Those 3 Little Words...
Depressing. Disgusting. Fat.
These are all words that are showing up over and over in the surveys I have received from moms for Sex and the Suburbs regarding their bodies. Almost every single mother I have interviewed has admitted that insecurity with her body plays a considerable role in her sex life (or lack thereof in most cases). These concerns run the gamut from saggy boobs and stretch marks to being overweight or having an unsightly C-section scar gracing her stomach. I happen to know for a fact that many of these women look great, are sexy and are fine specimens of the female gender. So why are they insisting on keeping the lights off?
I’m OK, You’re OK, We’re All Effing OK
Well, maybe I should turn that question around on myself. Because, yes, I prefer having the lights off during sex. Not only that, but I won’t let my husband watch me change or look at my naked body in the light of day. Since having my daughter three years ago, I feel depressed, disgusting and fat: the teeming trifecta of female insecurities. So if you feel the same way—if you are one of these women that would rather have sex with her shirt on then let her husband see her formerly perky, now deflated, drooping breasts and stretch-marked, flabby belly—then join the club. We’ve got T-shirts (and we’re wearing them in flagrante delicto).
After having my daughter, I remember feeling this sense of extreme power and female prowess for having pushed a seven-pound baby out of my vagina. It was a magical feeling. Then my milk came in, swelling my breasts and making them leak that sweet lifeblood for my daughter and I became Alpha Mom, breastfeeding and nurturing my baby girl without a second thought about what I looked like naked. All I cared about was that my body was perfectly designed to feed and protect this perfect little infant I had been blessed with. I don’t think I even looked in the mirror for a week after I came home.
You Want To Put That WHERE?
But then I hit the six-week mark. Yes, as a mother, you know what that means. That monumental appointment that your husband has been waiting for since you gave him that screaming, wriggling gift of life—the one that would clear you to have sex. I don’t know about you, but six weeks definitely wasn’t long enough for me to let go of seeing my body as only for the baby and beginning to see it as my husband’s to play with, caress and penetrate. I did not feel ready. I did not feel confident. And I certainly did not feel sexy. All of a sudden the changes my body had gone through in those nine months of gestation had become glaringly obvious. And I dreaded allowing my husband to see it in all its puffy, misshapen, discolored glory.
But we did it. And my husband told me that it didn’t matter, that I was still sexy and that he wanted me just as much as he had before I had gotten pregnant. But of course I didn’t believe one word of it. In my mind, all I could think about was how flat and perfect my belly and how smooth and supple the skin of my breasts were before, and how not they were now. How could I truly enjoy sex when I was completely preoccupied with not jiggling too much or avoiding the light hitting my stretch marks to spotlight my imperfection?
Then there’s the whole issue of what hubby has witnessed coming out of that sacred of orifices and how that affects us baring it for him again. Karen, a 31-year-old mother of twin toddlers and a newborn, commented that her husband couldn’t stop talking about his experience in the delivery room. She said “…the fact that my husband talks about how gross the birth was—why would I want him to even revisit down there…he saw me poop.” Yes, there is the poop factor. Some women poop on the delivery table. Sometimes they puke, too. Does a husband ever think he is going to see his wife defecate and vomit simultaneously in front of his eyes? I think not. And maybe, just maybe, that might be a buzzkill when it comes to getting in the mood after the experience. But everyone poops—get over it, dudes.
Luckily, I did not poop or throw up in the delivery room. But fast-forward three years and I still don’t feel sexy. I avoid catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror while changing and still prefer the lights off while getting it on. I have dieted, worked out and used all the lotions and creams on the market to disintegrate the stretch marks and dissolve the cellulite, but I am still not satisfied with myself in the buff. What I have managed to do is put it out of my mind and concentrate more on being in the moment while doing the deed rather than thinking about these imperfections and insecurities. But somehow I think that just ignoring it isn’t the answer.
Sexy is a State of Mind
So what can we as mothers do about this, aside from getting exorbitant amounts of liposuction and plastic surgery to re-create the sexy bodies we had before babies? What could possibly change our sex lives for the better, transforming us from insecure matrons to seductive sex kittens? A good therapist comes to mind. And avoiding the urge to buy the magazines that flaunt the celebrity moms in their perfect post-baby bodies that make us regular moms feel like crap. But there may be something else.
Why not realize that sexy is a state of mind? Having children didn’t change the fact that we are strong, beautiful women. We’re the same women, and if we were sexy before, we can be sexy again. All we need is to believe it. Be confident, and then broadcast that to the universe, and especially your partner. Find your inner porn star, your Bettie Page, your Julia Roberts or whomever you find sexy. Maybe if we stop thinking about what is wrong with our bodies, and instead think about what is right about them, then we will feel more like the sex goddesses that we are inside.
Allison, a 35-year-old mother of three, said, “I feel sexier now than I ever did before kids…it’s knowing that I have accomplished something beautiful. I’ve made a beautiful family; I have a wonderful husband.” She was able to find her sexiness in the fact that she did what women’s bodies were intended to do, and that is to create life. That’s sexy. It’s primal and fundamental, and it makes us more womanly and sexual, not less. So what if our bodies changed along the way? If we believe it and live sexy, we will be to our partners, and it will make our sexual experiences go from lukewarm and lame to titillating and intoxicating. Better than chocolate maybe. Well, maybe not better, but close.
A Little Self-Help Goes a Long Way
Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying you should stop trying to improve the way you look if you are not happy with it. I, myself, am still trying to lose weight and get into great shape. Exercising and eating right makes me feel in control of my body and makes me feel like I am sculpting the perfect, strong, sexy body that I want. Find out what makes you feel good about yourself, what makes you feel optimistic and powerful, and then make the time to do that. Maybe it is working out regularly, or perhaps it is having your hair done or getting a facial. Maybe a day at the spa once a month makes you feel soft, supple and sexy and ready for your partner to caress and explore your body. For other women, figure flattering lingerie (or a particularly shiny studded collar) might do the trick or candles and music to do a sexy strip tease to. Do what you need to do to make yourself feel good, but don’t for a second think that if you can’t lose the weight or the stretch marks don’t fade, that you can’t be sexy, attractive and enticing.
If You’re Sexy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands
Now comes the reader participation portion of the column. I need to know what your insecurities about your body are, how you feel about sex after children and how you deal with it. If you have overcome some of these issues, tell me how you did it. Or maybe you have a steamy story describing a sexual experience with your partner that made you feel particularly sensual and seductive. That’s what I want from you. I don’t have all the answers and I need you to fill in the blanks so I can give back a more complete perspective when we revisit this topic again. And you better believe it will be revisited. There’s more to this puzzle than can be solved in just one column. But maybe, over time, we can figure it out together.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!