I have a confession to make.
No, not the sort of confession you’re used to reading from me; quite the opposite in fact. Since I’ve been pregnant, we’ve more or less given up on sex.
I know; it’s disappointing, isn’t it? We really ought to have a better handle on such matters. But the thing is, nothing feels right at the moment.
For a start, I just can’t get into the zone. Whereas the Seductions taught me that I could create the right mood for sex if only I was committed to trying, pregnancy has turned that upside down. If I’m not already turned on, nothing can drag me there. My body is expressing utter disinterest in sex, except in nightly, lurid dreams that wake me momentarily aroused, before it all drains away again.
The practicalities aren’t easy. Every tiny bit of genital contact sends me running to the loo. My vagina feels sore. My breasts feel weird. The pregnancy-induced asthma, which is triggered by the merest scrap of physical activity, does not make for the attractive kind of heavy breathing. And what’s more, some atavistic hormonal drive tells me that everything is potentially unhygienic. The same impulse that lately seems to forbid me from eating anything from a tupperware, seems also to be on high alert for such filthy habits as kissing and oral sex. Everything, frankly, smells a bit funny to me anyway. I’m worried that I don’t taste or smell as good as usual, either.
Herbert, meanwhile, is treading a careful line between his own disinterest and my rampant paranoia about my unattractiveness. I get the distinct sense that he’s not at all sure that sex is a good idea right now. He’s not one of those men who thinks he might accidentally prod the baby, but he’s slightly unconvinced that I’m robust enough for sex at the moment. He’s in full-on nurturing mode, making sure I’m properly rested, fed and watered; he seems to prefer to take care of his own erotic urges without troubling me. I sometimes wish he was a bit less polite about it all.
I’m sad not to be having sex; I miss it. When I was limping through the first trimester, women cheered me up by telling me just how randy I’d feel after 20 weeks. Sadly, I haven’t even had a glimpse of that; I can only imagine that my randiness is lost in the same gestational black hole as my pregnant glow. But then, if I’m honest, that never sounded much like something that would happen to me in the first place. When I hear other people’s experiences of pregnant urges, I’m left with the same slightly murderous feeling that I have towards women who tell me how much they love being pregnant: well lucky bloody you!
Personally, I can’t wait to get back to a body that does the things I expect of it: basic stuff like breathing, not wanting to puke in the mornings and being able to walk around the shops without having to sleep it off afterwards.
Sex, of course, isn’t the be-all and end-all. Pregnancy brings about new opportunities for intimacy, the special things that only get shared with your partner. We’re both a bit in love with my perfect dome of a belly. It’s still lovely to make contact, skin-on-skin, and now H can put his hand across my bump at night and feel the baby moving between us.
And, like all the difficult aspects of pregnancy, none of it is forever. In a few months’ time, I’ll find myself with a different body all over again, with problems and feelings that I can’t predict. Sometimes, the changes feel relentless. But then, I suppose we knew that when we started this.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on sex in pregnancy – or ways to feel intimate when sex isn’t on the cards.