Why are all my Ex-es so Hot?

(and other thoughts on Marriage after baby)

The light drizzle that had started as I was hiking turns suddenly torrential, and I run to the shelter of the porch a few doors down from our family cabin. I look at the threatening clouds, deciding whether to try to run, when a clap of thunder stops me cold. The door of the cabin opens, and to my shock, my ex (Name withheld for privacy, and to make sure all my exes feel equal), steps onto the porch. With a confident glint in his eye, he says “Katie? I didn’t expect to see you up here? You look amazing.’ As the rain pours down around us, I briefly think of my husband and son, and wonder if they are worrying about me.

‘Come inside.” He says, “you’re soaking wet.”

We both know where this is going, and he grabs my hips like a tiger grabs his dinner.  I’m all over him like cream cheese icing on a Cinnabon, and he says my name over and over “Katie, Katie, Katie” and then strangely… “Mama, mama!” he’s yelling it now, and his voice is getting higher “Mama!”

“MMMMMAAAAA MAAA!”

The monitor lights screech red and green as my son screams me awake. Thrust back into my own life, I turn to see my smiling husband on one side, and my beloved two year old screaming through the video monitor from the other room.

‘Good morning’ says the father of my child, sweetly. ‘What were you dreaming about?”

‘Oh, nothing.’

What is it about marriage and children that makes a fantasy out of the life we lived before? What is it about knowing you’ve chosen one person to be with for the rest of your life, that makes every ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend) suddenly look like a Prince? Am I the only one that is having sex with all my exes in my dream world, and waking up wondering ‘what if?’

My coach in LA used to call it “comparison shopping lives.” And now with the wonders of Facebook, you can actually glimpse what it would have been like if you were still with so and so, or if you hadn’t broken up with such and such. I assure you, I have no intention of ever leaving my husband or child. In fact, I’m confident I will see this man sitting across from me on a porch swing in our Golden Years. So what is this desire to escape?

When I got married, I felt that I was closing so many doors. When I got pregnant, I felt like I locked each one behind me. There is nothing more permanent than a child.

That’s when the dreams began.

Like a rotating dance card, each ex made their way into my psyche, and into my bed, and I would wake up, sweating, nervous, and look sheepishly at my beloved.

I’m not sure what this is… this fantasy. It goes beyond the sex, it’s about what my life used to feel like, or at least a fantasy version of it.  Big Hollywood montage sequences dance through my head: Me, running on the beach, me: writing in a journal, me: sitting on a lifeguard stand as the sun sets, wrapped up in a hoodie, not a care in the world, letting time pass like it was in endless supply. I know that’s not actually what life felt like at that time. I remember I was sitting on that lifeguard stand looking longingly at the couple and young child playing in the waves in front of me, wondering when my life would be complete.

Last month I did a Kids Yoga training, and the teacher taught a story about meditation. The master was explaining the key to happiness to his students: when I walk, I walk. When I eat dinner, I eat dinner. When I meditate, I meditate. When I sleep I sleep. The students said ‘we do the same!” “no, said the master: when you walk, you think about dinner, when you eat dinner, you think about meditation, when you meditate you think about sleep, and when you sleep, you think about ex-boyfriends.” (or something like that)

What would it look like to wake up each morning so filled with bliss and gratitude for your own life,  instead of looking to see if someone else got a better order than you? What would it be to trust that everything is working out perfectly? What would it be to know that your beloved was divinely chosen to fully match you on every level, and teach you what it means to love? What would it be like to communicate to your family that there is no place you would rather be on earth than right there with them.

I guess that would be enlightenment. Or something close to it.

I realize more and more that the love each person gave to me along the way helped me become the woman I am now.  And perhaps that is part of the dreaming, and diving back into those other lives.  It’s to reconnect to the person that I became in the arms of that lover.  To honor what they saw in me, and helped me see in myself.  To remember lessons we learned together, about love, what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do.

This is my path. When I walk, I walk. When my mind slips away, I watch the slipping away. And I return to the walking. And when I look at my husband, I see a person who loves me, even with my slippery mind, and my funny ex-boyfriend dreams, and I am grateful.   Grateful for this man who is spacious and strong.  Grateful to those that loved me enough to teach me how to be a better partner.  Grateful for all the breakdowns and break-ups that led me right here.

And even though I sometimes want to run from it… I am grateful for my life.

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Sex After Baby: A how-to guide for partners

In my last post I got real about what to expect from sex during the post partum year.  Now I’m going to talk about how.  Mamas, go ahead and read this, but it’s meant for your partners.  So pass it on.

So, you just had a baby.  You are still basking in the heroic act of welcoming your child into the world and you were stunned by the sheer animal power your lady demonstrated during the birth. You wanted to take her right then and there, but you knew that you had to wait until she was ready, and that day has finally come.  You’ve been waiting and hoping and fantasizing, and today’s the day.

Feeling like a teenager, you take a shower, throw on some cologne, and stride into the bedroom.  You look at your beloved, radiant in her milk stained nightgown.  She looks up and you exchange a look.  You anticipate that she’s about to tell you how excited she is. But instead, she opens her mouth and says

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry . . . I mean, can we just go to sleep?”

That wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for. What now?

When it comes to reconnecting sexually with your partner after baby, Make this your mantra:

Go slow, aim low, and let go.

Remember that Post partum sex requires a deep level of care and patience, tons of love and humor, and a very soft touch.  You may find yourself asking very “un-sexy” questions like: Is this hurting your hemorrhoids?; Does this angle work for your scar tissue?; Can I start to move or do you want me to stay still for a while?: and Do you want me to stop completely and just hold you?.  Let me tell you though, these careful considerations, and compassionate touches are the sexiest thing in the world to the healing postpartum mama.

Go Slow. 

Approach your sexual time with her with curiousity instead of a goal. Sometimes slow means stop.  At any moment, if she begins to feel unsafe or in pain, stop immediately.  Sex can bring up many feelings for her, both physical and emotional.  She needs to slowly get to know her body again. And don’t forget all the creative ways to be sexual together!  Intercourse is just one expression of love. Remember those amazing steps along the way that seemed so exciting in high school.  Take your time, explore, and see what else is possible.  And don’t be afraid to use lubricant to off set the changes created by postpartum hormones.  (Note:  remember if it’s lack of libido more than fear of contact with the vagina, other kinds of sex may still be hard for her to participate in.  Honor her pace.)

Aim Low.

The first year after baby is all about baby’s needs, which are unending, and immediate.  Everyone else’s needs are shoved in the closet, and not removed until after that first birthday candle is blown out. 

Make a goal of surrounding your partner with love, instead of having sex.  She needs to know that you still find her sexy even if all she wants to do is snuggle up and go to sleep.  She needs to know that nothing is required of her beyond the already heroic task of caring for our child.  She needs to know that it’s okay to not want sex.

In a book called Porn for New Moms, there is picture of a beautiful man under the sheets looking seductive and saying “Let’s not have sex tonight.  Why don’t I rub your feet and you can tell me about the baby’s day.”  Listen and learn, partners.  The best way to seduce your post partum sweetie is to let her have as much time as she wants as far away from sex as she needs.

Let Go.

Let go of the story that there is a problem if you are having less sex than you used to. Let go of what sex “should” be like.  Be present to the tenderness you have for one another.  Be compassionate for the exhaustion you both feel.   And when you do make love, help her to let go. Find breath work, yoga, tantric techniques.  Use your voice to help her surrender. Tell her she is beautiful.  Tell her that things might feel different. Tell her that she is sexier now than ever.   Tell her that you want to be with her forever.  And again, tell her to breathe. Make sex an act of devotion.  Have her imagine she is a plant receiving sunlight, or the shore receiving the ocean.

And remember: you are the one that she created this child with, she wants to grow old with you, and she adores you.  And she may not want to have sex right now.

Please don’t take it personally.

If you are about to have a baby and are feeling concerned right now,  Don’t fear.  This can be one of the most intimate years of your relationship.  In your baby, you may see your partner’s sweet smile, their sassy brow line, or calm spirit.  You meet a person that is born of the love you feel for one another.

You will both love sex again.

Biology makes sense. As her cycle returns, she will look at you in a whole new way.   The woman that you knew and loved before baby arrived will be back in your arms. There may be less sex for a year, but you will likely discover a new level of intimacy that can build your lifelong relationship. Years from now, you will sit on a porch swing talking about all of the years, and this will seem like one single flower in the full garden of your life together.

This post was originally written for Mother’s Advocate, and I’m proud to announce that the Lamaze Birth with Confidence Blog featured this post this week.