Before Little Chop was born, I never really considered the effect her arrival would have on my relationship and how it would change. I knew that it would change, how could it not? A newborn demands your love and attention above everything and everyone including your partner, so you inevitably compromise and sacrifice things you enjoyed in your childless life to put your baby first – things like socialising, sleep and sex.
After giving birth, sex was the last thing on my mind. Having delivered a 4kg baby aided by an episiotomy and forceps I was quite content to never have sex again. Then my milk came in and the early challenges of breastfeeding took their toll. Sleep deprived with cracked nipples and a throbbing episiotomy scar, I waded zombified through those early weeks, often sobbing while breastfeeding with the pain that radiated from one end of my body to the other. My partner who was also sleep deprived and overwhelmed by our new arrival was patient and equally disinterested in sex…for a while at least.
Then my six week post-partum check-up rolled around and my partner started to get interested. Really interested. I was still in a fair amount of pain and didn’t feel physically or emotionally ready but I thought I should give it a go for my partner’s sake and to see how things were healing down there. Let’s just say that it didn’t go too well. I cried. It was painful and I was so anxious and self-concious about my squishy post-baby body that I felt tense and awkward. I told my partner I didn’t want to try again for a while and that was that.
By the three month mark, my episiotomy had healed and I was feeling more confident having lost most of my baby weight – I was ready. Within a few weeks, our sex life was almost back to normal, less frequent, but consistent. A couple of months later Winter rolled around and I started feeding Little Chop in bed overnight rather than braving the cold lounge room. She self-weaned from her dummy and no longer wanted to be swaddled. She would only sleep in my arms or by my side. We became co-sleepers. And so, my partner was sent to the spare room where he has remained for the past year. As my Doctor said, “Oh Laura, that’s no good for romance.” Mmm, you don’t say…
I had wondered about the sex lives of co-sleepers before I became one. I knew co-sleepers with more than one child so obviously they had managed to find a time and place to do the deed. If you’re curious, like I was, allow me to enlighten you. It’s tricky. You either need to plan ahead or be extremely spontaneous. It might be a nap time quickie or something you ‘book in’ for the evening instead of watching Masterchef. Occasionally, you’ll be interrupted when your child wakes unexpectedly and you’ll have to abandon the act because they don’t know how to self-settle. And, unless you have a spare room, it probably won’t be in bed because that space now belongs to your child. So there, now you know.
What my Doctor said is true, unfortunately. Co-sleeping is no good for romance. When you spend about twenty hours of the day with your child you tend to crave and relish in your alone time. Well, I do anyway. Nap time and evenings are the only times of the day I get to myself and sometimes I am reluctant to give that up, even for my partner. Maybe that’s selfish but it’s what I need to preserve my sanity. Sometimes I feel like I am stretched very thin and I don’t have enough time and energy to meet everyones needs. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a co-sleeper. I do miss the intimacy and comfort of sharing a bed with my partner and I know he misses it too. But, would I rather get up to settle my daughter multiple times each night? Or, let her cry herself to sleep? No. It is what it is and it won’t be forever so for now I’ll take my daughter’s warm sleepy cuddles over a torrid sex life and that’s fine by me.