I lay sprawled next to my husband, both of us breathing quietly. I watched as he rose, the curve of his naked body a blur of elbows and knees without my glasses. I could make out the wide expanse of his back, which I had just, moments before, clung to. With passion, I might add. I got dressed and squinted at the clock. It was late, and I knew I'd have to be up much sooner than I wanted to.
I could count on both hands the number of times we'd had sex over the past year. It was totally and completely my fault, and I hated myself for it. No, we weren't in an unhappy marriage. We weren't falling out of love or even attracted to other people. In fact, every time I saw my husband, I wanted to rip his clothes off.
The problem? We were new parents.
I used to listen to other husbands joke about marriage and the lack of sex (not true in our case). But once you had a baby? You were really screwed. I used to cluck at these poor, sad men whose women didn't want anything to do with them. How could you not want to have sex with your partner?
Sure, I'd been in relationships when I wasn't overly attracted to my partner — because he inevitably turned out to be an asshole — and had withheld sex. So, when someone who wasn't an asshole impregnated me, I was sure that, post-baby, I'd always be one of those insanely horny women. You know, the kind of woman who would be bursting with vigor, who would just have to have sex around the clock. I was also sure I'd feel really sexy post-baby (haha) and want to have sex before the six-week mark, because I just couldn't wait another second.
Well, I'm now pretty sure women like that don't exist. (And if you are one of them, please don't tell me — I don't want to feel worse than I already do.)
Post-baby, I can barely utter a coherent sentence, let alone clean my house, work, cook, do laundry, feel sexy and have time to fuck my husband. I need a maid, a nanny, a trust fund and a new wardrobe. Thank God my husband and I actually like each other, or else we'd be completely ruined (much like my vagina, but we'll get to that).
Life with a baby is hard. Between the constant waking, feeding, teaching, cleaning and overall exhaustion, every phase is a new phase of fatigue. Just last week, I took my 16-month-old to a friend's house, where she played with another child's toys, shoved food into her mouth and caused general mayhem. It was awesome — we were out of the house, which meant I wouldn't have to clean everything up. That may have been the highlight of what was still a very long day, so the thought of spreading my legs at 11 p.m. — even for someone I adored — seemed impossible.
I talked to other girlfriends who had begun humping their husbands as soon as their doctors had cleared them. I tried that too, but it felt like a knife, and not my husband's darling penis, was entering my domain. The culprit? Low estrogen from nursing.
"Congratulations," my OB-GYN said. "Now you'll know what it's going to feel like to be in menopause."
Seriously. Do women ever get a break? I asked her what I could do. The options: Stop nursing, apply fake estrogen cream with a special applicator nightly — no way in hell — or try vagina therapy.
She told me that vagina therapy consisted of having sex with my husband every day for two weeks.
"But it hurts to have sex," I said — slowly, so maybe she'd understand me this time. "Which is the entire problem."
"Yes, but part of it could be mental," she responded. "Which is why you need the therapy."
And what could be mental about having sex? I'd just had a steel speculum inserted inside of me, as well as a latex hand. Not to mention that I'd had a 52-hour labor, in which my daughter's head was stuck — sideways — pounding against my hip bone. Add that to two-and-a-half hours of pushing, and I could definitely say that part of my "issues" were certainly mental.
I came home, defeated, and curled against my husband. I knew things would get better. I would stop nursing eventually and things would go back to the way they used to be, right?
Because all of this made me realize just how important sex is. But I also realized my husband and I have so much more than sex, and that is the stuff of true romance. When you're cleaning up poop and spit-up, and you're so exhausted you could die, and you know you wouldn't do it with anyone else — then this is the person you love. This is the person you'll spend your life with, sex or no sex.
No matter what.