And finally, who stole my libido?
I read, with wonder and amazement, about women who barely deliver one offspring and bingo, are toting another growing mass of cells in utero barely the first is out of diapers and into pull ups. As for me, I was the creature in The Exorcist every time the spouse reached out a trembling tentative hand in my direction through the first year. The general spouse bait for nooky had always been reach out and tweak the nipples, and god help him, these nipples were sore and tired and had gone to sleep thank you very much.
Think about it. You spend the better part of 12 of 24 hours having a child dangling from one breast, and god help you if said child has sharp gums or is teething, the remaining 12 hours go in either trying to catch up on your sleep in short bursts in the manner cats made popular, or catch up on domestic tasks that seem to pile up and loom over one’s head in the most threatening Sword of Damocles manner.
Sex? Who had the time, energy, inclination for it. I had a headache so permanent I seriously thought the guillotine would be the only cure for it. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t be sure I hadn’t fallen asleep on my feet, to add to this recipe for disaster, the child was in the bedroom and one was, constantly one eye turned in his direction, wondering if he would suddenly decide to shoot past all milestones and stand up in his screen blocked cot to catch the action live, metaphorically speaking, and get his earliest introduction to the birds and the bees. That was sure-fire dampener to any lustful thoughts that might cross my mind after the feeding, changing, disinfecting and later, when we moved off the breast onto the bottle, sterilising, making the formula, pureeing, collecting spoonfuls spat out in clear demonstration of baby superiority over harried adult.
The statistics bear me out, 90 per cent of women report a drop in libido post partum. No official statistics could find for this which was India specific, but random dipstick poll, which mainly comprised SMSing friends (this was the age of innocence before Whatsapp had infiltrated our phones with daily inspirational messages on groups which were basically happiness on steroids plus added dose of street crack) with offspring and asking when they’d gotten back to nooky after popping their sprogs, elicited the definite conclusion that if left to them, never, but most concurred they mostly did the down and dirty after much plea bargaining from their spouses, and then too, were lie down, play possum, and double check the contraception. According to what I read on the internet, many women reported a dip in their libido for as long as years post delivery. As for me, I was convinced the kid would leave for college before I would return with any modicum of enthusiasm to my wifely duties.
It isn’t getting back one’s libido after childbirth, no matter what they tell you. If you’ve had a C-sec, your stitches are going to be vocal and violent about any pressure on them, if you’ve had a natural delivery, there are tears of various degrees and episiotomies playing spoilsport. Hormones too play their bit, making the new mother focus all her attention on the mewling newborn, leaving most fathers standing on the sidelines watching their partners start a completely new affair of the heart, with someone whom she can lift with one hand and a toothless grin. Occasionally, there’s PPD which is a bad demon to deal with when you’re already dealing with a squalling newborn, who is the most demanding, exhausting, draining thing put on the planet to make sure you earn, really earn, your maternal lines of wisdom along with those stretch marks on your abdomen.
Which brings me to the abdomen. After childbirth. A hot air balloon collapsed and lying on a mucky field. Perfect. Now who would want to make love to that. That is how every new mom feels when she gets into a bathroom and looks at her newly delivered body post childbirth. Which is why, for the sanity of all concerned, full length mirrors should be covered up with cloth, nailed in, and this goes for rest of the mirrors in the house as well. Seeing one’s deflated abdomen in the mirror the morning post delivery can be traumatic experience, especially when one has had an abdomen flat enough to show off in cropped tops and low waist jeans pre-pregnancy.
First time moms I read, take at least six months, to get back into their groove, so to speak, regarding sex. The average time taken for all first time moms to get back to a regular sexual routine is three months as I read up, but the most scary finding was perhaps that most women were still having less frequent sex up to twelve months post delivery, and for some moms I spoke with it lasted as long as four years. Six weeks post partum is traditionally the hands off period according to most gynaecologists and obstetricians anyway. It allows the uterus to shrink back to its pre pregnancy size, for the stitches and incisions to heal. Some doctors give their patients nooky go ahead only when the lochia stops, that’s the post partum bleeding which is basically nine months of having no periods made up for all at once, and damn, why did no one prepare me for these rivers of blood that would be pouring out of my body for what seemed like weeks and weeks, and so much of it that I was amazed I was still able to totter around without collapsing or needing blood transfusions.
So put together body issues, hormones on the PPD rollercoaster, a stomach that flaps to its own tune, an infant that demands hourly feedings, diapers that need to be changed, and stitches that need to heal and lochia that refuses to stop flowing, and goodness gracious, who could even want to have sex in the midst of all this.
But, take a deep breath, as one who has been there, done that, worn the t-shirt, never mind the let down staining the front, take it from me, it will come back. Slow and steady. And then all at once. You just need to be patient. And do not under any circumstances look at yourself naked in the mirror until it does.
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