Is There Life After Birth?Dale Kiefer
Sexual relations during pregnancy can be challenging enough. For the adventurous couple, sex during pregnancy can lead to new levels of pleasure and intimacy. For the uncomfortable couple sex may be a fond — and increasingly distant—memory throughout much of pregnancy. But what about sex after delivery?
On the face of it, things promise to get better pretty quickly. Most physicians caution that at least six weeks of abstinence are required after a normal, vaginal delivery, in order to give the female tissues time to heal and return to a more normal, sexually receptive state. While six weeks may seem like an agonizingly long time to the sex-starved male, this minimum period of post-delivery abstinence is actually a best-case scenario. In reality many women experience complications ranging from the slight, such as unexpected perineal tearing, to the dramatic, such as Cesarean section.
Obviously women who have undergone Cesarean section will require longer to recuperate. But there is more to the return to "normal" pre-pregnancy sexual relations than simple, physical healing. The simple fact is, most women will not be ready for sex within six weeks. While she may attempt to accommodate your eager advances on day one of the seventh week, don't be unduly disappointed if your wife does not quite seem to be "there" for you. It is neither her fault, nor yours. Blame it on the pregnancy, if you must.
While it may seem that the trials of pregnancy are finally safely behind you, the fact is, they are not. Your spouse's body, as amazing and resilient as it is, needs a great deal of time to return to "normal." In fact, some physicians insist that it may take up to a year before she feels like her old self again. From a lack of vaginal lubrication to a total lack of libido, your spouse may simply be unable to become aroused as soon as you might like.
The infant that has newly entered your lives will forever change the dynamic of your relationship. He or she demands, and requires, constant attention. Providing it will force you and your spouse to make adjustments. Especially in the first few months of life, your infant is likely to interrupt your sleep so severely that your spouse, or yourself, or both of you, will experience a weariness ranging from fatigue to utter drop-dead exhaustion.
It is difficult to engage in love-making when you can hardly keep your eyes open. It is even more difficult to make love when your ears are fine-tuned to pick up the slightest peep. Ardor often fades rapidly when interrupted by crying.
Other factors conspire to interfere with sex as well. After delivery a woman is awash in a raging storm of often conflicting hormones. If she breastfeeds, these hormones will not subside quickly. Breastfeeding benefits far outweigh its inconveniences, however. From imparting immunity to fragile newborns, to stimulating the mother's post-delivery weight loss, breast feeding is highly recommended.Unfortunately, another side-effect of breast feeding is tenderness of the breasts and soreness of the nipples. Although not all women experience this, do not be surprised if you are banished from the breasts faster than a thug with a switchblade from school grounds.
Additionally, your wife may suffer from inexplicable, unwanted fits of emotion ranging from irrational tears to manic joy, to depression and even despair. Likewise, you may face some challenges of your own. You may resent the fact that you no longer receive the attention your wife formerly lavished on you. You may feel guilty for feeling what amounts to jealousy towards your own helpless offspring. Or, you may simply be confused by the changes taking place, or by feelings of inadequacy as a father or husband.
Watching your wife go through erratic mood swings can be stressful, especially if you fear them, or feel helpless to offer relief. If you chose to be present in the delivery room, you may actually have trouble looking at your wife's privates again in the same way. (I never dreamed it could do that!) All of these distressing feelings, while uncomfortable, are normal. As with so much of parenting, patience is recommended. Inconsolable crying on the part of your wife or your infant may leave you ready to cry, or explode. Understand that it is normal to feel this frustration. Parenting is not easy. In fact, it's probably the toughest job you will ever love. But keep in mind that things will get better. One day your infant will sleep through the night. One day his colic will disappear, her wailing will cease. If you're not too exhausted, I would recommend that a celebration of the event is in order. One day, you wife will reach for you in the familiar way, and you'll see the spark of desire. That calls for another, more intimate celebration. Just don't hurry things. Believe it or not, this is all harder on your wife than it is on you.
And remember that one day your infant will be grown. As an expectant father, you are filled with excitement and charged with the thrill of bringing a new life into the world. After the arrival, you will feel even more excitement, and the flush of pride. You will experience the weight of dramatically increased responsibility, and a fierce protectiveness. But a child is a precious gift that doesn't last forever. Your job is stewardship. You and your wife must guide, nurture and protect your child, and provide for his or her well being.
Before you know it, your helpless infant will be a grown man, or woman. On that day, will you and your wife still be able to turn to one another? It is easy to neglect your marital relationship as you both divert your energy to focus attention on your newborn. But remember who came first, and who will remain when the nest is finally empty. Tend to your marriage, and see to the emotional, spiritual and sexual needs of your spouse.
And remember, you are not alone. Other men have experienced whatever doubts or frustrations you are feeling, no matter how disturbing. Talk to them. Seek out friends, mentors, your own father, or other dads. Ask questions. As they used to say in school, the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked. Sharing your worries and frustrations can't hurt, and it just might help.Dale Kiefer is a free-lance writer living in northern New Jersey with his wife and two young sons. Born in New Jersey some 40 years ago, Dale was raised in Kentucky, where he spent most of his life, graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Biological Sciences. You can see more of Dale's articles at his Suite 101 page devoted to expectant fathers.
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