Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘newborn’

There Goes Our Sex Life

imgresWhen your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship, and find time for sex, when you have young children wanting and needing your attention 24 hours a day?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

Murakaza Neza (Welcome)

The two lane paved road kept climbing higher, past waterfalls, lush cultivated valleys and terraced hillsides. Kermit the Frog, from Sesame Street, would feel right at home with the abundance of green foliage that simmered before our eyes. The river that followed the road to Ruhengeri in the north of Rwanda provided a beautiful contrast with its brownish-red colored waters. Our family was traveling with a group we worked with at an orphanage in the capital Kigali. We were taking a break to visit the rare mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga National Park, which borders The Congo and Uganda in Eastern Africa. The scenery during our two hour ride along the Ruhengari Road (built by the Chinese) was spectacular, but even that lovely assault on the senses didn’t prepare us for what was to come.

When we arrived at The Gorilla Nest Lodge in Ruhengeri, just outside the Volcanoes National Park, we were stunned. Imagine a luxury hotel, superbly crafted from local stone, wood and bamboo, tucked into the jungle at the bottom of a blue-green volcanic range. Top that off with spacious rooms, fine dining and friendly service from people that speak English, French and Kinyarwanda (the national language) and you have a virtual Shangri-la in the middle of Africa.

After a peaceful night we were driven to the Virunga Park entrance and met our guide, Fidel, who has worked as a park ranger for thirteen years. He informed us that we would be walking for about three hours to find the family we would be observing. We set out, nine in all and made our way up the hillside past planted fields and traditional mud huts; over the stone wall, which was built by villagers (who were paid by the government) to keep out elephants and buffalo and to delineate the park boundary. We were well prepared for what is usually a wet misty experience (with our boots and raincoats), but were in luck with sunny weather and a clear trail.

As we walked Fidel told us that the dominant male in a family (the Silverback) is called “The President”. He said if there is no dominant male in the group than a female is the leader. “Blackbacks are males before they become adults,” Fidel said quietly. “From eight years on females are called adults because they can have babies. Gorillas can live up to forty years old. Gestation for pregnancy is about eight to nine months. Females usually live longer than males. Sound familiar? They are vegetarians. They sleep, play, socialize and eat just like us. Their DNA is ninety-seven percent the same as humans.” Fidel suddenly held up his hand and whispered, “straight ahead.” We heard the sound of twigs breaking and grunting noises before we could see anything. Fidel gently pushed aside some bamboo and my wife was staring face to face with a 500 pound silverback ten feet in front of her who was contently sitting down to lunch on some freshly stripped morsels of bamboo leaves. She froze, as we lined up alongside her; our mouths agape at the spectacle.

It wasn’t long until a number of females with toddlers and a newborn joined the silverback. We watched the children play, nurse and be pulled back to their moms when they got to far away or too close to the spectators. We were entranced. We were the ones with the camera equipment, but if the gorillas could take our picture, they would probably be laughing hysterically at images of our grinning stupefied faces.

As required, we left the gorilla family after an hour’s viewing and made our way back down the mountain. We were in such awe that there was little conversation. Everyone knew the $500.00 per person we had paid for permits to see the gorillas was the best money we had ever spent. The funds from the permits help the rangers protect the gorillas, continue research and provide funds for the surrounding communities to build schools, health clinics and crafts centers.

Rwanda is becoming increasingly noticed for its environmental policies, gender equality, stable government, family life and breathtaking beauty. Positive internal and international support for infrastructure, education, investment, security and eco-tourism have made it assessable, affordable and one of the safest destinations for adults and children in Africa.

When we returned to Kigali the next day and continued our work at the ROP Center for Street Children, my wife said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if these kids could some day afford to see the gorillas?”

“It would be fantastic,” I thought. Perhaps some day soon these children will be able to finish their education, make a living and visit the rare mountain gorillas themselves. Perhaps some of them will, like Fidel, grow up and work in one of Rwanda’s beautiful national parks and lead tourists like you and me to see their beloved and amazing national treasure, our cousins, the magnificent mountain gorillas of Virunga National Park.

Baby Wreaks Havoc

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.

“Whaaaaaa.”

“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.

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