How to understand each other’s needs after birth
“Hi Elena, I took one of your workshops with my partner. Months after, we had an amazing birth experience. Well, now we are at it again only 20 months later, we have another baby on the way. We've been thinking about you and your workshop and how we much we enjoyed it. That brings me to something I wanted to discuss with you. I am a little concerned with the way things have been going this time around with the pregnancy. My wife seems to be a lot more sensitive these days, her emotions get triggered easily. I am very concerned how much I irritate her. Now we are getting very close to the birth and it is happening more often. If I attempt to inquire kindly about what she's feeling she shuts me out completely. So I just have been giving her plenty of space but lately when I do give her some space it seems she gets upset about that. How I can be most supportive in this situation? Thank you! LOVE and BLESSINGS, Anonymous” ET: “Oh, dear... Yes, that happens... she is simply exhausted - her body, her nervous system... might simply not be ready for a new baby and she is frustrated with herself - she knows she should be happy about this new one, but her body is freaking out... So in terms of help, what she needs from you the most is not so much of emotional support, but actual physical help with the baby, with house tasks, to help her get enough of guilt-free sleep and time off - go for a walk or meditate or simply linger and do nothing. I am sure I don't need to go over nutrition with you - right? Is she getting enough supplements - vitamins and minerals? Her body is depleted. Having a child is really a huge task. One of the reasons she pushes away your emotional support is because you are simply not equipped to understand what it feels like to have given birth. With all of the beautiful aspects of it, there is a flip side - the body also experiences the new baby as a pure boundary violation, as an intruder, an alien that came to take over the world. Most of the women go through a complete loss of identity when becoming a mother, never claiming again their own creative life force and living their dreams through their children. It happens when healthy boundaries were not established in childhood and how many people do we know who had an appropriate role model to have a confident sense of self and were taught the skill of maintaining self-respect? With the first child, the end of the world as she knew it, was not so final for a woman,- she can bounce right back quite easily with enough support, as she stops nursing and gains her own boundaries again. When the second child arrives before she is ready to really desire it, she goes through a deep grieving, mostly unconsciously, because there is no socially-acceptable permission to know that it's OK to not be just happy, but acknowledge the complexity of that dynamic. She feels completely alone in that experience and doesn't know how to get unstuck in her resentment. Dear man, when a woman is stuck in that mode of frustration and eternal loneliness, anything you do or say can and will be held against you. Unfortunately. That's why most of the couples don't go back to 'happy ever after' after having a child or two. Their sex life is over. She is not interested. Period. All she and the baby need is being supported and provided for, until she recovers completely. Her hormones are running in the maternal mode to produce milk. The sex-appeal chemistry in a woman's body does not co-exist with maternal chemistry, unless there is an established Tantric practice and love-making is taking a form of art. It's either one mode or the other. They take turns. And it's extremely annoying to a woman that her male partner is still full of sexual desires, that she is responsible for meeting his needs. The good news is that you, guys, are not 'most of the couples'. Some women have enough spirit in them to recover sooner then the average and some couples have enough solid base of deep friendship, love, respect and sexual connection that only grows during this challenging time. Bless your heart, you need to find the levels of patience you never knew you had. Well, both of you... My warmest embrace, Elena” To summarize this topic: preparing for postpartum sexual and emotional changes in the relationships is one of the most important aspects of preparation for birth. Otherwise, this beautifully born baby will be raised by two very frustrated parents who are not able to meet each other’s emotional needs. Those needs will be very different: a woman will need safety and intimacy to feel loved, a man will still need sex to feel loved. She is constantly tired and needs lots of help, he can’t possibly relate to what’s going on in her body and still has all of his desires. A few couples have a strong enough foundation to survive with flying colors through this postpartum period without establishing some ill dynamics from which their marital life never recovers. And very few talk about it. Each couple struggles silently, thinking that they are the only ones with this problem. In my estimation 95% of couples have it and never return to passionate sex again. Talk about it! Discuss ‘Plan B’. Postpartum Sexuality is probably the most unspoken problem in our society. This unacknowledged issue leaves permanent scars on children because they have to listen to their sexually frustrated parents fighting all the time.
Let me just say it out loud:
WOMEN, AFTER GIVING BIRTH, ARE NOT INTERESTED IN SEX!!!!!
There! I said it!
Well, of course, having said that, every rule has exceptions, but I AM TALKING about the general tendency. Life Force that was prompting a woman to be sexual to procreate, now is directed elsewhere - to nurse, to provide growth of the new being, even sometimes at the expense of her own wellbeing. Let's take matters into our own hands! Let's talk about it, share, learn from each other. I've been raising awareness of this issue for many years now, discussing the subject in my workshops when time allowed. I always thought that it's a big part of preparation for birth - to open the discussion between the future parents how they are going to handle the upcoming change, when a woman looses her sex drive temporarily and her man does not. It's a big change to adjust to, on top of the new world's order that the new baby brings. Over the past 27 years that I'm working in this field, I've watched hundreds of families falling apart because of this issue and a snowball effect this issue causes.
Because young families are in the dark, thinking that they are the only ones who have this problem... They don't know that it is normal, that she is going to return to being sexual again, that it can be dealt with patiently and intelligently... but each family is left alone with this huge problem and by the time a woman is physically ready again to be engaged in sexual activity, the ill dynamic between them has gone too deep - the guilt-tripping, annoyance, frustration, suspicion, blame... So the general tendency is: by the time Her sexuality returns, He lost his appeal for her, after all the pressure he was putting on her. When her sexuality activates again, most likely she will have her eye on someone else, with whom she doesn't have a history of so much tension, with whom she can relax and explore from a clean start who she is now as a woman. As she, indeed, changed.
Creating a new baby almost always turns a girl into a Woman.
Her needs, feelings, priorities - changed. And it's very difficult to understand and reflect on what and how it changed in the midst of sleepless nights and changing diapers, let alone explain it to a man, who has no way of relating to anything she just went through, who is not equipped with the complexity of hormonal tides and mixed signals. If there is no man on the horizon to catch her new budding sexuality, a woman often just goes into a sort of dormant state, when she reluctantly agrees to have sex with her husband on a rare occasion. She never initiates it, just un-enthusiastically does her wifely duty. That is how it's been for thousands of years... I am probably making some people very angry by saying all of this. Well, we hae kept quite about this long enough, let's try something different. The fact that someone knows somebody who knows somebody who had passionate sex with her husband after having his kids, doesn't make it not true for hundreds of millions of women who had never returned to their sexuality after giving birth, because of social conditioning and sexual illiteracy. I also talk about it in 'Director's commentary' on my DVD, in bonus features. Healthy Sexuality is a rare treat. We went far astray in our social attitude from what's good, normal, healthy. Again, I am emphasizing that everyone's story is unique and different and it's impossible to cover all variations in a short statement. I am describing what happens most often. Because I am in this peculiar counseling position in this life, I have so many people confining in me from different age groups, races, countries, educational background. I have put myself out there and am getting a lot of feedback. That's how I know. By talking with women.
After having a child, the new mother has a very complex hormonal cocktail in her system, which is very different from what's going on with the father of the new baby. It would take a whole book to describe this difference. But for the purpose of this short article, I'll focus on one of the many aspects, - postpartum sexuality.
The female chemistry at this point is geared towards milk production and elimination of a possibility of another pregnancy, so the new baby has enough resources to thrive. Thus a woman, normally, does not feel the need in sex for a while after giving birth. There are always exceptions to every rule, but I'm not discussing exceptions right now. When a new mother holds her baby, she is flooded with dopamines, her needs for intimacy, connection, love are met on every level, from primal to highly spiritual.
What is happening with the new father at this point?
Physiologically, hormonally, his body didn't go through a huge transformation. Also, most of the men in our civilization didn't have good role models in the area of postpartum literacy. For a while, a man is giving it his best (in the best case scenario), but as the time passes and his wife remains completely focused on a child, he simply starts feeling left out. Not in regards to any particular issue, but in regards to feeling loved by his wife. The mother gets her intimacy needs met while nursing, cuddling, being connected with the baby hormonally, neuro-biologically, etc. The man's need to feel loved is mainly, if he is a healthy male, is addressed sexually. He KNOWS, of course, he is loved when the children come, and he wants to help! But 'knowing' something and 'FEELING' it - are two very different experiences, not always connected with each other within the cognitive function of the brain.
Sex IS the way a healthy man feels loved.
He can get a lot of mileage out of his spiritual, moral and soul-full commitment to his family, out of his sense of responsibility, respect, love for the children. But he has needs, too. He needs to feel loved, and that he still matters! Male hormonal and neuro-biological landscape translates abstinence as the absence of primal connection and love. With children, how much of the wife's attention is he, personally, getting? Male doesn't have the same volume of physiological rewards from holding a baby as a female. He can go on only this far on his sense of responsibility. Then it will become a withdrawal or an aggression (passive or active), if a woman ignores him and his sexual needs. I am working with families for 32 years now and accumulated enough evidence that men are left without any sexual attention for an average of 4 years after having a baby.
Ladies! If you wish to keep your man, take good care of him!
It doesn't have to be a full on encounter, no, no, no, if you are not ready. But make yourself willing to offer something, if you are interested in maintaining your connection with him. There are so many simple and sweet treats you can enjoy, too, without compromising your boundaries and needs, which will sufficiently deliver the message of love to your partner. I know, sleep deprivation is not on your side. But, I'm sure you still do all the other chores that you don't feel very passionate about doing, right? Pick your battles, ladies! Choosing your priorities, after all, is one of the biggest challenges in parenting. It's another issue, if you don't really see this man as your partner in your future, but I'm not talking about that right now. Please, don't get me wrong, I'm the last person to recommend you 'forcing yourself if you are not in the mood'! Absolutely NO! I'm just sharing my observation about how to keep peace in your family. The main thing to remember: Your mood is not 'you'. There is a 'YOU' that has a 'mood', so that 'YOU' can be in charge if you wish. Or you can go with a popular scenario of not becoming a master of your life and let everything slide down.
It's basic common sense: if we want to maintain something, we need to invest our energy into maintaining it.
If I want to have clean dishes for the next meal, do I always wait for a passionate 'mood' to do the dishes from a previous meal? If you want to have a friend, is it always only about what you need? Do you ever go out of your way to help someone out? If a woman cares to develop deep intimacy with the father of her child, she has to consider that simple fact - he has needs too. If she doesn't really care about maintaining a real connection with him, it's a different issue,- do nothing and it will dry up on it's own. It 'dries up' in hundreds of millions of families, - in my estimation 95% of women don't return to fully enjoying sex after having a child, for many reasons. It takes some women years to come back to their sexual senses. Of course, every rule has exceptions. If someone came back to feeling sexy right away after a baby, they are an exception, not a 'rule', and it still doesn't help the other 95% . It's a majority of women... This is exactly why we have such high divorce rates! I believe it's time to start talking about it.