“Any suggestions for how to have the sex talk/intimacy talk? Can I smoothly incorporate it into the couples’ relationship session?”
This generous, supportive and positive question recently came up on the PEPS Group Leader forum.
How do we have the “sex talk” with new parents as a PEPS Group Leader? I’ll suggest as a Leader myself that “smoothly” is definitely something to strive for, but “awkward” is certainly to be expected as well.
The conversation came up in the daytime group I recently led as a tangent we made, during Highs and Lows. It was neither shared as a High or a Low, but more of a “just wanted to mention.” I was really impressed with my group, for their openness and their spirit. The moment also gave me a pause as a trained facilitator, and as a peer Leader.
After taking the PEPS intensive facilitation training from Melissa Benaroya and Sarina Behar Natkin, I knew that my best bet was the Gestalt approach, which I learned meant speaking from experience.
Well, I can talk about diapers for an hour or two. Colic, no problem. Early games and learning, piece of cake. But my own personal story of intimacy after baby?
In our online PEPS Group Leader forum, I learned that PEPS Leaders often incorporate the sex and intimacy discussion into the couples’ relationship topic. Since PEPS is about the transition to parenthood and positive non-judgmental support, it makes a lot of sense that parents talk about ways they can make a little time for themselves as a couple, the things that made them feel close before baby, and whether they are trying to incorporate some aspect of those things back into their lives.
One current PEPS Group Leader I can learn from, was able to speak from a Gestalt perspective during a session with the Dads while the Moms had a night out: “[A]fter we talked for a bit about what they were experiencing, the conversation naturally shifted to my experience. So I was honest. I laid it all out on the table – what we experienced as a couple with our first son and what we were experiencing with our second son in terms of physical intimacy, emotional intimacy and the ups and downs with both since getting pregnant the first time. […] I can’t tell you how much the dads appreciated hearing about it. They had a so many ‘ah-ha’ moments during our discussion and overall found it valuable to at least hear about another couple navigated the challenges.”
What did I do? Well, you might say that I spoke from Gestalt. I did what comes naturally to me. I shared a lot of resources, I read up on fertility after birth, and I hope I honored every mother’s choice and encouraged them to talk with their partners about how they were feeling, both physically and emotionally.
I have shared those resources below. I learned that physically, new parents are sleep deprived. The birthing parent may be still healing. Nursing may also raise additional questions or concerns. And emotional or financial stressors can be significant as well. I also shared with my group that while fulltime nursing can be a great method of contraception, it doesn’t work perfectly, and is something you should talk to your healthcare provider about.
But I lacked the bravery to share my personal intimacy story with the group.
“Ultimately, we concluded the evening with an impromptu exercise of identifying ways [the Dads] could each take steps to invest in their emotional relationships with their partners – an important building block in restoring intimacy post-baby. By the end of the night, you could tell they felt strongly about wanting/needing to communicate with their partners.” Congrats to my fellow group Leader and her successful management of this topic!
Many parents are thinking about intimacy after baby and that’s great. In a PEPS Group, parents may find it a safe place to talk about it. Some may be wondering, just like with baby’s sleep patterns, “are other parents experiencing the same things we are?” “Are things ever going to return to ‘normal’?”
Whether it’s a daytime moms group, a PEPS for Dads group or a couples group, same-sex or opposite sex couples, birth parents or adopting parents, this is an important and healthy topic to discuss. Many Group Leaders choose to bring in a speaker, from the PEPS speaker list and that can be a great way to have a professional third-party to help navigate this challenging topic. “It’s tough to make this happen” might be the consensus of your group, but my biggest learning was that it can be a great first step to start talking.
Help us PEPS Group Leaders out: what worked in our PEPS group? Tackle the topic, or let it come up in other conversations? Have dads and moms go to separate rooms to dish about it?
Resources for Parents
- 6 Ways to Ease Into Sex Postpartum from What To Expect
- And Baby Makes Three – book by John Gottman
- From OBGyn Management, an article for doctors talking to patients about post-partum intimacy
- If you like a scientific paper, here’s an interesting one on women’s postpartum sexuality
- Information about breastfeeding as a form of birth control
- Love in the Time of Colic by Ian Kerner
- Sex and Intimacy After Baby Arrives from the New York Times blog
- The New Mom’s Survival Guide: How to Reclaim Your Body, Your Health, Your Sanity, and Your Sex Life After Having a Baby http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Moms-Survival-Guide/dp/0553805037
- Tips For Improving Intimacy And Postpartum Sex After Baby Is Born
- What New Parents Can Do to Keep Intimacy Alive by Claudia Arp and David Arp
About the Author
Laura has earned her keep writing copy around town, editing other people’s words and thinking about how we tell our stories to each other. Laura knows her commas, mostly – and admires good writing everywhere. She is an MLIS with a deep interest in books for adults and children. At home, she is the mother of 3 inspiring and demanding kids, who often finds herself overcommitted, overwhelmed, overjoyed and overslept.