love

Cafe Recap: Sex, Love and Other Things After Baby

Welcome to one of our favorite topics! We were so pleased to have two health care providers willing to help us shed some light on common issues that are all too often kept in the dark. We welcomed Katie Page, CNM, and Dr. John Pierce, MD to our cafe' morning on February 8, 2016.

Our bodies go through a number of changes during pregnancy and birth. We spent some time talking about what to expect, what’s “normal” after baby and what are signs of possible problems. Too often women feel uncomfortable discussing these topics, but our sexual health is important, which is why we do this cafe' each year! Continue reading for a recap of our February cafe entitled: "Sex, Love and Other Things after Baby."

 

Q: Could you give us a brief description of what our most delicate, feminine parts of our bodies have gone through in the birth experience, etc.? 

Katie shared an excellent graphic with us that detailed the variety of ways in which our vaginal area can be affected during and after birth. From minor swelling to 4th degree tears...some of the more severe tears were hard to even think about...but it showed that there are wide variations of 'normal', and healing will take different amounts of time for each woman. Also, our pelvic floor muscles will be weaker than before and need to strengthened. 

Q: I’m curious as to your thoughts why a morning on this topic is even necessary? What have you seen women in the postnatal period (or later) struggle to grasp and understand regarding sex after having a baby?

John: It's a topic that needs discussing because women (and their partners!) need to understand, from a medical perspective, what is going on physically and emotionally in a woman's body after giving birth. He has actually walked in to a hospital room to find couples having sex after just having had a baby (!) ... while each woman's body is different and the timeframe will be different, that's definitely not recommended, and we need to understand why. Also, it's important relationally...for true intimacy and depth of relationship. 

Katie: It's important physically, yes, but also mentally and emotionally...there are so many changes that happen in pregnancy and birth. Also, a birth experience, whether positive or negative, can dramatically impact sex.

Q: Our bodies physically undergo quite the transformation, but often women describe changes in their feelings about their partner and sex. What types of changes did your heart and mind undergo after becoming a mother? Did you feel the same? Different?

Katie: It was a big change, however, some of that is also cultural. We tend to be over-committed as a culture, and let things take over our whole life to the detriment of other areas of our life. I'm still ME. I'm a mother, but also all of these other things that I was before too...recognizing that this a new part of us, and a BIG PART of us, but not letting go of who we are as a person. That being said, there are lots of big emotions and big feelings that come and go after becoming a mother, and it is important to talk about them with your partner. It will take a lot of time, practice and patience, but it's worth it. 

Q: Why is there a 6 week freeze on intercourse? What is going on in a woman’s body during this time? 

John: It's different for everyone (although 2 days IS too short! see above). There is trauma, even in a good delivery. Muscles and nerves are stretched and nerves take longer to heal. To check how muscles are, you can 1) start to urinate then stop the stream or 2) put 1 or 2 fingers inside vagina and tighten, then release. This will help give you an idea of how well your muscles are healing (although the 6 week check is designed for your doctor to check on these things). If there has been a bad tear, it could be more than 6 weeks; if things are going smoothly, it could be as little as 3-4 weeks. Overall, take it slowly. There will probably be some vaginal dryness (use lubricant...even just some olive oil!) but there should not be pain.

Katie: There are some exercises that you can do to help...what John already mentioned are good things to do; if there is pain involved, you are not ready for sex. The 6 week check up is checking so much more than just the vagina; it's testing for soreness or issues in a host of other surrounding muscle groups as well. Kegels are good, but need to make sure you're both contracting AND relaxing...you need to be able to do both. Also, focus on good GENERAL health. When you feel better about yourself, you'll feel better about sex. Don't expect the baby weight to disappear in those 6 weeks, but give yourself some grace; be patient. Take time and space to take care of yourself, and you'll be more content and happy, which will have a positive impact on sex.

Q: What is 'normal' when it comes to having sex/frequency after baby? (note: when polled, the average time for the audience to have sex after baby was 'before 6 months'.)

Katie: There is such a wide range of normal! For some couples, sex everyday was normal before, but for others, sex once/month could be healthy and functional. Don't compare. If you and your partner are both comfortable, it's healthy. We as women tend to need to be aroused first, while for men, they think about it first and are then aroused. Add in abdominal/vaginal changes, and it's a lot! Talk about expectations and desires...both of you need to work together to find what works for your specific relationship.

John: Be aware of 'creeping separateness'. Where you slowly are drifting apart but don't really realize it. It will take time to figure out, but work at it as a team and together. It's important to continue to date one another and set aside time to talk as a couple about plans/dreams/desires for yourself, your relationship and your family. 

Q: So many say that the “best” foreplay is seeing their partner doing the dishes! But seriously, what types of foreplay would you recommend? Is foreplay even necessary?

John: Referred to the phrase, "Men are like a frying pan, women are like a crockpot." In essence, if things are going well outside the bedroom for a woman, things won't get well inside the bedroom either. (editor's note: it was at this moment that we all wanted to record Dr. Pierce's insights and play them in the background of our homes.) Men NEED to talk about expectations too! Learn each other's 'love languages'...how does the other one best receive love? Is it by doing the dishes for them? Then do them! Is it by saying 'I'll take care of the kids, you go take a bath'? Then do that! Recognize that this is a season, and there may not be a lot of time for foreplay, but if you can try to put each other's needs first when you are able, the sex will come a lot easier. Also, lube. Again the lube...it can be your best friend during this season!

Q: How have you personally maintained and found time for a healthy sex life? Any tricks of the trade? Has anyone ever shared any particular pearls of wisdom that stick with you?

Katie: When they're a newborn and can't roll yet, it's a lot easier...just put them somewhere safe: the floor, their crib, wherever, and you're good to go! :) For a while...schedule it. We schedule everything else in our lives, why NOT this?! After a while, you'll start just finding the time and it will become a new rhythm. (although, she noted, our short maternity leaves do not help in this area...we barely have time to adjust!) Schedule parental 'nights off' for each other, split up chores and tasks...use an adult chore chart! Also, if it's scheduled in, it helps your partner to know and anticipate taking over some parental duties so that you can prepare.

John: We need margin for time and space. Focus on your family; personally he and his wife made a clear boundary: the parents were prioritized and it was not all about the kids. Also, use 'code words' for sex, so you can talk and plan when you have a few minutes, even if the kids are around! Example: I'd like to go to a restaurant. Fast food, not gourmet. (get it? wink, wink.) Or having a cue, like him coming home to a lit candle means that you're thinking about it and in the mood...but also realizing that sometimes the best-laid plans can still go awry, and the baby will start crying, need to nurse, etc. Remember that it's not just the act of SEX, but how we promote acts of LOVE.

And that is a great way to end! If you have additional questions or feel you'd like more info on something we touched on here, please feel free to contact our blog editor at ameador@themotherhoodcollective.org and we'll help you find the answers you need!

 

 

The Struggle of Self Care

Photo by Liz Cook of Sincerely, Liz, Inc.

At the Café yesterday we discussed self-care. This is an area in which my mother never excelled. There was always something more important to be done or someone more important to tend to. Rest was not valued nor encouraged. As a hormonal and sleepy adolescent this frustrated me to no end. Now that my mother is gone and I find myself in the role of "mother", I at last understand the enormity of her struggle. How do we as women with SO MUCH valuable work in front of us give appropriate value to rest and self-care?

I've heard it said that we are not fully able to, "love others as we love ourself" if we are not in the practice of showing true love to ourselves. What a true and convicting the statement. How will we expect those whom we are nurturing to care for their bodies, hearts, and minds if we are not setting an example?

Showing love to ourselves will most likely look differently for each of us. What can you do today, this week, or this month to thank yourself for the valuable work set before you?

I challenge you and I challenge myself. Let us see how we are better equipped to show love to those in our sphere of influence by caring for the very vessels of love.

Most sincerely,

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When it isn't love at first sight

"Oh my gosh, he's got a little pig nose!"This was my first thought when I saw my son, Benjamin, when they lifted him above the curtain that separated my eyes from the surgery that brought him into the world on that autumn day six years ago.My 2nd thought was this: "No! I can't believe that was my first thought about my baby!"

I don't remember what my first thought was about Micah, Benjamin's twin brother. I just remember praying that he would live as they whisked him away to the NICU without even letting me kiss his fragile, white face.

I didn't get to touch my sons until many hours after my c-section. I gingerly held Benji in my arms, painfully conscious of every wire, tube, and IV in his tiny 4 pound body. Cuddling was impossible.

I kissed his head. His stubby hair felt rough against my lips.

Holding him felt strangely foreign. And I didn't want to hurt him so I quickly let the NICU nurse put him back in the isolate.

With Micah, I gently stroked his foot as he received an emergency blood transfusion. I didn't get to hold him until the next day.

My husband and I were prepared for the NICU. We knew the boys would be premature, would have to stay in the hospital for a while.

What I wasn't prepared for was how detached I felt from my twins after they were born.

Who are you, little ones? I wondered, my eyes searching the faces of my babies, who looked more little little old men than chubby newborns.

Who am I? 

This was the thought I couldn't wrap my mind around. I didn't feel like a mother. Mothers gushed over their newborns, exclaiming delight, rapture, love at first sight!

I didn't feel anything.

After two weeks, the boys came home from the NICU in all their 4 pound glory and I plunged my life into caring for them. I was determined to breastfeed; when that didn't work (at first) I pumped around the clock. My children would have "the best." After all, isn't that what "good" mothers do?

My days at home with my preemie twins fell into a predictable, robotic pattern: First cry Warming bottles Feeding Burping Changing diapers Swaddling Back-to-crib Pumping Washing bottles and pump parts

Repeat

I didn't cuddle my babies or gaze in their eyes, stroking smooth cheeks and smelling necks. If I let myself indulge in a snuggle with one, I felt guilty for not cuddling the other. So, in the name of fairness, I didn't waver from my routine: First cry, warming bottles….

Other friends and my sister-in-law gave birth just a few weeks after I did. They posted on Facebook about how they had never felt such a love, how the baby filled every corner of their heart.

I inwardly rolled my eyes. They are lying. They are just trying to make themselves feel better. Motherhood is ROUGH!

But really, I was jealous of them. What was wrong with me as a woman, as a mother, that I didn't feel the way I was supposed to feel about my babies?

I definitely felt maternal. I took care of them to the best of my ability. I did my very best. I loved them, I really did! But the most I felt toward my newborns was "responsible."

Mostly I just felt broken, defunct.

The weeks slipped by. One month. Two months.

Then, a gift.

We were sitting on the couch, doing some eye gazing and one of the boys (I wish I could remember which one!) looked at me and smiled for the first time.

Oh! My heart actually jumped in my chest and tears sprang to my eyes. And in this moment, I felt true warmth toward my baby.

I felt the LOVE I knew was there but had been missing emotionally.

That smile was a seed that began to grow in my heart and I began to realize a shocking, startling truth:

Perhaps not every mother "falls in love at first sight" with her baby. Perhaps, maybe…some love stories start out slowly, growing deeper and truer over an entire lifetime.

Birth is just the beginning.

My twins are now six and a half years old. They are active, wild, funny, affectionate little boys. Every day when I pick them up from Kindergarten, they run like crazy maniacs across the street and fling their arms around my waist, yelling "MOMMY!" at the top of their lungs.

And my heart feels that same warm glow that began six precious years ago.

I still stare at them sometimes ("Mom…why are you looking at me? Stop!") and think:

Who are you, little one?

And instead of being filled with fear and uncertainty, this question fills me with eagerness to get to know my sons more and more as they grow each day, each year to adulthood.

I will never stop wanting to know them more completely, love them more throughly.

Because sometimes you don't fall in love with your baby at first sight . Sometimes love grows slowly with purpose and strength over a lifetime.

Ritual

The holidays have come and gone. If you are well organized the decorations are down and you MIGHT **MIGHT** even have Valentine’s Day decorations up. (If you are like me you will MEAN to make/hang these for the next few weeks and then wake up on Valentine’s day and realize you never did get around to it). I think that often times it is easy to pack the traditions up with the tinkle lights and sparkle. We act as those traditions are for big occasions and special events. And yet, I think so many of us crave for more. Perhaps “tradition” is too strong of a word for the day to day life. Maybe “ritual” is better. I didn’t make any big resolutions this year, but one thing I am trying to create more of for my girls is routine, ritual, rhythm. I life that ebbs and flows with the days and the seasons. It doesn’t have to be anything big, and it definitely will get thrown out the window if it induces stress or guilt. But, I think, when done right, having those things that we can count on, that we anticipate give us the frame work that allows us to grow and bloom.

Our first ritual has started out small, without meaning to we have incorporated after school hot chocolate into our daily rhythm. It gives both my girls something to look forward to when the older one gets off from school. It gives me time to listen to their day and look through their folders. It gives everyone a few moments to transition from “day” to “evening”.

I encourage you this month, the month of “love” to find a ritual that speaks to your heart. Maybe you light a candle each morning, maybe you speak a prayer over your child while they sleep, maybe you commit to finding ten minutes each day to make a cup of tea, of coffee, or hot chocolate and drink it’s while it’s still hot.

365 Days to a Heart of Thankfulness

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC--

Thankfulness

Last New Years Eve, I made a resolution. My husband and I had just celebrated our 4th year of marriage and it hadn’t been our best year. We had become parents and while we loved being parents and a family of three, we agreed that our relationship could use some focus and tender loving care. We committed to working towards growing stronger and not further apart.

Pinterest is where I found my inspiration. It was a simple glass jar labeled “365 Days of Thankfulness” and it was just what I needed. It is my sincerest desire that my husband is the head of our home but giving up the reigns does not come easily to me, especially, as a stay at home mom. I’m a first born; typical type-A, control freak. I needed something to turn my attitude away from “my way is best” and “just do it like me” to “you’re the best, thank you.”

I started January 1st 2012, secretly typing one thing I was thankful for, about my husband, into a note on my iPhone. I would surprise him on December 31st 2012; our five-year anniversary. What better way to celebrate? Fast forward to April 30th, 2012. I was 4 months in, a third of the way there and my toddler deleted my note. This was going to be a little harder than I thought. Regardless, I started again. I also started keeping track on a Word document, harder to delete. But, somewhere in the middle of June my toddler threw my phone in the toilet. Yes, definitely harder than I thought because I wasn’t very diligent about updating the Word document. I began yet again and weekly updated the Word document and, looking back, my toddler's curious ways were really a blessing. I had to be extra diligent at this point, forgetting a day only sent me further behind and most days I had to sit and reflect on at least five ways my husband had served, surprised or shown love to me or our son.

I’ll never know exactly how many reasons I had to come up with, but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to come up with “365” reasons I was thankful for the amazing man I married. We had the most wonderful year. Continually focusing my mind on why I was thankful made a remarkable difference.

Parenting is an incredible gift. A gift that can equally frustrate you and uplift you all in the same ten minutes. Marriage is the same way. I love my son, but my husband comes first. He’s the reason I am a parent. As we start 2013, I encourage you all to refocus and ask yourself: “How are we doing?”

My whole family is happier for it.

Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/365-Days-of-Thankfulness/317672098273632