Girl To Mom
Navigating the Changing Tides of Sexuality
When I first met my husband, years before we were married, we were both river guides and my sexual appetite was insatiable. We were strong, tan, and powerfully communing with rivers, navigating raging whitewater, big drops, and getting splashed awake with cold waves. We felt completely alive and unfettered. When we weren’t working I wanted to make sweet love and fuck all the time, outside under the stars, in boats, buses, anywhere. We spent days in bed, like sex was our food and water.
Somewhere around my 10th summer as a river guide we spent a season in California on the American River and had this amazing experience going over a huge waterfall called Ruck-a-Chuckee. It was about 25 feet high and considered a class VI, meaning unrunnable with guests commercially. The company I worked for walked all the guests around while one-by-one the guides got in our rafts and took them over the falls alone. When I first saw this waterfall I said I wasn’t going to do it. Then a friend of mine offered to take me over with him for my first time. You can’t take more that 2 people over the falls because it’s important that the boat is light enough to fly over the rocks and land gracefully at the bottom. It was exhilarating and I decided I could at least try to do it myself. It was actually pretty easy to get the boat lined up and drop the correct slot, in the middle (not the one on the right called “the coffin” that would ensure death or the one on the left that would smash you into a giant rock at the bottom).
Despite the ease it still felt like a moment of getting close to death every time I got to the blind lip at the top and did the last paddle stroke before holding on and flying. Each time I would try to focus on love as I fell and sing the song, “Que Sera Sera, Whatever Will Be Will Be,” in case I was about to die. What surprised me was this waterfall has shown up countless times in moments of ecstasy right before I’m about to orgasm, like the experience is heading towards this big drop into the unknown and involves a momentary death as I’m immersed in waves of pleasure. I began to love this waterfall with all of the joy and fear wrapped into one.
It also feels like a good metaphor for the joy, fear, and pleasure of birth, of heading towards the unknown and allowing it to take over, trusting the river, trusting the body. My first pregnancy changed everything and I remember being afraid that after our kid was born I would never have sex again, my vagina would be a big gaping bag, and my boobs would be floppy and lumpy. We lived through it, I got horny again, my vagina was still perfect but needed some extra special love to release the work of birth, it actually got tighter and needed help relaxing (from my husband and a pelvic floor physical therapist- go see one!). My boobs bounced back too, they’re still great.
Now I’m in the third trimester of pregnancy with our second baby and given the choice between sex and a nap I would choose a nap 90% of the time. Don’t get me wrong we still have great sex and I love connecting sexually and know that it is really important for my own health and for our relationship but I’m really tired. Although this is a temporary challenge, it’s still worth looking at.
How do we navigate these changing times? How do we stay honest and authentic with each other about our own needs and recognize when we’ve changed? I never had to worry about pleasing my partner sexually before and now in this pregnancy I’ve cried about being tired all the time and not feeling like the vivacious luscious insatiable sex goddess of yesteryear. I’ve talked to my husband about this and encouraged him to take care of business himself because he’s not pregnant and I want him to be satisfied but recognize that our needs no longer match up for the time being. I’ve also explained that I need a little more help “getting there” these days, a full body massage with oil goes a long way to help me integrate my brand new form and release extra tension.
The need for sex has changed a lot for me in the sense that it’s most clearly about connecting on a really deep level, like communing with god(dess) or transcending into a space of unknown and wonder. I know that I am capable of limitless pleasure, my last solo trip I brought a vibrator and had 9 orgasms one day. This does not satisfy the same need as coming together with my strong beautiful man, being surprised, and allowing my ego to die for a moment as something magical takes over my mind and body, like making love with the whole world covered in glitter and everything is more vibrant. It’s quality not quantity these days. But I still want my husband to have the physical release and satisfaction that I know he needs, that I used to need but now am consumed with the intensity of pregnancy. I will need it again but for now the work of growing an entire human being inside of my body takes up a lot of my energy.
I wonder how most couples navigate the complications of sexual needs changing during pregnancy and parenthood. My guess is that it’s not usually discussed. There’s something significant about the things we leave out, the things we choose not to say out loud and it seems that sexual health, communication, and compatibility are a big one for couples during this time. How to speak up about our own needs and share out loud what it feels like to be pregnant, what it feels like to be partnered with someone who’s pregnant, and how to navigate sexuality once kids show up. These are big changes in a relationship especially if having great sex was one of the ways that kept your connection strong and alive.
How do we maintain a sense of passion, of sparkle and wonder in our lives as we grow up and in our relationships as we change together? Ruck-a-Chuckee taught me so much and I will never forget that feeling of choosing to go over the blind lip of water into the unknown fall of flying. This is something that I shared with my husband before we were married, before we were parents. It’s not that I want to go back or be that wild woman I was before but I want that feeling to glimmer through my life now as a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur. I want to remember that death is always near and that life is a fleeting moment of joy, fear, pleasure, and pain all wrapped up into one, if we let it permeate our cells. If we are brave enough to release the illusion of control and step into the mystery of birth, death, and everything in between.