It was after our fourth and last child was born three years ago that my husband and I were really and truly schooled in how children can make your sex life really and truly miserable. Before this baby's birth — my first C-Section — we were smug marrieds, romping in the sheets wherever and whenever, freed by the great age gap between our older two boys and our younger daughter, coddled by grandparents always available to babysit and buoyed by the sheer exuberance of youth.
It was the first time we had gone in a room alone and closed the door and had sex since the baby was born: angels wept, clouds parted, Woody Allen blew his nose and said that life couldn't be all neurosis and tragedy, could it? And then, the condom broke. The entire tip of the condom fell off and we had no idea until we had a really GOOD idea. And by then, it was too late.
This dubious marker of our return to sex was followed by the realization that one set of grandparents had moved an hour away and the "just lives ten minutes away" grandma was swept up in a later in life rejuvenation of career. Exactly when we realized we were surrounded and taken hostage, our backup had gone for coffee and donuts.
Do you remember the hilarious book, "Enslaved by Ducks"? I think of this time in our life as "Enslaved Without Fucks." We had teenage boys, moody with dubious patterns of behavior and in need of a certain amount of finessing and care because of, not despite, their age; a little girl, not yet ten, sweet and loving but anxious and clingy after the birth of, and, one month later, the nine-day hospitalization of her little sister; and a newborn — squalling, nursing, pooping and stuck to her mother's chest like a … well, like a baby.
Then there was the new emotions I had about my body. I had cheerfully had my babies one by one and kept a positive view on my body. Until I got older, and then even older, and then had my last baby with a Caesarean. It was at this point I wrote this: "Speaking of long periods of making out, when I have sex with my adoring husband, I recently find myself feeling very bovine. Like a large, undulating cow in a dark field with my gynormous udders and stomach swaying over the grains of wheat as I allow my life mate cow to mount me. Moo."
With a fussy, breastfeeder who, unlike her siblings, refused to sleep so that my husband and I could have sex, we found ourselves one night having a sweet bout of lovemaking on queen bed. It was a wonderful moment until we turned our heads and found the blinking, wizened face of our baby staring at us. She was on to us.
Condoms were used; condoms were hated.
It all combined into one long maelstrom of sexless sex. We'd get so close … and the kids would bang on the door. We'd get all most there … and the baby would cry. We'd be making out … and fall asleep. I lost the faith and in a hissy fit of frustration at being interrupted again, claimed I'd rather just not have sex at all than keep having almost sex, distracted sex or "I can't believe they are interrupting us at this exact moment" sex. Luckily, my husband didn't take that as a serious option, and he kept trying.
In that one word is the key to sexual success: try. But first, give up. Let me explain. After the frustrating, awful, no good, very bad beginning of attempting and failing to have sex, we backed off with a plan. For half a year, we'd accept rushed, bovine sexus interruptus. After that six-month mark, we approached having sex with the serious creativity of teenagers in a parked car. We threatened our children with disgusting conversations about mom and dad's need for alone time if they didn't stop fighting, yelling, crying and knocking on the door at any hour of day and night when my husband and I were alone in a room — any room! The bathroom, the closet, whatever ... just leave us alone.
The baby got fatter and happier and a little less clingy. My body began to reclaim its borders. With all the elements conceding to our desperation, we began again.
It was so worth it.