The room feels like it's closing in on you. You feel like if one more person even so much as bumps into you at the grocery store that you may break out into hives. Ants crawl beneath your skin when you even approach the idea of becoming intimate with your partner, but it's not because you don't want to be close to them, you just don't want anyone to touch you — you're simply touched out. That doesn't close you off from need, just desire. Sometimes, learning how to have sex when you're feeling touched out is as much about identifying all the ways you can be intimate, and going with it, other than just improvising ways to make yourself endure it for you or your partner's sakes.
The most important thing for new moms (or not so new moms) to reckon with is the notion that you have to have sex in order for you and your partner to be fulfilled. You have this tiny new person you're raising, and you're likely both exhausted. Recognize that. Understand that intimacy can mean many things, and they're not limited to intercourse. However, if you are bothered by the lack of sexual release, and that's normally a big part of your relationship, that's understandable. Being "touched out" might mean more than just not wanting to touch, it might also mean missing touch, according to the La Leche League. You might know that you want sex, but can't get past the initial feeling of irritation at being touched, and that's incredibly frustrating. The organization suggested that if you feel "touched out," that you should be the one to seek touch and to touch your partner first as a way to remind your brain that you once loved this feeling.
Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D., the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine at Duke University Medical School and a practicing, board-certified OB-GYN, wrote in her book, Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, from Preconception to Postpartum, that women who are feeling touched out should do a few things: first, accept that the situation and your body has changed. At least for now. Be cognizant of the fact that this might be part of the reason you're not craving the same intimacy you once did.
Dr. Gaudet went on, advising that this is a good time to evaluate what you do want to do in this arena. That how to have sex when you're feeling touched out begins with just the simple act of determining what you're comfortable with. Remember, tiny things like a kiss or cuddling can often lead to more than that, and the desire may take you by surprise. I know I've been in that place, and just simple kissing led to much more than expected. Something about kissing, right? It can be a diminutive act of affection or friendship, but shared between partners, it has a tendency to get explosive for both parties.
According to the Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning there are a few more strategies to employ to unlock your feelings of desire and move beyond the full body shudder that feeling touched out can engender within you. The authors suggested letting your partner take over some of the duties of motherhood. Pump a bottle or two and allow time to pass where no one is touching you. Let them take care of the baby for awhile. Barring that, let them bring the baby to you — you can nurse the baby and your partner takes the little one away as soon as they're done eating. Give yourself time and permission to once again feel more autonomous in your own skin and a bit more in control.
The book also suggested to parents that they carve out a chance to schedule time together. This isn't scheduling sex, which is a totally fine thing to do — I swear by it — but instead, this is finding the time to simply be in one another's company. It is even better if you can do this completely alone with the use of a sitter or grandparents. It's a performative act of declaring the importance of your unit outside of the realm of parenting, and sometimes a flip of the placing of your mindset can do the trick.
If you're still feeling like it's more about external pressure than innate desire, allow yourself more time. Explain your needs to your partner, and perhaps they can help you ease that burden from your shoulders a bit. You might need to rearrange your expectations, as is so often done once you become a parent, but that doesn't mean you're lowering them. It only means you're seeking clarity, and that can only be a good thing.
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