Editor’s Note: Postpartum anxiety and depression can feel isolating, but you shouldn’t have to feel as though you’re going through it alone. Please reach out to your doctor, a therapist, or another trusted professional for support. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of postpartum depression, visit Postpartum Support International, call 1-800-944-4773.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions, please get help immediately. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Crisis Textline: text CONNECT to 741741.
It was never anything we intended. My husband and I never set out to become one of those clichéd couples—married with kids and no sex life. But there we were, sleeping in separate rooms with no emotional or physical intimacy between us, and struggling to be good parents. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and before we knew it, we had ceased having sex for the better part of a year.
The birth of my first child was unlike anything I had carefully planned. After being in labor for over 20 hours, I underwent an emergency C-section. I was blindsided and unprepared for the amount of time and care that went into a successful recovery for myself, let alone time and care for a newborn. All the baby books I had read during my pregnancy didn’t prepare me for breastfeeding failures, mastitis, postpartum depression, lack of sleep, uncertainty, and a feeling of utter hopelessness. Sex was the last thing on my mind.
Before we knew it, we had ceased having sex for the better part of a year.
My husband and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment on the north side of Chicago and shared a room with the baby. My son woke up every morning at 5 a.m. and was a whirlwind of energy until we put him to bed at 7 p.m. I fell asleep shortly after that while my husband caught up on work in the living room, often falling asleep on the couch.
It became routine, us sleeping in separate rooms and not connecting. My days revolved around being a perfect mom, all the while feeling depressed at the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed, get out of my pajamas, wash my hair, or put any effort into myself that didn’t involve being a mom. I cried every time my husband left for work. I missed him deeply, but I was also angry that I was being left alone all day with a baby that I had no idea how to entertain between naps.
A Postpartum Depression Diagnosis
When I started having thoughts of harming myself and my baby, I immediately called my OBGYN. I will always be grateful for the time and importance she put into helping me. She canceled her afternoon appointments and had me come into her office for blood work. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and I had two options: make weekly meetings with a therapist, which would cost $75-$100 an hour and require me to find a babysitter for the sessions; or take an anti-depressant which, after insurance, would cost me $5 a month. I opted for the latter.
Within a week, the anti-depressants began making a huge difference in my outlook on motherhood, and I was feeling immensely better. For the first time in four months, I was authentically enjoying being a mom. I was showering, getting dressed, and getting out of the house. My husband and I mustered up the courage to start dropping the baby off at my in-law’s house and going on date nights. All of the stars were aligning to have our marriage’s intimacy restored, but I didn’t count on one of the side effects of my medication: a decreased libido.
Unexpected Side Effects
When I was unhappy, I didn’t feel sexy, and now that I was feeling happy again, I still couldn’t feel sexy. Nothing excited me or turned me on. I felt complete apathy concerning sex. My husband suggested switching medications or adjusting my dosage, but I was terrified of going back into the deep throes of depression that I was too afraid to change a thing. My happiness mattered more to me than being physically intimate with my husband. I didn’t take into consideration his feelings, needs, or wants. And as I look back, six years later, I realize that I could have done better.
What I Would’ve Done Differently
Marriage is not always easy. Add on raising children, running a household, staying on top of bills, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a marriage that isn’t tested every now and again. Although sex wasn’t important to me at the time, it was important to my husband. He was going through the ups and downs of parenthood like I was. I didn’t think to ask him how he was doing or what he needed from me.
I could have confided in my doctor about my lack of libido, I could have explored other ways of being physically intimate with my husband, and I could have researched other medications with less sexual side effects. There were places to have sex other than the bedroom we shared with our baby, and there were countless times my in-laws offered to take the baby overnight but were declined.
Add on raising children, running a household, staying on top of bills, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a marriage that isn’t tested every now and again.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but after almost a decade of marriage, I am certain that the physical and emotional connectivity between my husband and I makes us better partners and parents.
Shortly after the baby’s first birthday, we moved into a bigger home with more bedrooms, and we found our perfect rhythm of being both parents and husband and wife. My postpartum depression subsided, and I was able to decrease my dosage, which helped immensely with my libido. My husband and I were back to being intimate—both emotionally and physically—on a regular basis and, just like that, I was pregnant with baby number two!
This article was originally published in 2019 and has been updated for timeliness.