When our bodies start making another human body, the process is so complex that it’s no wonder we’re exhausted. As this is my second pregnancy, I’m surprised that I’d forgotten this fact. I’m currently 6 months along and so for the past half a year, I’ve found myself wanting to nod off at 10pm or falling asleep the moment my head hits the pillow. Of course, this time, the difference is that I am awakened a few hours later by a toddler who needs her diaper changed, but sleep mercifully returns quickly after that task is done. Sleep has become my most steady companion.
When I was pregnant with my first child—my daughter—I was equally exhausted, but this also permeated my mood and my libido. In this pregnancy, I am not as emotionally exhausted, I’m in a better and brighter mood, and I have a strangely elevated sex drive.
I don’t think pregnant women speak often enough with each other about how pregnancy hormones affect libido. During my first pregnancy, for instance, I was shy to admit to my friends (especially those who had had children or who were also pregnant) that I was absolutely not interested in having any kind of marital relations with my husband. There were occasional exceptions to that state of mind, but it’s truthful to say that our intimacy levels dropped substantially during my pregnancy. This embarrassed me. I feared others would think I was punishing our partnership for what was happening to my body. I was also afraid that I had forgotten how to connect with the person I loved. Thankfully, after the birth of our daughter, things went back to a relative normal.
During that first pregnancy, I did all my previous prenatal care in China and we were advised early on to avoid sexual relations for health and safety reasons. Chinese doctors are notoriously discreet in this regard and so the rationale was vague at best. In the West, the necessity for abstinence during pregnancy—even during the first trimester—has long been disproved. In fact, intimate relations with our partners have been encouraged. Both the rocking motion and the hormones generated through pleasure are comforting to the growing fetus.
Regardless of having this more modern information from the West, during Echo’s gestation I was quite happy to adhere to the old-fashioned practices advocated in China. This is a conservative country in many ways, and so I admit that I opportunistically became conservative myself. It served as an excellent veil for what was more accurately just an absentee libido.
Now, fast forward to this second pregnancy. It’s all different. I have more desire and less darkness. I am receiving my prenatal care in Canada and now it is my partner’s turn to opportunistically adhere to more liberal practices and accommodate the demands of my growing libido!
Yet, in the past month, with my belly so visible now, he’s hesitated, unsure as to whether he wants to have “sex with his son.” What!??! I have been hard on him about this, arguing that my body is still my body, my “needs” are still my “needs,” and his son is never going to remember his father in any compromising position. He still hesitates (but usually complies). Sometimes I truly feel like the stereotypical man in this partnership. Geesh.
It’s a mysterious situation that never had the opportunity to present itself during my last pregnancy as I just wasn’t interested. Now I’m seeking clarity from others: Has anyone else’s male partner become “freaked out” about the connection between the child and sex, or about fears related to hurting the baby or crushing the baby in the act, etc.?
As a saving grace, Guo Jian’s hesitation has found a peaceful perch between my elevated exhaustion and elevated libido. When sleep has become my greatest companion, what about my partner? When I can’t keep my eyes open in our marriage bed, how are those desires fulfilled? I’ve proposed several creative solutions, not to fear, and he’s intrigued by my persistence. I’m too shy to write about them here, however.
But, as a final commentary, I believe strongly that as our pregnant female bodies change, get larger, get unrecognizable—especially the first time it happens—it’s so important to push ourselves to allow our partners to love us, to touch us, to celebrate our body’s new shape and growth. Often, our addition of a baby bump makes us even more beautiful and sexy to those who love us, even when we don’t believe it.
If, like me in my first pregnancy, our libidos have left through the same door as our entire wardrobe, we women nonetheless have to push ourselves to stay open to letting our bodies be loved. There are lots of options in this regard. Massage, being bathed, or allowing our partners to rub oils or skin cream into the rising globe of our baby bellies enables our loved ones to stay connected to our physical changes, not to mention gives us another (non-sexual) outlet to staying physically connected with them.
This time, I’m doing better at remembering these things and celebrating my body.
But first, I must sleep. As always, sleep wins!
This post first appeared on Ember Swift’s website on September 25.
Photo courtesy of Chelly Cruz (Flickr)
Ember Swift is a Canadian songwriter, musician, writer, cyclist, green thumb, cupcake fan and proud mom living in Beijing with her husband, Guo Jian, and their daughter Echo (born January 2012). They are expecting a second child at the end of 2013. Ember writes professionally for several print and online publications (including beijingkids), as well as three blogs through her own site: www.emberswift.com. She is also an internationally touring musician and performs regularly in China with her all-girl local band. She has released 11 independent musical albums over the years but, these days, prefers to be with her family rather than on the road touring. She continues to release her music online and hopes to have completed her memoir project by the end of 2014.