How Does Childlessness Affect Your Sex Life?

Got your attention? This year, World Childless Week devoted a whole day to talking about sex. What’s sex got to do with it? Everything.

As Michael Hughes of the of the Full Stop podcast noted in a fascinating session, it all comes down to the sperm and the egg and how they need to get together to make  baby. In other words, sex. We don’t talk about it much, he said, but it’s a big thing.

Hughes and his podcast partners Berenice Smith and Sarah Lawrence are all childless through infertility. Each talked about how their efforts to conceive took the joy and spontaneity out of sex. It became less about intimacy and pleasure and more about making a baby. Every time they did it, the question hovered over them. Will it work? Will it lead to heartbreak with another miscarriage or failure to conceive? And how can you feel good about your body when it is not doing what it’s supposed to do or when you’ve gone through so many procedures you really don’t want anyone to touch you? Or when it physically hurts? After a while, they didn’t really want to do it.

The three said it took years after they gave up on trying to conceive to feel good about their bodies and enjoy sex again. Even now, it’s not quite the same as the old magic they had at the beginning.

In another session led by Jody Day, women in all aspects of the childless journey, including those who have never found a partner to make babies with, talked about their struggles with their bodies and sexuality and shared suggestions for learning to feel sexy again. It’s a wonderful session. You can watch the recording here. Also read Jody’s essay “Where Did She Go? Reclaiming My Erotic Self After Childlessness.”

I know that some of you are dealing with fertility issues. How is sex for you? Is every encounter about trying to make a baby? Or is it always a reminder that certain parts aren’t working?

For me, I can’t say that it affected my sex life. With my first husband, we were using birth control, but I always had that hope that when the time was right, we would welcome children.

With Fred, who had had a vasectomy, conception was never possible, and it was not part of our sex life, except for the relief of not needing birth control. We were not trying to make a baby. Our goal was simply intimacy and orgasms, and it was good. Now, listening to these people who struggled with infertility, pain, and hating their own bodies, I am grateful for my health. My body has its issues, but I like it just fine, and I still feel sexy.

This is the Childless by Marriage blog. Infertility is only one of many reasons we don’t or may not have children. If you or your partner are unable or unwilling to conceive, how does that affect your sex life? Do you think about it during sex? Does it make you not want to have sex? Do you resent using birth control because it’s keeping you from the babies you want to have? Do you think about the sperm or eggs being wasted because they’re not being given a chance to connect? Or does being childless free you to enjoy sex without the baby worry?

Sex is a tricky subject. How does being childless or potentially childless affect your sex life?

Do comment. You can be as anonymous as you choose to be.

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Thank God My Children Won’t Read This

CNF71 CVRIf I had children, they would be mortified. An essay I wrote about sex with my late husband is included in the new issue of Creative Nonfiction Magazine. It’s pretty graphic. I talk about his problems maintaining an erection after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and about my problems with menopausal dryness and the need for lubrication. I even talk about offering him a blow job. OMG. Thank God my parents will never read this. I hope my stepchildren never see it.

Not that the general public reads Creative Nonfiction. Most people can’t even define creative nonfiction: true stories told using the techniques of fiction, such as characters, dialogue, setting, plot, etc. Making it into Creative Nonfiction has been a life goal since I earned my master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction 16 years ago. So career-wise, this is great, but oh my God, do I really want people to know this much about me?

But then you readers here at Childless by Marriage already know so much. If you’ve read my Childless by Marriage book, you already know things I would not want my family to know, things I have never told anyone else.

Editor Lee Gutkind points to my story as an example of things they couldn’t have published even 10 years ago. He’s right. Not in a public journal like CNF. But here at the blog, we’ve always been pretty honest. It’s part of the story.

We are childless by marriage. How does one create a child? Sex. So if we’re not getting pregnant, something involved with sex is preventing it, whether it’s birth control, impotence, infertility, or abortion. In my Creative Nonfiction piece, I talk about stopping coitus to find some lube. When I was younger and with other men, it was about running to the bathroom to insert my diaphragm or grabbing a condom. If we had just kept going, I might be a mother now, but we didn’t. Somebody always stopped the proceedings, said, “We’d better . . .” and we did. Or we switched to an activity that did not include placing penis in vagina.

Now my church, Catholic, says sex is only for making babies. But most Catholics I know use birth control. It’s one of those things we don’t talk about–and probably should.

When you decide to sleep with someone, you immediately need to figure out what you’re doing about birth control, not just to prevent pregnancy but to prevent STDs. If you’re on the pill, you can choose whether or not to mention it, but if you’re using another method, you’ll have to discuss it. You will know whether, at least at that moment, your partner is interested in creating a baby. Which may lead to more long-term choices.

Sex is such a vital part of life, but until recently we didn’t talk about it much, and we certainly didn’t write about it. I’m both embarrassed and proud of my essay. When I wrote it, I thought it was funny. I still think people will get some laughs out of it. But it also shows the realities of middle-aged sex and dementia. Why keep it a secret? Everybody deals with this stuff.

I haven’t read the other pieces in the magazine yet. This is a print publication, not online, and copies haven’t arrived yet. The link will show where you can order a copy.

Some of you have confided that your partners refused to have sex with you. So hurtful! I wonder how many dare to mention their desire for babies while they’re making love. What are those conversations like, when you’re lying together naked and happy? Or are you afraid to mention it for fear of ruining the mood?

I don’t want to turn this into a porn site, and I sure hope I don’t get a lot of filthy responses, but we can be honest here. I’m honestly glad I don’t have children and grandchildren reading about Grandma and Grandpa having sex. Ew, gross.

One of the advantages of being childless, I guess.

I just realized the magazine never asked and I never mentioned whether or not I had children. Interesting.

Thanks for being here.