The No. 1 Thing We Did To Restore Our Sex Life After Having A Baby
When my husband and I were trying to have a baby, it wasn't uncommon for us to hear phrases like, "Enjoy each other while you can—it'll be all about the baby once it arrives." Or, "Have as much sex as you can now." The comments, though understandable now that I've been through the extremely tough first year as a new parent, made us feel sad and angry, implying that our days of intimacy and connection were numbered.
If you're a parent, you're probably nodding your head in agreement, as the belief that intimacy fades over time and all but disappears after the baby comes pervades our culture. The very idea of having a connected and deeply intimate sexual partnership and having children seems almost impossible to us.
And I get it now. At 13 months into my parenthood journey, I look back on all we've been through and cringe. Sheesh, that was rough. Yet, I can proudly say that our intimacy and sexual connection is better than ever.
Is it better than ever every day? Umm...no. Are we having sex every day? Heck no. (But you can if you want—wink.) We are real people living normal, sometimes mundane and routine, and often extremely logistically challenging lives. Some days just getting the dogs and the baby fed and on a walk is a win. Other days if I get a shower and am able to check my email, I pat myself on the back. Sexual connection is a priority for us, but it's not the only priority.
So here's the thing: Intimacy and deep connection take work. Even before a baby entered the equation for my husband and me, making time for intimacy took work. We had to fit it in, to make time for it, nurture it, work through our communication challenges, and take time to discover each other's needs and desires. Intimacy (real intimacy, not just sex) wasn't always easy, convenient, or fun.
Yeah, I said it. It wasn't always fun.
"What?" you say. "Shouldn’t sex always be fun?"
Let's be honest, people. Long-term relationships take work. Raising a small human takes a ton of work. So if you're not into doing the work (and most people would agree that "work" isn't always "fun"), then this path may not be for you. And that's OK. Yet, for all of you called to the path of parenthood and marriage, keep reading. This path can be a lot more than fun—it can be fulfilling.
My No. 1 tip for pulling this off?
Set a nonnegotiable intimacy date—at least once a week.
This is the best thing that I did to restore intimacy in my marriage after we had our baby. We committed to a weekly "sex date" that is nonnegotiable, and it turned everything around. In the beginning stages of welcoming a new baby, the name of the game isn't to have mind-blowing sex but simply to be having sex at all. To be intimate in any way with your partner is winning that first year.
Remember that this "sex date" doesn't have to mean intercourse—sometimes that's not the loving thing for your body, especially if you've just given birth and are still healing. For me, healing took a lot longer than the thumbs-up from the midwife at six weeks postpartum. I was at least five months postpartum before I felt even remotely "normal" in my pelvis. (More on this in a sec.)
Regardless of what you do with this time, the important piece is to make the time nonnegotiable. That means you don't schedule anything else during this time. All social engagements, visits with family, grocery shopping, work, etc., are shifted around this time. For my husband and me, this means putting sex on our calendar. Seriously.
If you think putting sex with your partner on your calendar sounds unromantic or like something you'd never do, maybe you're already super intimate with your spouse and having a lot of great sex. If so, good for you. Yet when I talk to new parents, it's more likely that four to 12 months go by before any sex is happening. There is no shame in this, and there are a million reasons why this isn't happening. It's super common. There is nothing wrong with you, I promise. Yet, it doesn't have to be this way any longer. It just takes time, effort, and communication with your partner.
How to make it happen.
1. Seriously, put it in the calendar.
Each week we go through our to-do's for the week and figure out an afternoon, a morning, or an evening we could spend together. We try to find a time when we have at least two hours of (hopefully) uninterrupted time. Maybe it's when our baby is at school (lunch break anyone?), or when she's napping, or after she goes to bed. The bottom line: Make one-on-one alone time with your partner a priority. Like we say in my house: If it's not on the calendar, it doesn't happen.
You might even consider starting this process out while you're pregnant so that you've built up the habit by the time the baby comes. Just check in with your doctor to have a sense of whether intercourse is safe to have during your pregnancy (for most normal pregnancies, it's perfectly fine). As we'll discuss below, intercourse really isn't the point of these dates anyway.
2. Focus on intimacy and connection.
When I ask my parent clients about their sex lives and intimacy with their partners, I'm often told they aren't getting enough, or they'd like it to be better in some way. Yet, when I probe more about what's happening in the relationship, it seems that intimacy and true connection is what is lacking more than intercourse.
I coach my clients on how they can shift the focus about sex (which many people define as intercourse) toward a focus on creating the space for more intimacy and connection. This means creating more space to actually talk to each other about what you are doing, feeling, and experiencing in your life each day. It's easy as parents to begin to live parallel lives where both partners are focused on the child instead of each other. Again, there is no shame here. It happens to all of us. Some days the focus will be all about your child, but keep it in check and make it a point to make time for your partner often as well.
3. Don't focus on intercourse.
In addition to more time talking and connecting about life, it's important to shift the focus during your sexual connection. For example, instead of focusing on the end game of intercourse, can you take things slower and spend some time cuddling or holding one another while nude, or take a long shower or bath together? Then whatever happens, happens. No pressure, no rush, and nothing is forced or expected. The bottom line: Sex is so much more than intercourse. It's important (always, but especially that first year after having a baby) to be flexible with how you define sexual connection.
This shift in approach to sex and intimacy has made all the difference for my husband and me. Especially in the early months after baby when I was trying to get to know my body all over again, not to mention heal and be able to do basic exercise again. For me, everything felt new and different, and it was awkward and scary. Yet, as our goal was simply to be alone together and allow the possibility of sex to happen each week, instead of feeling forced to do something in a rushed way, I was able to relax and feel safe. We changed the way we defined our sexual connection and allowed all types of sexual expression, not just intercourse, to be enough for us. So even if my body wasn't ready for intercourse, we were still connecting and experiencing pleasure. We found that this made our time together more fun, exciting, and playful—which is a recipe for better sex.
4. Be flexible.
Your kiddo's sleep schedule will change often, so when it does, you'll need to change up your routine. Be flexible. Choose a set time and day (or days) that work, and then choose a backup time as well. Things will shift, and you'll need to be adaptable.
5. Add as you can.
Once a weekly intimacy date is working well for a bit, then I'd suggest stepping up your game and adding in a second sex date each week. It is possible, and after you get things happening again, you'll find it's much more fun, and there is more space in your life for this than you thought.
As a health and relationships coach, I teach that at the end of the day all of us need to be able to relax and feel safe to truly connect with our partners. How you make that happen for you and your partner is up to you. So, whatever you can do to foster this type of environment in your relationship will do wonders for your sex life. I promise.
Add in a weekly sex date and a shift in your focus when sexing, and you may find, as we have, that you're able to take your relationship and love for one another to a whole new level.