It’s not always easy to get back to the place where sex with your partner is purely about pleasure and connection again after the journey you’ve been through together.
But know this: You are absolutely not alone. You are certainly not broken. You may be bruised. You may be changed. You may be struggling. But you are strong, resilient, capable, supported and loved by a huge community of humans just like you. Here’s how my partner and I found our way back to each other after our infertility issues.
How it started… Sex before our fertility challenges
Before I was labeled “infertile,” sex with my partner was fun. It was spontaneous. It was care-free and adventurous and purely pleasurable. While not all couples start off their relationships with intimacy that seems effortless, we were blessed to have great sex drives, strong physical attraction to one another and very few self-conscious tendencies.
Before we officially started trying to conceive, intercourse felt like something that represented our love, our bond, our closeness.
Do you remember how easy it was to look across the room at each other and instantly know that you were each having the same thoughts? I want you… let’s get out of here. The simplicity of sex before TTC, of making love before the reality of fertility challenges? Oh, how I miss that—sometimes so much that it hurts.
And mama, it’s 100% OK to miss that phase of your sex life.
How it went… Sex with an infertility diagnosis
Ugh. I think that’s a good word to describe baby-making in the midst of an infertility diagnosis. Because now, the act of baby-making is actually intended to make a real baby. Except our bodies are rebelling, pretending they weren’t biologically designed to do exactly what they are now refusing to do. Suddenly, sex was not fun. And it stayed unfun for a long, long time.
For many, when they first start trying to have a baby, they just wing it. That’s what we did. We just had some sex. We waited to see what happened. Easy. And it was easy for us. I got pregnant quickly, but then I left my first ultrasound having learned that the baby had no heartbeat. She’d stopped growing a few weeks before that point.
A few months passed. When we were ready, we started having sex again. Cue the hateful little whispers of anxiety, suggesting that maybe this time would not be so easy. But still… intercourse was fun and not overly urgent. Foreplay was still a thing. Sex was still fun. I knew consecutive miscarriages are rare, so I could still relax into the process. Until I wasn’t pregnant as quickly as I wanted to be.
Out came the ovulation predictor kits and the shouts down the stairs, “Hey! Get back up here! I’m ovulating—you can’t leave for work, yet! Hurry. No, seriously, I’m keeping my shirt on. No, seriously, don’t freakin’ touch my boobs, please. We have, like, 30 seconds, and then I have to get dressed and you’re already late.”
There are very few things that are less playful, less pleasurable, less confidence-boosting, and less relationship-eroding than pressuring yourself and your partner to have the type of intercourse that is intended purely as a means of timely insemination.
Two additional miscarriages, a full fertility evaluation, a rare diagnosis, and several other more minor hiccups later, I was at an all-time low. I’d learned that there was very little hope of getting pregnant with a healthy baby via natural intercourse.
At that point, sex not only felt pointless, but it also felt like a form of psychological torture, highlighting the fact that I may never get to hold a biological baby in my arms. And while I wasn’t alone in my despair, I was definitely not on the same page regarding sex as my partner, who would still have preferred to be having it quite often.
How it’s going… Sex after infertility
Here is the lie: Babies heal you.
Here is the truth: Infertility changes everything.
Babies are a beautiful result of what for some, may be the struggle of a lifetime, but they do not erase all the things that came before them.
Fertility struggles, even those that eventually result in the happiest of endings (babies!), morph people into a version of themselves that did not exist before this experience. Infertility weaves itself into the fiber of our beings.
Sex after infertility, even after babies, may not feel the same as it once did. It may not feel the same months after the birth of your first or second or third baby. It may not feel the same years after. Maybe it will never feel the same.
What sex feels like post-infertility
After all of our fertility challenges, do you know what sex sometimes feels like? It sometimes feels like a brutal reminder of the ways that my body did not serve me in the ways I wanted it to. Sex doesn’t have to be about babies, but for me, who struggled with fertility when I wanted sex to be about babies, it became all about babies. It became about the babies that will never be. The ones I couldn’t make. The ones I wanted, but will probably never have.
After my fertility challenges, I now have two babies. I am incredibly blessed. They are growing into two of the best humans I know. But for as long as I can remember, I wanted three kids. Now, I can’t help but be reminded of the third baby that will never be, and sometimes those thoughts are triggered by the very act of sex itself—by what should be a beautiful, intimate time to bond with my spouse. We’re beyond our baby-making days. Sex should be awesome again. And it is, sometimes. But sometimes it’s not.
Intimacy after infertility is a push and pull. Sex after pregnancy is a different thing to begin with. But sex after pregnancy and infertility? It’s punctuated by pain from the past.
Intimacy after infertility takes work. It requires a deep dive into self-work. Into self-healing. Into self-care.
How to get back into the groove (wink, wink)
We deserve intimacy that feels good. That fills up our cups. That empowers us, makes us feel happy and strengthens our partnerships.
Here are a few things I try to do to make sex sexy again.
- I wink at my partner. For real! Being silly and trying out your most seductive wink whenever possible will make you laugh, prompt a sweet kiss and might even lead to some spontaneous sexy time.
- I groom. This one is making me laugh out loud, but it’s the truth. Grooming is a very personal choice, and what works for me is certainly not what works for everyone. Do what feels right for you in the grooming (or not grooming) department. For me, I feel more confident when I’m groomed. So I groom, even when I don’t feel like it. That way, at the very least, I have one less thing holding me back in the bedroom.
- I practice positive self-talk. We’ve probably all stood in front of the mirror before a shower and fallen into some pretty yucky thoughts about our post-baby, post-infertility bodies. A quick way to reframe? Dance. Dance naked. Enjoy all of the woman that you are. Getting comfortable with your naked body is very freeing, friends!
- I follow a few sex therapists on social. My favorites are @vanessamarintherapy, @shadeenfrancis, and @sexwithemily.
Each of these accounts make me blush on a regular basis with their posts. But they also inspire me to be adventurous again. And they remind me that sex can just be sex, and that sex is valuable as an act between two people for pleasure, without any other goal in mind.