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Misc.

What Does it Feel like to be a Woman after Pregnancy?

It’s a total identity change. But it wasn’t until just in the last few days, more than six months after labor, that I realized how much. I never would have thought that, “what does it feel like to be a woman after pregnancy?” would be such an important question.

Just a heads up, this is going to be an intimate conversation and actually for the partners for new moms. New moms can certainly get some good stuff from it, but I want to write to the partners providing a roadmap of what the woman in your life may be going through.

Still Woman, but Different

So what does it feel like to be a woman after pregnancy and labor? You don’t feel much like one. At least, not in the same way you did before.

new mom with baby
New mom with baby

There is a certain reveling in your ability to carry a child and birth them. It doesn’t matter if that birth was natural, epidural, c-section, or any other form that exists. Birth is something that only women can do. It’s empowering and incredible.

But the Body

It’s changed. There’s no way around it. For 9 months the belly was expanding and the rest of the body was gaining weight as well. It’s a very sudden change in weight.

5 months postpartum stretch marks
5 months postpartum stretch marks

The recommended weight gain is 25 to 35 pounds. That’s a lot in 9 months. It is mentally hard to accept. And visually, you see yourself go from this sexy woman you saw yourself as to someone very round, new, full of stretch marks, and not sexy.

And after labor, the body doesn’t just bounce back to normal. You still look 6 months pregnant. Some of that goes away during healing, but most of the weight takes work to go away.

But who has time for that? You have a new baby in your life! You have to learn how to care for them, yourself, and the rest of your household. Expectations of bouncing back into your old body right away are unrealistic.

There are certainly women who can do it, but they are the exception, not the norm.

On top of body changes, if you’re breastfeeding, a part of you that was always sexual has a new purpose. Granted, it’s the reason why boobs exist in the first place. They don’t exist for our sexual pleasure, but until this point, that’s all we knew them as.

So there’s an adjustment in thinking about your breasts. It’s such a dramatic change that some women avoid breastfeeding because they can’t imagine their breasts being sexual and for baby.

Personal

Now that I’ve gone over general information about body and image changes, I’m going to talk about my personal experiences. What happened recently, the epiphany I had, and everything that led to it.

The Epiphany

I successfully put Sara to bed at 7:30 pm after an hour of struggling. Getting her to sleep and stay asleep has been a struggle lately. The night before she had woken up hourly.

who's at the door
Door opening

I went to bed at about 9 pm. At 12:30 am, the dog starts barking like mad because someone knocked on the door.

It was rather scary. I went to the door to ask who’s there since my door doesn’t have a peep whole to see on the other side.

The response I get is, “It’s me.” It’s my husband. Shocked, I open the door to let him in, and the dog quiets down instantly once she sees who it is.

That last bit probably sounded strange to you, so let me explain for those who haven’t read my About Me page. We are a military family. My husband has been away for 3 weeks and was supposed to be gone a bit longer.

Apparently, he has some training to do that can only be done on base so he was sent back to complete it. He was only home for a few days before leaving again.

Having my husband home suddenly was a bit of a shell shock. Especially since it happened in the middle of the night.

The dog barking woke up Sara so I had to soothe her back to sleep.

During that time, my husband went to bed. He still had to get up for work in the morning.

But I was feeling good and awake.

Like I Care and He Didn’t Seem to Mind

So I got frisky and woke my husband up to have sex. I knew he had work and needed the rest, but he’s been sleeping peacefully through the night while he’s been away from home. Something I have been a bit bitter about actually.

Soooo my thoughts about disturbing his sleep? Like I care. He didn’t seem to mind either.

It was during sex that this epiphany happened for me. And it was in the simple act of being bare chested before my husband.

I was hit with a sensation of feeling like a woman in a way that I’ve never been hit by it before. I didn’t just feel like a woman. I felt sensual, desirable. Things that I was really struggling to feel like since pregnancy and labor.

So why now? This certainly isn’t our first intimate moment since labor. We’ve had many. What makes this encounter special? I have some thoughts.

Not Feeling Sexy

It was hard to feel sexy during pregnancy, and that didn’t change after labor. I felt so full of love because we had our first child together. I was so happy to be the mother of his child and that he was the father of mine.

Once I was healed enough to walk on my own, we were feeling the strong desire to be intimate. But I was still healing, so we couldn’t act on it.

not feeling sexy
Woman hiding in a sheet

Even though I was full of love, I didn’t feel sexy. My belly was a flab of skin, and I was covered in stretch marks.

Culture has always taught me that my level of sexiness depends on my looks. My looks are nowhere near what Culture teaches is sexy.

I was frustrated that I felt this way. While I was in the Navy, I was in shape and looked good. By the time I got out, I wasn’t in as good of shape as previously, but I was still happy with my shape.

I couldn’t say that anymore. I took that frustration out on my husband. My thoughts constantly turned to the idea that it was his job to make me feel sexy, but that’s not true. And I knew it wasn’t.

No one can make us feel anything we don’t want to feel. No one can make us happy or feel sexy. We have to be happy ourselves first or feel sexy on our own. Another person can add or detract from that experience, but happiness and sexy have to come from within.

Expecting my husband to fill a need I needed to fill for myself was asking for failure. He could have told me I was drop dead gorgeous until he was blue in the face, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

He did tell me constantly that he thought I looked good and was sexy. But I didn’t believe the words, so it made no difference.

Strength

More accurately, lack there of. I haven’t made exercise a priority, so my strength has been slow in coming back. It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve made an effort to go out for walks and do some biomechanic exercises. And even then, I wasn’t as faithful to it as I wanted to be.

A couple months ago we visited a museum. I barely walked the whole thing. I had to rest a few times and was really struggling by the time we left. I walked that same museum last weekend. My feet were feeling sore by the time I left, but I felt good otherwise.

Before my husband left three weeks ago, I had to push him off me as soon as we were done being intimate. My stomach couldn’t handle the weight. The muscle strength wasn’t there. Tonight, I didn’t have to push him off. We were able to enjoy some post-intimacy cuddling before separating.

woman strength
A woman flexing her muscles

Internal Strength

Another kind of strength has grown in my husband’s absence. I’ve been taking care of Sara all by myself. All her diaper changes, night time feedings, learning to eat solids, starting elimination communication, and crawling have all been taken care of by me.

On one hand, it’s empowering to know I’ve done all that. On the other, the experience has been harrowing. I do not envy single moms in the least bit. They have the added worry of trying to figure out getting the bills paid as well. At least, that bit is taken care of for me.

Almost every day has been a struggle. On the nights where I get enough sleep, it’s not so bad. On the nights where I’m crying right with my baby due to lack of sleep, fighting off depression is a real battle.

While the battle is tough, I know I’m not alone and that gives me strength. Many women have gone before me in being stay at home spouses of deployed military members. And many will come after me.

The trick is I have to learn what I need to do to take care of myself so that I don’t lose my mind. Largely, that means I need to get out of the house more often. Something I am working on.

This last section may seem like a side track, but it ties in. I’ve been focusing purely on mommying and not losing my mind the last three weeks. Not on being a wife or a sexy being.

Ticklish

One thing I was completely unprepared for and did not know was a thing was how ticklish I was after pregnancy. I was literally too ticklish for sex sometimes. And the rest of the time it was a challange.

I searched the internet looking for an answer but couldn’t find one. I just saw a lot of posts from other women experiencing the same issue. People said it went away eventually. But no one new the cause.

Unrelated to pregnancy and postpartum, I did come across one site that said ticklishness during intimacy was linked to body image insecurities.

If would make sense for that to have been my problem. I was definitely experiencing body image insecurities. The tip given for increasing pressure while touching did help some.

But that ticklishness has gone away. We were intimate when my husband came home without me feeling like the tickle was more than the intimacy.

Clothes

The right clothes really help. I wore the same outfit, in varying colors, almost every day of my pregnancy. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on clothes (I hate shopping).

breastfeeding
Breastfeeding in a shirt I bought at the thrift store

I had those same clothes for a few months after labor. Those clothes didn’t make me feel sexy, just big. So when we went to the local thrift store to grab a quick item I suddenly spent 2 hours clothes shopping.

My husband was super great and didn’t mind that I turned a quick visit into something so long and took care of Sara. I needed to wear something else, something that made me feel good. I left with several items I liked. The button down shirts seemed to be the best for breastfeeding (all the shirts I bought were picked with breastfeeding in mind).

The only problem was that I didn’t have tank tops to wear under them. My rule has always been to wear something under button up shirts. The buttons can pop open or it can be a little too short when bending or maneuvering. An undershirt prevents anything from showing that I’m not comfortable with.

My new wardrobe lacked this essential item. I let it go on for months. While my husband was away, I finally went to Wal-Mart and bought a couple cheap (in price and make), breastfeeding tank tops.

They made the world of difference. I could comfortably wear my button up shirts. But an even better perk I wasn’t expecting, they made me feel sexy.

I love to wear them around the house and see myself in the mirror. I feel like I look good. It’s the first item of clothing I’ve had since before pregnancy that I feel good in. I feel like it brings out my curves in all the right ways

Tying it all together

All of this led into that epiphany moment: I hadn’t felt sexy for a long time; my focus was on being mom, not wife; I had been three weeks on my own; I finally had clothes that I felt good in and it was my husband’s first time seeing them; and of course, I was just happy to have him home.

The breasts were the center of this epiphany because they really have defined my body in momhood. As a breastfeeder, my breasts are totally devoted to being Mom in my husband’s absence.

After labor, I got the rest of my body back, but the boobs still belonged to Sara. For the three weeks that my husband wasn’t home, there was no alternate identity to them.

Then, suddenly, my husband was home and they were sexualized once more. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And it wasn’t just my breasts that were suddenly sexualized, they were just the epicenter, my whole body was.

Once again, I was a sexy wife, not just a stretch-marked Mom.

sexy woman
A woman who knows she’s sexy

How you can help

Remember how I said this post is more for the partners of new moms than the new moms themselves? I’ve laid it out for you how a new mom can feel and the insecurities she can have.

Some women will identify so well with what I’ve written that they’ll feel like they could have written it. Others will find what I wrote completely foreign. That’s the beauty of the human experience. There is no universal experience.

But if you’re partner shares in the struggles I’ve been dealing with, here are ways you can help.

Exercise

That thing that people always say to do but a lot of us never stick with. You don’t have to do some crazy work out or make goals about losing weight.

Just walk. That’s really all you need to do. Go for walks with your new mom. Help her feel encouraged to do it and enjoy the family time.

By itself, walking can do wonders for strengthening the body and releasing endorphins. No crazy exercises needed.

If she’s interested in doing more, that’s great! Encourage her and do it with her.

Food

I intentionally don’t write diet for this title. A new mom shouldn’t be trying to do an extreme diet, especially if she’s breastfeeding.

But things she can do are drink less soda, eat less dessert, put more veggies on her plate, and drink more water. Simple stuff that doesn’t require hours of research on the internet to do it right or that has controversy surrounding it.

Everyone can agree that these are habits that can be made to increase health.

Just as with exercise, making these changes with her can help her make them and feel good about them.

Getting Frisky

neck kissing
A couple being intimate through some neck kissing

This section may or may not apply to your situation. You’ll have to make that determination for yourself.

If you are the type who couldn’t keep your hands off your partner before labor (or pregnancy), but do not feel so sexual afterwards, you’re going to have to do some work.

First, I want to say it’s completely normal for this change to happen. Women’s bodies aren’t the only ones that go through changes. New dads have a drop in testosterone when they have kids. It’s a biological thing that happens

Less testosterone means less sex drive. If you are the type of guy I’m talking about, it’s normal. You’re not doing anything wrong. But that doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t need you to be frisky.

The message a new mom gets when her husband is hands on as much as possible pre-pregnancy to needing to be prodded to be hands on post-pregnancy is that she’s not sexy.

Her body went through changes and she’s feels like she is no longer desirable. She will be feeling this way no matter what you do or say to an extent, but you can accidentally exacerbate the problem.

If you’re not feeling up to having sex, that’s fine. New parents are often too exhausted to have sex. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be physical in other ways throughout the day.

Ideas include kissing her neck, holding hands, hugging, cuddling on the couch, some groping, verbal affirmations of sexiness, and whatever else works in your relationship.

Keep in mind that if you tell her she’s sexy but never make physical moves to tell her that she is, she’s going to listen to the body language more than the words.

When She Rejects You

It’s going to happen. She’s tired and has a baby physically all over constantly. Sometimes, space may be more important to her than intimacy.

She may also feel to gross to have sex. New moms often struggle to maintain a regular shower routine and brushing their teeth.

Try not to take it personally, but if it occurs regularly, talk about it. It’s hard on you to be rejected repeatedly and not good for sustained intimacy in a relationship.

Discuss It

All of the topics mentioned do not have a one size fits all answer. To find what works for you, you have to talk about it with each other. Find out your unique thoughts and feelings and plan accordingly.

With a baby around, it can be hard to have a serious conversation. We had one where I was holding Sara, and she was being adorable and making us laugh.

My husband kept apologizing because he was laughing while I was talking about something serious. I told him not to worry about it, we were multitasking. We were having a serious discussion at the same time that our kid was being ridiculously cute.

The two situations weren’t connected, just happening at the same time.

couple holding hands
A couple holding hands in solidarity

Thoughts

This post is super long, three times what I aim for in length usually. But it all needed to be said. I hope you enjoyed the discussion, and I would love to hear from you.

Did anything that I wrote connect with you? Were there things you experienced differently? If you’re a partner of a new mom, did it provide you with some insight into how she’s feeling?

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Louis
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Louis

I like the internet because I have the ability to learn daily. I would never experience how a woman feels after producing life but through your write-up, I can share the experience.

These are things a man will never experience. Makes me respect my mom, wife and everyone woman even more. Going through big and sometimes shocking changes to birth an offspring. I really appreciate your post for helping me respect women even more.

Thanks for sharing,

Kind regards

Paschal
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Paschal

My wife is relatively a new Mom too.  We are reading this together and she shares your feelings. But I think women are different in their own way, yes but they still have something in common. She has her challenges after her second birth. I am supporting her the way I could. But I can’t get her to take exercise seriously. Can you help me in that regard. 

she prefers taking care of children and watching TV. She would say ” to take care of these two boys is enough exercise,”  😂 

Rob S.
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Rob S.

I’m reading this now with my daughter because she just gave birth 10 days ago.It’s amazing the changes she’s gone through before, during, and after. There are so many adjustments when becoming a mother for the first time.Life is so different both physically and mentally for her and her husband as well. She obviously feels different than she did before and it takes time to adjust.There’s a lot to get things back to normal and she realizes that. The not sleeping at night is a big one along with her body getting back into shape.But there’s always a light at… Read more »

Funmi
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Funmi

First, I am definitely bookmarking this article and then I will share with some men. You captured this beautifully, It is usually a tough time for the woman, a lot of Changes, Body size & weight concerns, the Pressure to get the body back in shape a few weeks after birth, no thanks to Social Media (which is just a lie by the way), Hormones flying left right and center, Baby to care for regardless, Let’s not forget Sleep issues. In all of these, all she needs is Care, Understanding, NO Judgement, and sometimes SPACE (A Me time). Even 10… Read more »

Nate
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Nate

This is an excellent post, which I wish I would have had after the birth of our now three year old.  It was such a confusing time for both me and my wife. I had no clue how to approach her about anything, and her reactions seemed to change depending on the day.  For you new dads out there, definitely give this article a read. 

Fasuan
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Fasuan

It really felt awesome. Even though my first pregnancy was a little tough, I thought it was going to be easy, a part of me kept guard though and because of that I really pull through I lost my sexiness and I almost hated my body. My second pregnancy was awesome. From what I learnt from the first one it really came in handy, thanks to my mum and aunt. Being a woman is the best thing that can happen to me. The joy of motherhood is an experience to be enjoyed while it lasts. 

icb50
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icb50

Awesome post, the most thrilling post I have ever come across.

I really like the content of this post having read it over and over again. The truth is that since I am not a woman it will be an act of sheer hypocrisy and dishonesty to comment on things I have not experienced as a woman. This is purely the woman thing, I appreciate women a lot for their strength and courage in handling difficult times.. Women are great.

Marc Russell
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Marc Russell

Being the husband and father of 4 and soon to be a 5th it’s been an interesting read to actually hear all of the inner thoughts.  Some of those we have faced spot on and others it feels like we skipped or weren’t expressed fully for me to pick up on it.  Having kids changes you, some things I’ve noticed is you sleep lighter (being used to being woken up as kids come crawling into bed), you have to be more flexible having sex, some times when it seems perfect leading up to it can change in an instant, or… Read more »

Nancy
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Nancy

What a great article!  Even though it’s been a long time since I was where you are now, I can still remember the frustrations that come with being a new mom.  It would have been wonderful to have your experiences to guide me.  It would have been helpful to share with my husband, too.   I especially enjoyed your discussion of “not feeling sexy.”  When you’ve spent nine months of pregnancy thinking of nothing but your new baby, what a shock it is to take an honest look at the post-baby body you’re living in!  I would have felt much better… Read more »

JJ
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JJ

Nicole, this is a frank and heartfelt discussion about life after pregnancy. There are issues that none of us understand in the moment, not the new mom, not the father, not the relatives, not the friends. This can be an overwhelming time for everyone involved and every case is unique. My girls are not babies anymore but I can relate. I would just encourage all new moms, that this stage might feel difficult, but IT WILL PASS as you come to understand the new responsibilities, as you begin to cope with lack of privacy yet survive, and as it sinks… Read more »

cpanharun
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cpanharun

Hi Nicole Stiles, Thank you very much for sharing with us such an important blog. If I did not read this blog I cannot find the details about “what does it feel like to be a woman after pregnancy?” When a girl first gets pregnant, the matter is very dreamy. Imagine different speculations with the unborn child. Is the son of a son or a girl? How big is the baby in the womb? Is his hair sprouts? Now what can open eyes? How much else! During the pregnancy, the daily life of the mother also became somewhat different for… Read more »

affiliate_ghost
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affiliate_ghost

hello New Mum, First of congratulation. the post was long but it was nice to hear what really goes through the mind of a new mom and I really have to commend your strength.

I sure have learnt a lot and intend to bookmark this post for when i become a new dad (hopefully soon) so i can understand my partner better. 

Thanks for an amazing post. it was worth the length. 

Daniella
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Daniella

Hi Nicole, Awesome article, I loved it! I was pregnant twice, and I felt very sexy the first months, but at the end of my pregnancy, I felt heavy and tired:) I remember one of my girlfriends saying that my body will change after the birth and I was angry at her when she said that to me. I couldn’t accept this. I’ve gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, but I lost more than I gained. Before getting pregnant, I was 67 kilo, and after my pregnancy, I was 59 kilo. I was even much more pretty than… Read more »

abdft17
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abdft17

Hi Nicole, very interesting article to be discussing. No one knows how does it feel to be a woman after giving birth except a person who has been through this experience before. Well, I have a wife who has given birth for the very first child of ours. Only a few days later not even one week I have noticed that she has changed a lot since then. I felt her like someone else, and what makes the situation worse is her attitude and her behaviour toward me. In short, we as men we need to understand women more especially… Read more »

Ty
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Ty

This was an interesting read in my opinion, I couldn’t imagine the feelings of being a woman during one of the most important times in life, having a baby and the after affects. 

I liked reading your personal experiences with your ordeals, it made the entirety of the post more personal and easier to connect to. 

Ciara
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Ciara

I have a very close friend that is about to give birth so this article was so helpful for me to understand what she will be going through.

She doesn’t feel maternal yet, and is worried she won’t even after she gives birth but after reading this I am sure she will. It is purely magical what our bodies are capable of doing.

What is your favorite thing about being a mother?

Thank you so much for writing this article,

Ciara

Babsie Wagner
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Babsie Wagner

Oh I love that you actually wrote this for my daughter’s husband, lol.  I think it’s really important because he does need to understand certain things.  One thing I also love is that you are a military family (thank your husband for his service), and my daughter’s husband is also in the military (Navy).  I know they will relate to your site, and I just wanted to thank you for putting this together.

Nuttanee
Guest
Nuttanee

Shout out to all the moms. Us women have to go through too much in many stages of our lives but pregnancy puts a lot of stress in our bodies. Thank you for sharing this information where most people do not want to share it publicly. There is this comedian, Ali Wong, she did a couple of stand ups on Netflix only while she was pregnant. She is hilarious but she spoke the truth about womanhood in a funny way, I am sure that we are all can relate to that :)Do not let the culture influence you on how… Read more »

Dina Martin
Guest

Great article! It’s been such a long time since I was a new mom but I still remember how hard it was for awhile. I only have one child so have no idea what it’s like to have a second one. You hear that the second or third child gets easier. It was actually hard most of the time. I was a single mom for a time and if it wasn’t for my parents helping me while I worked I don’t know what I would’ve done. This article is well written and informative. I think new dads will also get… Read more »

Alblue
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Alblue

Hello Nicole, thank you for writing this. My friend is a relatively new mom and now I can understand better about her struggle to become new mom. There is an added pressure since her husband must travel a lot as required by his work, and she is actually a career woman. Sometimes she still need to discuss about work with his colleague by emails and phones while taking care of her baby. She is considering to hire a baby care assistant. Do you have a little insight about pros/cons hiring an assistant? Thank you very much for your answer.