Column: Maintaining a relationship after having a baby

In 2018 Sex Issue, Devil's Advocate, Opinion
An out of frame couple clinks wine glasses in the middle of the frame. Behind the glasses are a picture of their baby set on a table behind them next to a rose.

I now share my bed with two other people — my 5-month-old daughter sleeps in my arms between my fiance and I. With our baby acting as a physical barrier, there is no room for intimacy. Combined with my busy school and work schedule, it has been hard to maintain a sexual relationship.

My fiance and I are no strangers to the woes of a decrease in relationship satisfaction. Shortly after the birth of my daughter, we found that all our focus was on her. While she deserves all this attention and affection, we felt distant from the romantic and sexual relationship that helped produce her in the first place.

Spontaneity often takes a backseat to ensuring the baby is taken care of. Rather than enjoying late nights of each other’s company, we’re up late changing diapers and comforting our child.

When we first started dating, it was in high school and my sexual experience was nonexistent. That changed a few months into our relationship.

Mornings where I would try to sleep in until my zero-period class transformed into mornings of waking up extra early to sneak over to his place while his parents were at work. I know, typical high school procedure, but those mornings still meant a lot to me because of how strong of an attraction we had for each other.  

A few years forward, and the initial spark we once had slowed down due to new stresses of the real world. Work and school schedules took away from our bonding time. Once we figured out the best times to see each other, it was easy to wiggle in little dates here and there.  

With the birth of our daughter, it came time to consider new ways for keeping the passion alive within our relationship. It is important in a relationship to maintain a connection and a sexual attraction to one another. According to research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, evidence suggests there is a decline in relationship satisfaction after childbirth because of the changes that parenthood brings to work routines and social lives.

At first, there were practical reasons why we abstained from each other. After natural childbirth, it is recommended that a woman should not engage in sex until four to six weeks after. We waited seven.

After the birth of our daughter, we started counting down the weeks and days until we could have sex again. As the time got closer, I found myself feeling nervous. Within nine months of carrying my daughter, my body went through a lot of changes to prepare for her. After giving birth, some of those changes remain present.

The mirror reflects an image I am not familiar with. A figure with wider hips and a flabbier stomach lined with stretch marks because of the life that formed within its borders. It is hard to find myself sexy, or believe that my fiance still finds me sexy, when all I see is a mom bod.

It is common for self-esteem to be tested. Becoming a mother is an important period of development in self-esteem, according to research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Its studies show that transitioning into motherhood can produce a gradual decrease in self-esteem over the three years that follow.

For our own sanity, self-esteem and sex drives, we needed to find more time for romance.

When we get lazy or too tired, having picnic dates in bed while indulging in Chinese takeout and a movie, all while our daughter contently sleeps in her crib, has been one way for us to work on our relationship satisfaction.

It takes a lot of thought and planning for a romantic night out, so when the fridge is stocked full of breastmilk and my mom or aunt are available to babysit, we jump at the chance to enter the world without a baby for a little bit.

As I get ready for our date, I get to use all the expensive cosmetics I have collected, and I pick out a nice outfit that does not consist of yoga pants and a loose T-shirt.

These dates are important, even though they are not extravagant, because they help give us a stronger satisfaction within our relationship. According to The Journal of Sex Research, better satisfaction in the relationship leads to a better sexual connection.

It truly is the little things, like our private movie nights, romantic walks at sunset and nights out, that help maintain a relationship mentally and sexually. They allow us to reconnect and find our identities as not just parents, but also as lovers.  

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