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New parents need to treat the birth of a baby like a transition instead of a change. You’re not always going to be this tired, this nervous, this overwhelmed. Anxiety about the baby interferes with sexual feelings, and romantic patterns are disrupted. But after awhile, new parents are ready to redirect some emotion back to each other.
I hadn’t a clue how radically a child would affect my relationship with my husband when I gave birth to my first baby 10 years ago. I was euphoric, but I was also overwhelmed, fatigued, hormonal and suddenly more dependent on my husband. Our relationship was deep in flux, and in some ways, our world had shifted permanently. We were parents now, not just partners and lovers.
For the next six months, my sole focus and purpose was caring for the baby. My relationship with my husband shifted naturally to second rank. Our time was no longer our own, and before we did anything, even something as simple as going to the beach to watch the sunset, we considered the effects it would have on our baby.
Four weeks after the birth, my doctor gave us the nod to resume intercourse. My husband gamely attempted to initiate sex, to which I responded: “You want to do what?!” It was tough at times, but we got through those early weeks and months through compromise, ultimately agreeing that the need for sleep outweighed the desire for sex. And lo and behold, when we adjusted to our new roles and life with a baby, sexual intimacy returned like the green blades of a tulip slicing through spring soil.
To help us reconnect as a couple, we made regular intimacy dates, sometimes for emotional connection, other times for sensual or sexual connection. We rarely made our dates extravagant—simply sharing a glass of wine after the baby was in bed worked wonders. Issues of conflict were not discussed, as they too easily put the chill on intimacy.
Two of the most valuable things my husband and I learned that first year were to empathize with each other and to try to meet each other’s needs. Sometimes that led to some creative bartering, such as “Let me take a nap, darling, and later you’ll be glad you did.”