"It wasn't all smooth sailing"
Week 5 post-birth: Labour with my first bub went quite smoothly – the only drawback was a second-degree tear. They wheeled me off to the ‘sewing room’ for some gas and a few stitches from someone who seemed to be in training. We’re now waiting for the all-clear before getting busy in bed.
Week 6: At my postnatal check-up with my GP, I’m told the stitches have dissolved and the wound looks good on the outside. But when she does a Pap smear it’s excruciating and I bleed. She mentions something about an extra piece of skin getting in the road.
Week 7: My husband and I attempt sex for the first time after the birth, using plenty of lube. It’s tight but bearable, but he can only get halfway in, where there’s a sharp pain. The semen stings too. Maybe we’ll wait another week.
Week 8: I ask my mothers’ group whether anyone is having pain-free sex, and most of them seem shocked that I’m even interested in sex! Some of my close friends say it took a year before sex felt ‘normal’. I’m uncertain what’s going on.
Month 4: Things aren’t getting better, so I see my GP. I explain I still can’t have sex and she immediately responds with, “Oh, you poor thing!” It makes me think I should’ve come in sooner. She refers me to a gynaecologist.
Month 5: The specialist tells me my wound hasn’t healed evenly, resulting in granulisation (extra lumps of skin that can’t heal). She blames the birthing stool I used and tells me never to use one again. I’m scheduled to have a ‘refashioning of the perineum’. The soonest she can do the surgery is in two months.
Month 7: The surgery goes well, though the surgeon tells me things were worse than she expected and laughs when I ask if I can play netball on the weekend!
Month 8: I go back for a check-up. The specialist is happy with her handiwork and says we have the all-clear to try sex again. I check things downstairs – the entrance feels much wider than before I gave birth. We give it a go and there’s no problems at the entrance. While there’s some pain still, overall it’s much better. Missionary seems the safest position.
Month 10: I go back to the specialist as there’s still a tiny sharp pain somewhere inside. She can’t find a cause, but prescribes a hormonal cream to help promote healing.
Month 12: I discover I’m 11 weeks pregnant. I wanted my kids close together, so I’m very happy. I’m also very anxious that this baby’s journey down the birth canal will cause extra pain from my mysterious, ongoing sore spot.
Month 16: With my growing belly, missionary isn’t really an option anymore, so we’re forced to try some other positions. Luckily things seem to have healed up some more. Sex even feels good sometimes!
Bub number two: Along comes our baby boy, but it’s another second-degree tear, which the midwife says couldn’t be avoided. After stitches, they schedule a check-up at the hospital’s ‘peri clinic’ in six weeks’ time.
Week 5 after my second birth: These stitches have given me no trouble and when I check things out downstairs it feels much tighter. Was I this tight before my first birth? How many vaginas can one woman have?! I want to attempt sex before my check-up so I can give some feedback. It goes okay – it’s a bit tight, the semen stings and I’m a bit sore – but it’s much better than after my first birth.
Week 8: At an appointment at the peri clinic, one of the staff tells me she thinks they may have sewn me up a bit tight, and she can press on one small, very sore spot. I’m told to buy a local anaesthetic gel from the pharmacy to use once a night for the next month, and to keep trying to have sex so that things stretch.
Week 10: I’m fairly dubious about the gel as it’s not exactly a long-term solution and I practically need to dislocate my wrist to apply it to the right spot. I stop using it. Things are going okay in bed, where sideways spooning seems to be the best approach now. I’m too scared to allow semen, though.
Month 3: Things are still going okay. We’re not big on variety, but semen doesn’t sting anymore, hooray! I go to the GP for a late postnatal check-up and when she does the Pap smear there’s no bleeding, but it does hurt a lot. It’s a bit disheartening, but she doesn’t seem concerned and says I’m still healing.
Month 6: I’m still breastfeeding, but my natural lubrication seems to have returned somewhat and our bedroom antics are going quite well. We stick to enjoying two different positions, as anything else feels uncomfortable in a dull-ache kind of way. We agree things are miles better than after the first birth.
Month 12: It took a while, but we’re now free to attempt any position (though some are more successful than others). The dull ache has gone, but some positions need more lubrication, which I suppose is the same in many people’s sex lives. ‘Doggy style’ used to be my favourite position before having babies, but unfortunately it’s still on the fairly uncomfortable list. I’m still breastfeeding, which they say makes you a little dry, so it’s very possible that is the only complication left. I’m starting to think about baby number three, which could put us back at square one all over again… may as well schedule a vasectomy while I’m out of action!