Imagine waking up one day and seeing that, although everything around you looks, sounds and smells exactly the same as the day before, everything is different. Everything.
There are moments in our lives that break our story into chapters: Before the baby and after the baby. While we still have a loved one and after they pass. Being in a good relationship and then heartbreak. In a bad relationship and then freedom. We have dozens of these life-altering moments, and they don’t just alter how we move about the world, they change us on a biological and even a cellular level.
To think that our sexuality would remain the same through all of those changes is, quite simply, absurd.
Let’s be clear—keeping up with our sexuality is difficult even when things are pretty normal. If we’re lucky we can keep track of what turns us on, what gets us excited, what makes us feel relaxed, what makes us feel loved.
Humans are an ever-moving and nebulous Venn diagram of experiences. It’s impossible to compartmentalize a single change. Even something as simple as losing 10 pounds has an effect on our emotions, our relationships and definitely our sexuality.
When waking up in the days after bringing a baby into the world, it’s likely that your body feels entirely different. You’ll have felt emotions you didn’t know existed, your relationship with your partner, your family and even the nurses in the hospital room will have completely changed.
Doctors and the internet treat sex after childbirth as if it’s a screw that has been shaken loose and needs to be put back into place just the way it was before the baby. But if everything has changed, maybe this is an opportunity to start a new sexual chapter, completely fresh.
While every woman’s first sexual experience after birth is dramatically different, many women say that the only comparison is to the night they lost their virginity. For better or worse. Whether it’s because of the pain and fear, or the nerves and excitement—it feels like the second “first time” for them.
I have to wonder if it’s similar for people experiencing other chapter-defining moments in their lives. When your world gets knocked upside down, expecting sex to be just like it was before seems outrageous.
While it’s common to talk about the changes to sexuality after childbirth because they occupy the same physical real estate, perhaps we should be talking about the profound changes to our sexual experiences after we lose a family member, after we move across the country to pursue a new job, after we lose or gain weight or survive a bad car accident.
All of those things also overwhelmingly change our sexual experiences.
Sexuality isn’t something that needs to be screwed back into place, as if nothing ever happened. Perhaps sex will help you jumpstart the beginning of your next chapter.
Whatever you’re going through, whether it’s a huge celebration or a really tough time, it can also be a chance to redefine your sensuality, to explore new things in the bedroom and restart conversations with your partner about what you need and want. Sex is one of the most versatile tools we have for dealing with the unpredictability of life—it can be healing, hilarious, fun, spiritually enlightening and even wonderfully mundane.
Emily Straubel is a writer and ceramic artist living in Portland. Writing about design and technology by day, and the unpredictable world of love and dating by night, her work is driven by curiosity and FOMO.