The 7 Stages Of Being Cleared For Postpartum Sex

by Robyn Welling
Originally Published: 
postpartum sex
mediaphotos / iStock

When women consider the prospect of having a baby, we mainly focus on the positive aspects of the end result. Sure, we know there will be sleepless nights and stretch marks, but mostly we’re thinking about the good stuff, like coos and giggles and snuggling and smothering another human being with love until we’re fairly certain they’ll make sure we get into a good nursing home someday. The deep biological yearning to smell the powdery sweet top of a little baby’s head is every bit as responsible for pregnancy as sexy time and sperm.

It isn’t until about eight months later that we start to really wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, as we begin to accept the frightening reality that the adorable wee hitchhiker we invited into our uterus has gradually morphed from a microscopic egg into a gargantuan 8-plus pound kicking and screaming machine, and soon we’ll have to get it out of there somehow. And none of the options are particularly attractive.

Yet we manage, and our bodies recover (except for the stretch marks and permanently jacked up urethras, of course), and we spend the next few weeks alternately struggling to remember who we are and falling in love with these new little creatures despite the fact that they’re frequently covered in poop.

But just when we think the worst is behind us, that nothing could be scarier than facing the physical and emotional challenges of evicting the baby and enduring everything from back labor to episiotomies, another frightening reality strikes — we go to our six-week postpartum checkup and hear the dreaded phrase, “You are free to resume sexual intercourse.”

Oh, finally!

The optimism implied by these seven words is absurd, as if we’ve been riding our oversized maxi pads through these lochia-filled weeks anxiously awaiting the medical blessing for more poking and prodding of our naked lady parts. Rather than feeling “free” to hop back in the sack, most women generally transition through these seven stages of postpartum sex first:

1. Shock

What did that doctor just say?! Numb with disbelief, you sit staring blankly at the poster of fallopian tubes on the exam room wall, wondering if this is really happening or if you’ve died and backless paper gowns just happen to be the required uniform in hell.

2. Denial

No, no, no. Surely there’s been some kind of mistake. This idiot obviously swapped your medial file with that of some other hapless woman; he can’t possibly be referring to you having sex, as your boobs leak down the front of your body and sour milky pools collect deep within the 3-foot wide belly button that’s now sagging over your pubic mound. Nope, not feelin’ it. Sorry.

3. Bargaining

Willing to do anything (other than have sex) to avoid the despair coursing through your over-tired, over-touched body, you beg the powers that be to intervene. You silently vow to give your husband a quick BJ later, if only the doctor will mercifully diagnose you with a sex-prohibiting yeast infection or something.

4. Guilt

On the drive home, you consider lying to your husband about getting the green light to get nasty and instantly feel ashamed. After all, he’s a pretty nice guy (when he isn’t trying to get in your pants) and now he’s the father of your child for Chrissake! Shouldn’t you want to do the deed?

5. Anger

But then again, seriously, fuck that guy and his libido. It’s his fault your vagina was broken in half in the first place—why should you suffer any more than you already have?! Maybe if he’d get up at 3 a.m. with the baby once in a while, you wouldn’t prefer 10 minutes of sleep to 10 minutes of his sweaty, hairy body pressed up against you. A seething hatred begins to boil despite the fact that he hasn’t even asked how your appointment went yet.

6. Depression

Once you’re back home, you retreat to the isolation of the bathroom (except for the omnipresent baby, of course, who will babble in your face while you cry softly). You reflect sadly on the six sex-free weeks you took for granted, and ruefully wish you could go back in time and appreciate those sitz baths or abdominal stitches while you had the chance.

7. Acceptance

Finally, you’re ready to deal with reality of the situation: You enjoyed sex once. Surely you’ll enjoy it again. Besides, you realize as your heart fills with hope, odds are your husband won’t even remember today was your six-week checkup, anyway!

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