Photo by Petra Kleis
One of the names has been changed in this article.
When talking about sexiness, it’s easy to visualise an image from a Hollywood film... or maybe a porn. It’s not our fault; it’s what has been portrayed as sexy for decades - by the press, advertising, fashion… and of course: the sex industry. But if we think about it in a completely logical manner, it’s obvious that sexiness isn’t restricted to one type of intimacy, person or couple. Because we would definitely not be as many humans on this earth if everyone outside the ‘Hollywood-sexy-box’ didn’t feel sexy from time to time - and we’re not saying sex only happens when people feel sexy, but you get the picture.
One type of person that is rarely portrayed as sexy is a pregnant woman or a new mother. They’re often almost portrayed as some kind of mother Teresa - as if the baby has suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Which is obviously not accurate (surprise), and as any other human on earth, these women have the right to feel sexy. Especially as many new mums will be in a situation where they don’t just have to face a new way of understanding themselves, but also a new way of being with their partner. Finding out how to be intimate with yourself, as well as with each other, after entering this new phase in the relationship, is one of the things that new mums (and dads) are trying to navigate. And it is our opinion that the stereotype of what’s ‘sexy’ and what’s not doesn’t exactly help.
But how do new mums deal with the idea of sexiness? We asked some wonderful women who are all mums how they felt about intimacy after becoming a mother and learned a lot from all of them.
Kira, mother of a 1-year-old boy
It was a long process to get back to a similar idea of sex after birth. In the beginning I felt my body was a service provider whose only job was to feed my baby. This changed after a while. Today, a year after, my body is not the same as before and it probably never will be. This is not meant in a bad way, because my partner and I really want each other - and also realised the importance of our sexual relationship… but we have busy schedules and sometimes have to prioritise.
I do feel sexy as a mother, but more as a mature woman that knows her own body better. I don’t relate to what the media claims is sexy but it doesn’t bother me as much as before I became a mother. I’m really proud of what my body has been able to do and don’t mind signs of age and pregnancy.
After giving birth, I had to be very honest with my partner about my worries of pain and that I didn’t feel like having sex in the beginning. We had to use lube for a long time until I stopped breastfeeding.
My best advice to others is to be open about your worries, and if you feel like you have lost your sex drive, then respect what your body has been through - it will come back again. Also, don’t be afraid to use things like lube in order to avoid pains or worries about feeling pain.
Clara, mother of a 1-year old girl
My idea of sexiness changed when I became pregnant and as a new mother, mostly because my body changed - and still is changing - from what it used to be. I didn’t feel sexy and couldn’t relate to the sexiness portrayed by the media. There’s still an unrealistic body image ideal to live up to and I’m more aware of that now after having been pregnant. Thank god for things that are starting to change this!
It was, and still is, a challenge to be intimate with my partner - both because of the logistics which means we never have alone time... and then simply because I am too exhausted. But in the beginning you cannot play the role as the sexy mistress - because the new role as a mum is everything you can be. In the end I think we just had to push ourselves back into intimacy, just to get used to it again. And it worked. It is more efficient than before, but also kind of better, so there is hope.
Celina, mother of a 1-year old girl
In the first part of pregnancy your body is only slightly different so it took some getting used to. My dresses were tight around my hips and it didn’t feel good, but as I grew bigger I never felt better and was amazed at what my body could achieve. I always thought I would feel even prouder after birth, but the truth is it was hard. The extra weight bothered me after birth. My boobs grew enormous with milk which was also painful. It has taken me almost a year to feel truly confident in my own skin again, and now I can look at my stretch marks and scar with a smile. For me, feeling sexy is feeling confident, and that confidence has changed a great deal after motherhood. It’s a new confidence, one I had to learn from scratch.
I really didn’t feel sexy as a new mother. We don’t talk about how much you can feel reduced to a body when you have just given birth. Everything feels new, your hormones are crazy and there is someone demanding you at all times. Sexy for me is very much a state of mind and I didn’t have much time to think as a new mum. I just did - I just existed.
I feel like the image of sexiness portrayed in the media is changing for the better, and thank god for that. I have become very aware of how much we are looking at the very, very young part of the population to define sexiness, which is completely wrong. You don’t know what sexy is when you are 16-18 - you are a big child trying to figure the world out. I think we have to let the image of real grownups define what’s sexy and not just perfect skin and teenage bodies.
When you’re a new mum, there’s not a lot of time to be intimate with your partner; and if we talk sex - then it is more scheduled than ever before! But I think that is okay with a very small child. Being intimate, however, is a different conversation to me. Being intimate also means sitting together on the sofa, hugging and holding hands. These moments are just as important - if not more. It takes time before you feel ready for sexual intimacy - I think especially for the mother. I had a c-section, so for me it was not the actual labour that prevented me in the beginning, but the fact that my body no longer belonged to me. It belonged to my child. My body now had to feed someone else, protect someone, and that made it difficult to give myself to my partner. I remember saying to him at one point that I just needed to be me and that I couldn’t give more of myself to another person. It definitely is a difficult juggle.
My advice to new mums would be to take your time and be intimate in other ways until you feel ready. I found it very difficult being touched on my breasts as I was breastfeeding my baby. It felt very strange having them one minute feed my child, the next be a sexual object. So I asked that my breasts should not be touched until I was ready. My point being: set limits for how you want to interact if needed. It really helps being honest as this is new territory for both of you.
Thank you to all the very honest women for sharing their experiences. If you have any ideas or thoughts you want to share, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.