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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Hide. It’s Almost Mother’s Day Again

Help! The Mother’s Day advertisements have already started. I thought maybe with the COVID-19 crisis shutting everything down, we could skip the whole thing. No brunches, no special sales, no mother-honoring rituals at church. Everything is closed, and we’re supposed to stay home. We could finally have a respite from the whole mess. But no, here it comes again this Sunday. Have Mother’s Day brunch delivered, send her flowers, set up a family Zoom meeting, show her how much you care. Yada yada yada.

Last night on a sitcom, just in time for Mother’s Day, one of the main characters found out she was pregnant, and I cried. For Pete’s sake, does it never end?

Time to duck and cover again.

In the UK, they celebrate “Mothering Sunday” in March. It’s much like our own U.S. Mother’s Day. Some people who survived it offered their advice on the Full Stop podcast recently.

Civilla Morgan and Allie Anderson both had fertility problems and frequently write and speak about being childless not by choice. Like the rest of us, they grit their teeth through the day honoring moms.

Morgan, a “preacher’s kid,” used to go to church every Sunday. On Mothering Sunday, the mums were asked to stand and receive a gift. We all know how that feels. It sucks. An older woman suggested she simply not go to church on that day. Instead, she started talking to people about how painful it is, and she got several churches to change how they approached the day.

“It’s not okay for mothers to stand while non-mothers remain seated,” Morgan said. While she understands that mothering is a most important job, “We’re still women and we’re still human. People need to realize there’s a whole community existing in plain sight.”

She has come to accept that God has his reasons for why her life is the way it is, but she strives to make other people understand how the childless feel when they’re left out.

Anderson also struggles with Mothering Sunday. She can feel relatively fine the rest of the year, and then comes the holiday. “It can put you right back at your very lowest.” Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day just emphasizes the feeling of “otherness,” she said.

For Anderson, it’s not just the grief of not having children but the pregnancies she lost, the deaths of the children she might have had.

We all know this is a “Hallmark holiday,” blown out of proportion by companies trying to sell their merchandise. We know we should honor our own mothers every day, not just Mother’s Day. But it still hurts. So how do we survive?

  • Avoid social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.). You know it’s going to be full of mom celebrations.
  • We do need to honor our own mothers and grandmothers if they’re still around, but it does not have to be on that actual day, Anderson says. Why not celebrate the weekend before or after and make other plans for Mother’s Day?
  • Morgan suggests journaling to release the thoughts and feelings you don’t feel you can say out loud.
  • Don’t go to restaurants where the servers will be wishing every woman Happy Mother’s Day.
  • Don’t go to church if they traditionally single out moms with a special ritual.
  • Don’t expect your stepchildren to do anything special; they will be busy honoring their bio mom.

This year, the celebrations may all be online, but the same advice applies. Instead of moping, do something fun. Take a hike, go to the beach, watch a movie, read a book, clean the garage, or stay in bed and make love all day. Do whatever makes you happy, and if anyone complains, explain that while you love and honor the mothers in your life, the day is too painful for you, so you’ll see them another time.

For male readers, the same applies to Father’s Day. Go fishing or something till it’s over.

The Full Stop Podcast for folks who are childless not by choice is a good resource. There are enough posts to keep you busy all through Mother’s Day.

I wish you all health and peace on Mother’s Day and every day.