting started.

Even more importantly, we learned:

  1. Re-learning sex after baby is sometimes a process. The way sex once was before baby and the way sex is now after baby will not be the same and that’s okay.
  2. To be patient with myself and my husband.  Those first couple months when sex was hardest and our attempts seemed hopeless, afterwards we would lie in bed and just hold each other and cry, (or at least I would cry). With time the crying became less and the hope began to build. A hope for sex that was fun and not so mechanical.
  3. To be willing to look for beneficial resources. It was easy to think, “these things will just work themselves out over time.” And to some extent, things did, but as I worked more and more in the birth field I have found a couple of resources that may have really benefited us in those beginning months had I searched for them.
  4. To remind ourselves that sex was given as a gift. Although, there were times it didn’t feel like it, we would often have to remind ourselves often that it can be both hard work and a gift worth pursuing.

Sex did get easier over time, and we did get pregnant again when our first born was about 18 months. This time I wanted to do everything different. I went to Breath of Life Birth Center for my care. I researched on my own. I took the 5-week educational series. I was able to spend many appointments talking though my fears of having a repeat negative birth experience and postpartum with my midwives. My husband did perineum stretching throughout my pregnancy. I ate healthier and drank a ton more water.  I did everything I could in hopes of having a better birth and a better postpartum.

Come 40 weeks and 3 days gestation, our feisty 2nd born roared her way out of my body after only a little over 3 hours of labor. Her birth was so redeeming for me. Despite a quick labor and only a couple pushes, I only tore minimally. Part of that tearing was actually beneficial by opening up some of the scar tissue from before. It was amazing how, in so many ways, the birth of my 2nd helped to correct what was affected the first time, in both my own body, and my thoughts towards birth.

After birth, I was careful to not overdo it those first couple of weeks home.  And… I was able to heal enough that about 6 weeks after birth, we were able to have almost pain-free, mostly-good sex!!! There were still some parts that were tender, and that’s okay because compared to the yearlong journey we went through last time, this momma was praising the Lord for a redeeming sex experience after baby #2. My husband and I were actually both so excited to go to my 6 week appointment at the birth center because we knew my midwife was going to ask if we’ve had sex yet. I remember the 2 of us trying to think of some funny response to the question before the appointment.  And although I don’t remember our “clever” response, I remember tears filling in her eyes as she hugged us and praised the Lord with us for this good gift.

Those days of hopelessness feel so far away now. I can say that sex after our 2nd was the best we had ever had. And to this day, in many ways, it is still only getting better.

Come join us August 20th for our next Normalizing the 4th Trimester (and Beyond) Moms group for a safe space, understanding and helpful conversation around sex after baby.