A lot of things are revealed over a few beers. It gives even a silent person a voice. No wonder, it is called as a social lubricant. But when parents meet over a drink, it enables more than just a conversation: it provides an opportunity for them to vent out their frustrations, or even open up about sex after childbirth.
Something similar happened a few weeks back. I was having a drink with Nat. Nat, is a wonderful person. He is the life of any party. He entertains people with his quick wit and easy-going manner. But that is not just it. He takes care of Cynthia, his wife, takes his two-year-old daughter for a swim, and cooks occasionally. In fact, when we decided to become parents, Nat was my inspiration.
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But today, the beer was having a strange effect on him. He almost became morose after the first one. I figured something was wrong, and started a conversation about the current events in the US. I knew he was not listening. After finishing another pint, he said, “Man, I almost cheated on Cynthia.” I was shocked.
Seeing the expressions on my face, he entered into a narrative about how he went from a loving husband to someone who almost committed adultery.
Nat and Cynthia were very happy when they found about her pregnancy. Like a doting husband, Nat would do everything. He accompanied her for every doctor visit, every scan. His face would light up every time he would hear his daughter’s heartbeats.
The doctor told them that it would be okay to have sex in the second trimester. But surprisingly, Cynthia’s libido had not taken a toll, Nat’s had. He was afraid to have sex, to hurt either Cynthia or the baby in any way. But somehow, he managed.
On the day of delivery, he was in the labour room…
There, in the labour room, Nat witnessed the miracle of childbirth. But he also witnessed her episiotomy – the protective incision given by the doctor to help the process of child birth. This was something that would haunt him for a long time. He could not forget Cynthia’s face in pain, nor could he forget the gush of blood when she was incised ‘down there’.
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The next few months were, for Nat’s relief, devoid of sex. He would relieve himself on his own, but the thought of being intimate with Cynthia scared him. Luckily, they were co-sleeping and the baby would be a physical barrier between them. Cynthia would spend the entire day talking only about the baby. A lot of husbands find this a bit irritating, but for Nat, it was okay. As long as it delayed sex, he was relieved.
He continued, “There was a night when Claris (his daughter) slept for the entire night. I woke up to the gentle touches of Cynthia. It was 5 am on a Saturday morning. The touch was exciting, and even before I woke up, I was fully excited. I had not been touched in months! We started kissing and as a ritual, I started to go down on her. And that is when it all flashed before my eyes – the blood, the pain. I was scared what this might lead to.”
Nat continued “I faked a cramp, and luckily, Claris woke up and started wailing. I literally felt like I dodged a bullet. The next couple of weeks were hell. I just could not get it up! We settled in a comfortable routine of sexless cuddling, and it worked for her. For me, I could not digest the fact that I was impotent.”
It turns out, a woman in Accounting, L, had always liked Nat. They started texting each other – harmless at first, but later, the conversations eventually turned to sex.
“I was in a sexless marriage. She had broken up with her boyfriend, and was not looking for anything serious. I started fantasising about her. Cynthia did not help. The whole day, she would rant about her ‘out of shape body’ and the stretch marks. I had not even noticed it, but her constant rants made her seem unattractive to me as well. I compared both of them mentally.“
“Yesterday, I received a text message. It was an invitation from L to join her for a ‘guilt-free, no strings attached’ evening. I was instantly turned on. All my blood rushed away from my brain and into my loins. I don’t know what I was thinking anymore.”
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” I made some excuse at home and ordered a cab. But as I arrived at her condo, I just could not bring myself to go upstairs. I sat there for 5 minutes, ordered a cab again and just went back home. On my way back, I texted L that I could not go through it and asked her to keep the conversations platonic. Cynthia was relieved that I was back early, as Claris was crying the whole time that I was gone.”
Nat was in a dilemma.
“I feel guilty as hell man. All I wanted to do was to prove that I could get it up again. I did not realise then that this could destroy everything I have. I love Cynthia too much to do it to her. Should I tell her?”
“Would she believe me if I told her that I did not cheat on her? There is too much at stake man.”
I got thinking. There are a lot of guys like Nat who have trouble initiating sex after child-birth. It is almost like a Post-traumatic Stress for them. Sadly, they do not discuss it with others, nor do they have support groups. For Nat and many other dads, the reason why sex ends up being unappealing are as follows:
Nat was feeling guilty as he made Cynthia, the woman he loved, go through a period of pain, discomfort, swollen ankles, constipation, backaches, and labour. He was afraid that if they had sex, she might have to go through it all over again.
Dads, don’t just concentrate on the painful aspects of pregnancy. It is a phase that gives women great joy as well. They cherish the moments – the kicks, the quickening, listening to the foetal heartbeats during scans… So, don’t blame yourself. It was a decision both of you took together. Having sex again is not going to hurt your partner: not having will.
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Nat could not shake the image of her going through labour. The episiotomy was the worst experience for him.
Like Nat, many dads sign up for the delivery, but are not mentally prepared to see what goes on. My suggestion: watch child-birth videos before you actually witness it in person. If you feel that you cannot handle it, just tell that to your wife. I am sure she will understand.
3# Changes in the body
Nat, like most other dads, was not put off by the sagging abdomen, the stretch marks, the enlarged nipples till his wife mentioned them over and over again.
Mums, don’t berate your looks. Wear your stripes proudly as battle-scars. Who would find you appealing if you don’t yourself? Every man wants his wife to be confident about herself. Just be yourself. This is a phase. Hit the gym, get back in shape, but that is for later. For now, just go with the flow!
After birth, it is natural for a couple to talk about their child. However, sometimes, the husband may feel ignored. This can lead to him showing less interest in his partner. Constant instructions about taking care of the baby do not help either.
Mums, trust your partner. He is the father of the baby. He will come to you for instructions if he is unsure about something. Find some ‘baby-free’ time early on. This ensures that you have a life outside your role as parents.
Back to Nat’s story
On my advice, Nat confessed everything to Cynthia. She was upset, but eventually, she understood. She admitted that she herself had mixed feelings about sex, and did not blame Nat (much) for straying. They decided that instead of playing the blame-game, they should work towards rekindling the romance in their relationship.
Yesterday, they dropped Claris at our place. They are going on a week-long Cruise, just the two of them. Nat told me in private that he had booked an ocean view cabin and does not intend to leave it “unless there is a fire and we have to jump off the ship!”
Mums, what do you think about Nat’s story? Do let us know in the comments below.
Also read: Find out why this mum thinks, “Motherhood has made me sexier”