Yep, you read that one right. This is going to be one of those posts about sex, or more specifically the frustration caused by lack there of. For those of you who know Grey and me in real life, I apologize for the mental imaginary you're about to experience. But, like so much other stuff in my life, I need to get this one out.
Whenever talking about sex, there are always many points in time one can begin with. One could talk about their relationship with sex from a young age, retelling the embarrassment they experienced having "the talk" with your parents (my mother was ahead of the game and I got all the facts about conception by the time I was 9 yrs old), you could start about talking about your first crush, your first sex-dream, the first time you and your love-interest decided to explore, the role religion played in your decision to either wait until marriage or throw caution to the wind. So many places to start. But one common theme comes out again and again when people decide to talk about sex: most of us have a complex relationship with it. The idea of engaging in an act that basically requires letting go of one's inhibitions in order to truly find enjoyment (hence requires lots of trust and good communication) is deeply in contradiction with societal views (sex is shameful, dirty and is not to be discussed), hang-up with self image and even issues with power (sexual abuse, rape, or even a partner who shames you because you don't fit into their skewed idea of "perfect').
On my end, I've always had hang ups about sex. Growing up as a Catholic, it was very much engrained that sex outside of marriage was a major sin. The idea of "impure thoughts" let alone exploration was always quashed. There were additional levels too, with me viewing myself as an ugly duckling and thinking that I would never find a boyfriend, let alone get married. And there was the fact I was desperate to get out of dodge, with anything standing in my way of spreading my wings, especially an unplanned pregnancy, needing to be deflected if not eliminated all together. Add in one unfortunate incident where I had the pleasure of witnessing my parents in the act (for all parents, PLEASE consider other arrangements for sexy time, as trying to be quiet in a hotel room you're sharing with your teenage children isn't really a great idea), and you've got the makings of an asexual.
So it wasn't until college that I really allowed myself to explore the topic of sex at any level. And even then, my access to resources were limited.
Meeting Grey changed all of that. From the very beginning, he was patient with me as we explored not only my hang-ups (some of which he shared) but also provided a safe environment so we could both explore. Shaming has been the ultimate no-no in our relationship, as it inhibits not only exploration but also dampens trust. So from the beginning, open and honest communication has been key. And for the first 6 yrs of our relationship, this model worked out great.
Then we decided to try for a baby.
I don't need to elaborate with this audience how much infertility fucks with one's sex life, but for those who are looking for more information read here, here and this study, which is also summarized here. Regardless, it's well known that the prescribed sex, the monthly grieving pattern following BFNs, feelings of failure associated with the act to a general decay in self-worth. Infertility is the nuclear warhead to a healthy sex life. The thing is as one is in the midst of it, there's this hope that one day, after infertility is behind you, you'll be able to reclaim the sex life you once had. The problem is no one really openly talks about how to accomplish this.
There's an added wrinkle to all of this. For me, my pregnancy with the Beats ended very traumatically. Though I am forever grateful to the amazing medical staff who not only saved my life but also provided amazing medical care to the Beats during their time in NICU, the truth is that seeing my twins hooked up to machines, having wires and tubes coming out of their incredibly small bodies and having them live in a plastic isolette for about 2 weeks solidified how much my body had failed them and their siblings. Instead of marveling at what my body could do, providing a warm, safe environment for them to grow, I was struggling with the growing guilt and shame of this failure as a mother. Add in the fact that my body is still distorted, I'm at least 30 lbs overweight and Raynaud's phenomenon makes it so that my boobs are on fire every couple of hours and the result is the idea of "sexy" is pretty much quashed.
The past week a lot of this has come to a head. Grey is frustrated with this element of our relationship being gone and, frankly, so am I. I find I'm much more irritable with people, resenting the idea that others have found ways to bring this back into their lives (which is evident by the recent pregnancy/birth announcements). The problem is how to overcome it. And for this, I'm completely at a loss, as compared to other pressing items like sleep, job security, dealing with a leaky roof, dealing with destructive neighbors (who by-the-way have INCREDIBLY noisy sex makes one wonder if they aren't simply filming a porno), on top of child-care and day-to-day logistics, sex and personal care is pretty much at the bottom of the list.
So, my question to all of you is this: how do you do it? How do you prioritize sex during/after infertility? Thoughts, suggestions and even crazy stories completely welcome.
6 hours ago