Having a newborn wreaks havoc on two aspects of daily life I used to take for granted sex and sleep. I would give my life savings for one night of either after our son was born.
The reality of a baby taking control of our lives around the clock had crossed my mind but never stopped to linger until the first week of shock had passed with our new son, Shona.
Sleep deprivation is a killer. Night after night, every two to three hours, the call of the wild shrieks from the crib, “Whaaaaaa.”
“No. It can’t be!” I exclaim. “Not again! We just fell asleep! I can hardly move.”
As I roll out of bed, hit my knee on the desk and grope my way through the dark, I remind myself that I wanted this experience. I asked for it and there’s no turning back.
How could anyone in their right mind choose this nightly torture? Nobody put a gun to my head, promised me riches or threatened to blow up my house. This had surely been a conscious decision, although it must have been made while I was in a coma or under general anesthetic!
As I turn the corner to enter the baby’s room, I slam my nose into the door I thought was open. I swear loudly.
“Hold on, I’m coming,” I groan.
Entering the room I quickly turn on the soft light and see my son’s arms flailing in the air as his tiny little mouth roars his need for attention like a ferocious lion. He grabs my finger with his waving hand and tries to suck on it. While picking him up I realize how small and fragile his body is and recall that his screaming is the only thing he can do to ask for help.
Cradling this sweet precious babe silently in my arms while he stares blissfully into my eyes soon releases any anger or frustration I was previously feeling. I whisper to myself, “How could I ever doubt the desire to create this amazing miracle?!”
After a diaper change and 30 minutes of rocking, I lay him back down to sleep with the hope that he’ll be knocked out for at least 48 hours. Why not dream for a miracle? I never get enough sleep anymore to really dream anyway.
By the time I’ve navigated my way back to bed I’m fully awake. Looking over at the clock I discover it’s 3 a.m., only about three hours before I need to get up for work. I glance over at my beautiful wife, Audrey, who is breathing loudly in the land of Nod. As I turn off the light and stare into the darkness, I begin to wonder if this madness will ever end.
Three months go by and nothing has changed. Not only is sleep a vague memory, but sex seems to have also disappeared down a long dark tunnel.
It’s 10 p.m. and Shona has finally fallen asleep. Audrey slowly undresses, slips into bed and beckons me with an alluring glance of desire and warmth. As we begin to lovingly caress one another, a slow fog of fatigue fills our bodies and without so much as a sigh we’re both gone, not from ecstasy, but exhaustion. The next sound we hear is not the anticipated joy of climax but a loud cry waking us from our unintended sleep.
Eight days pass. (Yes, I counted). It’s Saturday. Shona has gone to bed. We both took a nap earlier in the day and are anxious to co-mingle our bodies with pleasure. We finally feel that we have some energy for one another and are determined to not let anything come between us. That was the plan.
We begin one passionate kiss after another when I suddenly sense that Audrey’s mind has drifted away. I take a deep breath and apprehensively ask her what she’s thinking about. She nervously says, “Do you think he’s OK? He hasn’t cried in a long time.”
“Yes, I’m sure he’s just fine,” I reply and begin kissing her passionately with greater urgency. Again she stops and says, “I’m going to go check on him real quick. I’ll be right back.” While she’s gone to the other room I feel myself beginning to implode with frustration and resentment. “What about me? What about my needs?” I begin to feel sad and sorry for myself. She jumps back into bed and reassures me that our child is just fine and he’s, “soooooo cute.”
Time goes by and Audrey is surrounding my body when she suddenly exclaims, “Stop. That hurts!” We both look at each other in amazement. We didn’t expect this. Her muscles haven’t recovered from the trauma of birth and it’s too uncomfortable to continue. She’s just as disappointed as I am and we console one another with hugs and kisses.
Weeks go by. We attempt a variety of sexual activities but nothing seems to ease the pain except time. Finally, after three months of no sleep or sexual connection, a miracle happens!
It’s a Thursday night. A night I’ll never forget. For some reason known only to the baby gods, Shona goes to sleep at 8 p.m. and sleeps until 8 a.m. the following morning! Audrey’s body is fully recovered and we gently make love for the first time without any discomfort or pain.
What a thrill. It almost feels like The First Time all over again. My faith in life slowly returns from months of male postpartum depression. There is hope after all. It is possible to give birth, have a child and time for yourself and your partner. Patience, understanding and commitment to making it work eventually pans out.
Like the song from the movie Casablanca says, “You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss. A sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental rules apply . . . as time goes by.”
So, when your tiny tot is screaming, you’re not sure if you’re awake or asleep and you think your partner has taken vows of celibacy, stop and remind yourself that this too shall pass. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning your baby will one day sleep through the night and the precious intimacy and joy of sex will flow again.