Staring down at the smiley face on a stick confirming our much longed for pregnancy, I hugged my partner and waited for the endorphins to hit.
Three months later, and they are only just emerging.
No one told me pregnancy was hard. I imagined floating about in a bubble of love, all earth mother in waiting, feeding myself lentils and making sweet tantric love gazing into each other’s eyes, marvelling at the miracle of creation and whispering about baby names late into the night.
Instead I am slowly crawling out of what feels like the longest, most intense bout of PMS and tequila hangover combined, and saying hello again to my vagina, my pleasure and my partner. And to me.
As a Certified Sex Coach and Bodyworker, I somewhat arrogantly presumed that my personal and professional commitment to pleasure and sexual expression wouldn’t be affected by the reality of pregnancy. If it was, then surely I’d have the tools to deal with it.
I didn’t imagine that my first few weeks of motherhood-to-be would see me weeping into my pillow, stuffing salty crisps into my gob and entreating my partner to just F@ck Off every time he dared approach me.
I didn’t imagine that the most exercise I could exert was a visit to the corner shop to replenish said salty crisp supply, and that the mere thought of getting myself into a downward dog was enough to bring on a migraine.
I didn’t imagine I’d feel so lonely, so suddenly terrified of my body and its ability to guide and protect me, so cripplingly un-self assured that I’d manically turn to Dr Google and mumsnet to see if spilling hot tea (on my thigh) might have somehow burned the baby (in my belly).
I didn’t expect to become ‘that person’. I didn’t expect to feel so ‘un-me’.
Heeding advice from one person one day, another person the next I felt lost and confused about how I should be doing pregnancy. Contrary to the doctor’s direction to carry on as normal, apparently it was no longer OK to be a vegetarian, go for a run, wear nail polish, drink tea, get a wax, get too hot, get too cold, dye my hair, cross my legs, put scented lotion on my body, sit in the sun or get at all anxious. Ha!
Ironically, the one thing that is (almost always) deemed good for you during pregnancy is sex. And that was the very last thing on earth I wanted to engage with.
For the past few years, my connection to my sexuality has been my rudder, my path back to what feels like my authentic, as well as professional, self. Feeling like I may never want to have sex again felt not only like I was losing a pillar of my identity, but also the foundation of my career. Shuddering at the thought of reverting back to being a project manager for the rest of my life, I wondered why on earth we didn’t just get a dog instead.
The proven impact of hormones, tiredness and nausea on one’s libido aside, I wonder if part of me was unconsciously subscribing to the ‘madonna- whore’ dichotomy, that somehow it’s not OK for women, particularly mothers, to be sexual. You just have to examine the expression ‘MILF’ to see how it is only a few ‘lucky’ mothers who are deemed to still be fuckable despite their choice to have a child.
Well, I (eventually) decided, sod that.
So whilst sex still felt off my (if not my partner’s) cards, I found my pleasure in indulging in ice cream, snuggles on the sofa, back massages, lie-ins, shared baths and having a viable excuse to get out of unwanted social obligations. I even threw caution to the wind and got.a.bloody.manicure. Not exactly orgasmic, but it felt good knowing that my one fingered salute to any further advice came with a perfectly polished shade of red.
I started meditating with renewed focus. I went to see my trusted acupuncturist and started munching an abundance of goji berries to somehow offset the salt and potatoes otherwise making up the majority of my diet. And low and behold I began to feel better.
I began to feel, period. Rather than get overwhelmed by the anxiety, to try and somehow make it go away, I turned towards it instead. I tentatively allowed myself to consider happy alternatives to the fearful thoughts keeping me up at night. To let go of the coping mechanisms protecting me against the unknown, and to smile at the thought of meeting my baby for the first time.
I tried to allow and be open to the ongoing emerging changes both inside and outside of me, with compassion and gratitude rather than resistance and shame. To hold my sore heavy boobs with love, to stroke my expanding belly, to massage my increasingly wobbly thighs. And to invest in a lifetime’s supply of coconut oil to frantically smear over stretch marks.
And, praise be, a recent erotic dream about me and Nick Cave getting down to it in a dingy East London stairwell heralded my groin waking up, and the dawn of a new trimester.
No longer having to force a turn-on through desperate scrolling of porny gifs, and with enough energy to get back to yoga, I mainly feel relief that my identity as a woman is coming back to me, and does not have to be entirely defined by the baby growing inside me.
I have had a taste of how easy it would be to settle into a life of Netflix and nappies, zoning out rather than in, paying the price of sexual pleasure for the gift of easy companionship and early nights. I empathise now more than ever with the effort it takes to survive in this sea of changing constants, and the difficulty of balancing our physical and erotic needs during pregnancy. And this is just the beginning!
Yet the past few months have taught me how important it is, for me, to keep turning my attention inwards, to discover what feels authentic and loving for me, no matter what society or the swarm of online mumsnetters may say.
For me, it’s important to consciously prioritise pleasure and connection- in all of its manifestations- in order to feel happy, grounded and whole.
So I am going to enjoy this second trimester sexual coming-home party for as long as possible, only too aware that come massive belly, swollen ankles, and sleep deprivation my erotic energy may easily take a nose-dive into piles of baby-grows and shitty nappies.
This will no doubt be a challenge. For me, for my partner, for our relationship. For all the joy and excitement about having our baby, we are both scared of becoming parents and losing ‘us’ as lovers, as much as I’ve been scared of losing ‘me’. Provided that we keep communicating, keep coming back to the why, and keep honouring the sanctity of our erotic connection as creatively as possible, I am confident that if occasionally lost, it need not be gone forever.
Who knows how we’ll manage. Much as my visions of a softly lit, orgasmic home-birth surrounded by candles may be as likely as me screaming for the full epidural and forceps, I’m under no illusion that preparing for a reality I have no prior experience in must come with a healthy margin of error.
The power of intention, rather than expectation, is key here. I intend to continue through my pregnancy journey and beyond into motherhood with love, sex, eroticism and joy. I intend to be that mother AND that whore. I intend to welcome the evolution of my identity and sexuality. And I intend to not bore my friends with too many conversations about the colour of my baby’s poo.
Perhaps pregnancy is really an invitation to start practising what I preach.
To let go. To notice, feel, enquire and nurture.
And to breathe. Breathe reeeeaaal good.
I’ve heard that really does help in labour.