Sexual Healing

In all the years we were struggling with infertility, I never felt as physically broken as I have the last 13 months.

Sex was never about procreation for us. I knew from the start of our relationship that Hubby had no sperm, and the chances of me getting pregnant from sex were pretty much zero. That was confirmed with each of Hubby’s semen analyses. They always came back the same: zero sperm. With a low sperm count, I could (and later would) have fantasized that one of those little guys would somehow slip through my body’s defences, swim itself as far as the fallopian tube, and lie in wait for an egg to drop. But zero? There was no scenario in which zero sperm would ever get me knocked up. So it was easy (sorta) to just enjoy sex, keep it separate from the clinical, invasive act of making a baby.

The only time I felt like there was something wrong with me was when we transferred a genetically perfect embryo, but it didn’t stick.

For most of our 11 years together, our sex life was good, just the right mix of romantic, adventurous, and go-with-what-works, and continued that way until a few weeks before baby girl was born, when it became too uncomfortable to maneuver myself and my enormous belly into anything resembling an effective position.

Baby girl’s birth was probably more traumatic for me than for her. There was the initial heart deceleration that showed up an hour into my monitoring session, which got me immediately admitted and strapped into a bed, but after that, things calmed down. Until I got up to pee, and–suddenly–all hell broke loose in my uterus. Labor was fast and painful, with no break between contractions. By the time I started pushing, the medical staff was still shaking their heads in disbelief that I was even fully dilated. The episiotomy was not discussed. I was informed, “I’m going to cut you now,” by a doctor whose name I didn’t even know.

It was months later before Hubby and I attempted to have sex. My OB (not the one who was present at delivery) checked the size and position of my uterus and the status of my episiotomy scar at each postpartum visit, giving me the green light for sex at ten weeks. (It probably would have been sooner, but my first pp follow-up was at five weeks, not six, for some reason.) Not that it mattered. I wasn’t ready. Not even close.

I was exhausted and sleep-deprived. My body was weird. My boobs were huge, which Hubby loved, but I still had open wounds on both my nipples from the early damage baby girl’s tongue-tie had done. I felt about the furthest from sexy as you can get.

So we waited. To his credit, Hubby was incredibly patient. It was July by the time we first attempted intercourse. I felt ready. I had missed this aspect of our relationship, and with the stress of a baby who wouldn’t sleep, a job Hubby hated, and being in a new city with no support chipping away at us, we needed that connection. We tried. And failed miserably.

It hurt. A lot. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was causing the pain, but I assumed it was the scar. Obsessive googling confirmed that sex after an episiotomy could feel like “losing your virginity all over again”. We tried again and again–going slowly, easing in–but each time was a disaster and left me feeling more and more broken. I went for my follow-up colposcopy in September. The speculum felt like it was trying to rip me in half.

Sometimes it felt like we were making progress, but then the next time, things wouldn’t go well, or I would go weeks without feeling anywhere close to “in the mood”. Baby girl was nearly a year old by the time we were finally able to have vaginal intercourse for the first time. A week or so later, it felt like we were back at square one, as I lay in the fetal position, sobbing that my body was betraying both of us.

A few weeks after that (this was now early May), I had another scheduled visit with my OB/GYN. I hoped she would confirm there was a problem, perhaps send me to a pelvic pain specialist (though I suspected that wouldn’t be covered by my insurance). I explained the issues we were having and asked her to check the episiotomy scar again.

“If I didn’t know you had an episiotomy, I wouldn’t even see the scar. Maybe she just stitched you up a little too well.”

“Do you see any reason it wouldn’t stretch, any reason for the pain?”

“I could fit my whole arm up there. It stretches. It’s fine. Your cervix feels fine.”

Needless to say, I walked out of there with nothing. Her prescription was this: regular sex, “don’t think about it hurting too much,” lots of lube, and take a couple of ibuprofen beforehand. We’ve tried three out of four (the ibuprofen seems like a bit of a stretch), and I hate to admit it, but she may have been right. Not to say it’s all in my head, but if I think it’s going to hurt, I tense up, which only makes things worse.

So, progress is being made. We still have a long way to go, some of it physical, a lot of it emotional. The struggles of the last year have taken a toll on both of us, on our relationship, and on our intimacy. For the moment, things don’t appear to be changing, so it’s up to us to do the work we need to do to to change how we interact with and respond to each other. Our sex life is an important part of that, and for the first time in a year, I’m starting to feel like things could get better.

11 thoughts on “Sexual Healing

  1. Oh, goodness. You poor thing! Please know you’re not alone. I went through something similar after having my first baby, not to quite the extent that you did I don’t think, but I remember sex being incredibly painful for MONTHS. We started testing the waters six weeks postpartum, and it was at least six months before we could complete the task without me screaming at him to stop. It was horrible and I felt so guilty and so scared it would never get better. It did, with time. I’m sorry you’ve been dealing with this for over a year! I found the things that helped me the most were just what your doctor said (as annoying as it is to be told how to have sex): lots of lube (this is way way TMI, but I actually found him performing oral sex on me helped a lot with making things “slippery” down there), going slow and relaxing as much as I possibly could. When it started to hurt even a little, we’d pause so I could take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing every muscle in my body. Also, the more we had sex, the less it hurt. If we ever went more than one week without it, I’d essentially find myself back at the starting line, so we kept to a once-per-week minimum…not always easy as a new mom, but necessary for the improvement of our sex life. Really really hoping things continue to get better for you, too! Hang in there. xo

    • Frequency (or, rather, in-frequency) has definitely made this whole thing drag on for so long, but it’s really difficult to want to have sex when you know it’s going to hurt. We’re still working on that. Thanks for commenting and letting me know I’m not alone!

  2. I appreciate you putting this out there. I have written about my own issues for some time and have never heard that anyone else had trouble, at least not to the extent I have. I really appreciate reading that I’m not alone (though I wish you weren’t dealing with this). One thing you might ask for is Lidocaine as a local anesthetic to be used during sex. It is what my pelvic pain specialist prescribed and it has been really helpful to help retrain my brain not to tense the area with the expectation of pain. It has made a much bigger difference than pelvic floor therapy did. And hopefully, as it gets better and I retrain my brain, I won’t need to use it anymore. It might work for you too. Feel free to email me if you have any questions or want to email/chat about it at all.

    • Hmm, that’s interesting. Maybe my Dr wasn’t so far off when she suggested ibuprofen. I remember you writing about the pain you were having, and I’m glad you’ve found something that works!

  3. It took over a year before I was able to have sex again….14 months to be exact. The intimacy we once had is gone and I’m only just now trying to get it back,my little one will be two next month. At least you are asking your doctors, I just left it and waited for it to get better.

    • I should have asked about it sooner, but I’m so bad at asking for help, even when it’s obvious I need it. I’m glad things are getting better for you now, even if it did take a while. That gives me hope!

  4. As someone who suffered from undiagnosed vaginismus for years – please know that you’re not alone. There are support groups, although I’ll admit I never went to any. The impacts of us stressing and anticipating pain are real, and have a real impact. If frequent sex is working for you, that’s wonderful! But I found this device was what really helped me:

    • Thanks for the link. I had no idea such a product even existed. Obviously this is a problem lots of other women have also experienced. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you!

  5. That’s so hard….we had some trouble in our early years. I wasn’t experienced and had pain and over time I think I really started tensing badly. I even had surgery to confirm it wasn’t endo. Eventually I was sent to a physical therapist (to which I said, they have physical therapy for THAT?) and she helped me learn how to try to relax and not tense up at the first twinge of pain. I’ve also found that distraction (if you know what I mean) can help. I hope it continues to improve!!

  6. You are most definitely not alone. I too have had major issues with post delivery pain. I had two pretty bad tears and it took months for me to feel ready for sex and didn’t enjoy it for about a year and a half. Things are a little better now with proper preparation, but I still don’t feel “right” down there. It’s still sensitive where there was scarring, in a bad way and it just is uncomfortable. I also had a hard time even putting in the effort because I knew it wouldn’t feel good so I mentally stopped being into it. Not good. It’s still a work in progress and I might look into those dialators mentioned. I’m sorry you are going through this – it’s just not fair.

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