"Dear Eve, ever since my wife and I had our child 6 months ago, I have not been the same. I am even struggling to perform sexually in the bedroom. I’m afraid my wife will think I am no longer interested in her! Please help."
Congratulations on the birth of your baby and thank you for your question. I can see you are quite worried about what is going on, and with good reason. A man’s sexual expression is one of the key indicators of his health physical and psychological so when it gets affected, it can be an indication that something else is going on. Let us explore some possibilities on the psychological front.
Isn’t it ‘funny’ how a new mother is attended to and supported based on the assumption that she must be very tired, yet her male partner is almost always ignored on the premise that he’s fine? Well, James, it’s bad enough to be ignored by ‘others’ but might you have ignored your own fatigue as well?
Is it possible that the crying, diaper changes, regular guests, constant movement in and out of the house -in addition to your regular duties and responsibilities -have been getting to you and draining your energy without your knowledge? Could it be that you are an exhausted father and not a failing husband? If so, it is important that you find a way to rest. It might mean allowing your family or friends to watch the baby so you can catch a nap, or perhaps requesting a day off from visitors.
ALSO READ: Sexual Healing: Why do i never get aroused?
Whatever the case, you must rest because as you can see, a tired father can easily turn into a tired, checked out, sexually starved husband. In terms of sex, I would recommend that you try at least 2-3 times a month at a minimum because sex itself has many benefits to you and your partner including sleeping better and bonding better. I am also an advocate for pleasure for pleasure’s sake, which can sometimes get lost in the ups and downs of parenting.
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of life is the sense of overwhelm that can occur as a result of majorly positive life events. Imagine with me that you received a big promotion at work. I’m willing to bet that you would celebrate what (you think) it means; more money, more prestige and more benefits in general. However, I am also willing to bet that you would overlook aspects of that promotion; more responsibilities, more likely to get blamed should things go wrong (just as you would be more likely to get praised should things go right). This is similar to your current situation.
In your case, you have been promoted from husband and partner to husband, partner and father. You and probably everyone around you -- have celebrated the obvious joys: a new baby, the growth of your family, societal recognition as a family man, gifts of money “for the baby” and much more. Have you considered that you may have forgotten to weigh the flip side of your promotion? That in addition to the depth of joy that children bring, they also bring sleepless nights, endless diaper changes (and diapers are not cheap!) and endless life-altering responsibilities.
I have heard fathers admit that they were overwhelmed by the realisation that “this helpless baby is 100 per cent dependent on me”. This is a normal feeling that must also be acknowledged and dealt with, because it becomes difficult to attain an erection or have any sort of meaningful, enjoyable sexual contact with your partner if/when you are also majorly focused on how overwhelming it all is. You would simply be too mentally, physically and psychologically overwhelmed to function sexually.
How do you deal with it? I would recommend that you cultivate a support system. Identify people and spaces that are supportive. This could be other fathers of varying ages, mixed-gender groups, uncles/aunties/friends/other family and/or even your own dad (if he’s available to you) because he probably went through a similar experience with you. You need the love and support of people who have been there and can compassionate as you find your footing in your new role.
3. Postpartum depression
Yes, we have heard of women experiencing depression or baby blues after the birth of a child. However, the thinking is evolving to include men in this category because more and more, doctors and therapists are seeing men present with symptoms of postpartum depression; the research backs this up as well. The challenge had been easy to overlook in men because it manifested differently from in women.
While women tend to express it inward, men tend to express it outward e.g anger, verbal attacks, inappropriate statements about the baby, an obsession with dark thoughts or ideas with the baby e.g thinking that something is severely wrong with the baby. If this sounds like you, help is available so get help and get it immediately. If you’re in Kenya, you can look up organizations such as PPD Kenya, which have been very useful to many people here and abroad. PPD is a medical/psychological condition, and it does get better so there is no need to avoid or delay getting treatment or trying to walk this journey alone. You are not alone.
I know today’s article has not focused so much on the sex act. The reason for that is because sexual contact is often more about the context than the contact itself. If your context is throwing you off your sex game, then focus on getting your context back on track and watch things improve when the clothes come off.
My hope for you this week is that you will hold your vulnerability with kindness and compassion as you address whatever the underlying issues as needed. When all is said and done, I wish you a happy healthy life as a husband, partner and father.