shared by Aimee
I have had six incredible birth journeys, each one beautifully supported and held. I felt empowered to make my own decisions and supported to traverse to the depths of my soul to bring my babies earth-side. However, each birth experience was wildly different in how it made me feel about myself, my body and my sexuality.
My very first pregnancy ended in an early pregnancy loss at 12 weeks. I was devastated, and the trust I had previously held in my body suddenly dissipated. It was difficult and upsetting, and yes, painful. My sexuality wasn’t affected, but then perhaps that had a lot to do with my body’s desire to fall pregnant again? This happened within 2 months and I planned home birth with a Privately Practising Midwife! I felt so excited to experience labour; Excited to feel the power of my body, the surges rippling through my uterus. Our baby, Willow, ended up being born early via an emergency caesarean prior to labour. I was devastated, having not experienced a single surge, and yet elated and ecstatic to be holding my baby!
This birth really took its toll on my feelings about my body. I started to doubt my body’s capacity to grow and birth babies and had so many questions! Why hadn’t the placenta held on a bit longer so that I could birth my baby into my own arms, surrounded by love, in our home? The recovery was straightforward, and yet difficult! I didn’t really feel myself for 9 months; there were new pulls and pinches in my abdomen that I’d never felt before, and recovery felt slow. I couldn’t exercise without pain (something I’d done frequently prior to Willow’s arrival) and I didn’t feel at all like being intimate. My body felt different, not just in the way it looked, but also how it felt inside, and emotionally this took a huge toll. My self confidence and freedom in expressing my sexuality felt dampened, and this was only exacerbated by sex becoming painful! A side effect that is apparently quite common for women after birthing babies via caesarean section, presumably because your hormones are telling everything to tighten, and yet the vagina hasn’t stretched! I was, however, in awe of my body’s ability to produce copious amounts of milk for my baby, and with that my self-confidence soared!
9 months later I had done a lot of self-work, though certainly wasn’t entirely healed. I finally started feeling a little more ‘normal’, whatever that is post-baby! My sexual desires didn’t really return until around 2.5 years postpartum, around the time Willow weaned. Weaning Willow was a process we undertook together (Willow and I) in order to conceive another baby (hubby and I had been ‘trying’ for months at this point). Soon after Willow weaned, I fell pregnant again! Cue a sudden drop in sexual desires, something I’ve experienced with each of my pregnancies (despite feeling the sexiest and more empowered in my body than I ever have! Go figure). This pregnancy, and the next, both ended prematurely at 6 and 5 weeks pregnant, and so my belief in my body and self-confidence took another massive hit. We decided to try once more and our son, Hamish, was conceived!
I roared him earth-side (or water-side, really) in our bathtub into my midwife’s hands, and he was put straight to my chest. I emerged from his birth feeling the MOST incredible I ever had – so confident, capable, powerful, and happy! Not just in myself, but in my body as well. However, I still didn’t have much desire for sex while breastfeeding, not because of a lack of confidence, but I believe I just have some whacky hormonal shifts going on when I breastfeed. This birth though transformed everything! I suddenly felt so incredible and proud of my body. I felt connected and expanded, and like I could achieve absolutely anything.
For months I suffered from symptoms that indicated I had thrush, which I now know to be in response to food intolerance. Given it flared up whenever we had sex, it wasn’t very fun to keep trying, and so I avoided it for a while there (sadly) despite it feeling SO much better than after Willow was born. At around 18 months postpartum sex started becoming incredible again, perhaps because my son had started weaning and I’d finally gotten on top of the intolerances. We conceived our third baby, Evalie. Hers was a surprise pregnancy, one that we certainly weren’t expecting (though I knew she was going to join our family – I could feel her ‘waiting in the wings’). This pregnancy was one in which I was the most confident in my body, and my sexual desires absolutely benefited from that! Unfortunately though, I’d sustained a mild prolapse from Hamish’s birth, and so early on in her pregnancy I would experience symptoms of that whenever we had sex (heaviness, discharge, abdominal pain). I was pretty upset by that, because we’d finally gotten to a point where I wanted sex, I was enjoying it, it was pleasurable again and yet my body felt like it was boycotting the whole situation!
Before she was born I said that my caesarean section took more capacity, concentration, resilience and surrender than my vaginal birth, because it absolutely did! But Evalie’s birth was HARD. I hadn’t experienced labour and birth this way. Hamish’s birth had eased into things, progressively getting more intense, me cocooned up in our bathroom, exiting the bath when I felt I needed to. Evalie’s labour and birth felt so much more drawn out, difficult and required more focus. I had started providing birth support before Evalie’s conception, and so think I was too much ‘in my head’ and not really allowing myself to drop into my body fully. I laboured and laboured, stuck in transition for hours. I begged my midwives to break my waters, just to get something happening, and eventually, they did, after I was in despair I hadn’t been able to do it myself. Soon after that, Evalie finally emerged – one push from my womb to entirely in my arms! I caught her and brought her to the surface of the water myself, surrounded by my family (kids included) and birth team (2 midwives, a student midwife, doula and birth photographer).
I thought I’d learnt my power after birthing Hamish, but truly, I hadn’t had to face my own demons as I had in Evalie’s birth. At every corner, there was some other hurdle to clear, some other layer to peel back and reveal – surrender, surrender, surrender. I learnt to fully, deeply relax into my body, for that was the only way that Evalie could be born in the end. Interestingly, this experience was the one that has helped me sexually the most! Surrender – not ‘to’ my husband necessarily, but to my own body and the sensations rippling through it. Truly surrendering and allowing all of it to wash over me. Sex has been incredible since I learnt to do that!
Fast forward to now, my body has expanded SO much! Sex is so much more pleasurable now than it was even before having children, which could come from my own feelings about my body, but I believe also comes from learning to deeply feel and surrender. My main tips and insights would be:
– Treat it like birth! Listen to your body, don’t question it, and surrender, surrender, surrender (to the feelings, not necessarily the person 😉 ).
– If you’re not feeling it, don’t push forward – it only results in a substandard experience.
– Expect that things may change, but not always for the worst; indeed, change can be SO so good!
– If your sexuality has taken a hit, it sometimes does just take time to come back. Be gentle on yourself – not only did you grow and birth a baby, but you’re nourishing one too.
– If something feels wrong, seek help. Whether that ‘wrong’ness is physical or psychological, there are incredible, supportive care providers out there that can help. You know you best!
All photos by Jerusha Sutton – https://jerusha.com.au
Aimee is a Daughter~Sister~Mother_Doula~Breastfeeding Counsellor~Space Holder~Birth Advocate~Academic~Birth Activist
Her vision is that every family will feel informed, supported, empowered and connected throughout their journey. She supports your goals, whatever they may be.
She is passionate about informed choices and thus believes every woman should be supported to birth where and with who they feel safest! Additionally, they should be supported to feed their babies how they decide and held to raise their babies their own way.
© Gwen Schroeder |Rebirth Photography
© Monet Nicole