I recently had the honour of interviewing Tanaya, a 32 year old mother, about her experiences of early motherhood and sexuality. Her partner is Jon, 34 years old, and their son Sean is currently 10 months old.
This is an abbreviated version of the interview. To read the full interview – go here.
ALICE: To start, maybe you can give a bit of an overview of how things have changed in your sex life, or your thoughts and feelings around sex, before pregnancy, during pregnancy and now that you’re breastfeeding.
TANAYA: So, things changed from just having sex when I felt like it, to having this other purpose. I know for a while I felt guilty if I was wanting to have sex just to have a baby. Previously… it was just like you have sex when you’re feeling sexy, and when your partner wants to. It took me about six months to get pregnant, so I think for a good few months in there I was dealing with those [guilty] feelings.
ALICE: What about moving into pregnancy?
TANAYA: For the first bit of pregnancy I was just exhausted and feeling gross, and I didn’t have the time or head space to have sex. I think I just didn’t really want to. I had nausea until 14 weeks so that hit me as well, all-day long.
ALICE: So a big lifestyle change in general?
TANAYA: Definitely. And then definitely mood changes. Because of all the hormones… I had a way shorter fuse. So just being patient and loving was hard.
ALICE: So what about moving in to second trimester and third trimester?
TANAYA: I started feeling better, and definitely started wanting more sex. And then in third trimester it was a bit more like ‘Oh, I really want sex!’ You’re feeling better and you’re feeling better about your body too – because it’s apparent that there’s a baby there so you’re not just feeling chubby.
I had more energy actually, so I was doing more exercise. Maybe every single night we’d have sex… He even said the other day when we were talking about it that towards the end of the pregnancy he’d be like “Wow, really, again? Cool, okay”.
It was just way easier to get turned on. I could just be lying in bed and thinking about something – you know, like giving him a hand job or something – and that would just be like “Woah, that would be so hot. I need to do that now or I cannot go to sleep. We are having sex!”
ALICE: And then there was the birth. How was that, in terms of your sex life?
TANAYA: It was pretty good actually. I did have a tear, so I was sutured, and my vagina was sore definitely. So that was a factor. I think a lot of midwives generally say to wait six weeks…
ALICE: To have penetration?
TANAYA: Yea, but to obviously just go with your body. If you’re feeling like it beforehand then use lots of lubrication and go slowly. If you’re on top you can guide how far in he goes and how fast.
Maybe just a few weeks [post-birth] we had some mutual masturbation, just some different kinds of sex. Before we had the baby I was actually a bit worried that I wasn’t going to want sex for a long time… but we had conversations around that so I didn’t feel as guilty about it.
ALICE: But it played on your mind a bit?
TANAYA: Yeah. I remember the first time we did have sex. It was a little bit scary because I was thinking about how intense it was having a baby pushed out of there, and is it going to be ok? And is it going to feel the same for Jon? But then it ended up being quite lovely.
ALICE: And now you’re in the phase of breastfeeding, what kind of experiences around sex have come up?
TANAYA: At first, just after the birth…I didn’t even really find it hard to be like, ‘Oh my breasts are being used for breastfeeding and then they’re being used for sex’. It felt alright.
And then as breastfeeding has gone on a bit longer… I’ve put in a boundary. Because Sean’s on my breasts all day it was just feeling like too much. I just had to say ‘I’m not feeling good about that any more so I’ll just let you know when it’s ok for you to touch my breasts’.
ALICE: And how has your interest in sex varied over the breastfeeding months?
TANAYA: For me, it’s definitely a lower libido. I don’t want it as often. But I started menstruating again not long ago – maybe at eight months – and I found with that, that it kind of kicked up [my interest] a bit.
But the thing that kind of helped with it was that I’d be happy if Jon was interested in having sex – or just something – I’d be happy for him to touch me and then often that would lead to me being turned on and then I’d be happy to do it.
ALICE: So letting sex be a bit of ‘maybe’ rather than a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and sometimes that would then lead to arousal and desire?
TANAYA: Yeah. So it was kind of the opposite of third trimester where it was really easy to get turned on just thinking about something. [During breast feeding] I was like ‘I don’t feel like it right now’, but I knew if I just slowly led myself there that maybe I might feel like it. And I could just be honest with Jon and say, ‘I still don’t feel like it now’, or ‘I do feel like it now’. That was nice just being able to go with the flow.
ALICE: Apart from interest and desire in sex, I guess there are a lot of other factors that are different now.
TANAYA: Yeah, so we bed-share – Sean sleeps in the bed with us. So we can’t really make heaps of noise as we don’t want to wake him up. And also when it’s at night-time, that’s when I feel more like having sex, but that’s not necessarily when Jon feels like having sex.
There was one time when Sean was having a nap in the car. And then we ended up having sex in the car, reclining the chairs. It was kind of cool, I think we ended up giggling afterwards, being like ‘Oh becoming parents has made us a bit more creative’ – so that was fun.
ALICE: Well thank you so much Tanaya for sharing such personal and insightful details about your experiences of early motherhood and sexuality. It’s so interesting to hear how you’ve navigated this new phase in your life and your relationship.
TANAYA: My pleasure.