In a blog post all the way back in 2006 titled “Egg Sex” Susie Bright writes about the sexual side of pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period. If you don’t recognize Susie Bright, you might be interested to know that she writes erotica, has a weekly audio-show, and co-founded the brilliant and irreverent On Our Backs Magazine.
If the mother doesn’t receive tenderness and passion during her nine months, the bitterness she develops lasts well beyond childbirth— her kids will knew all about it. Perhaps I could encourage childbirth professionals to advocate good sex during pregnancy as a key to psychologically healthy children.
In this blog post, she talks about many things we just don’t talk about often enough in relation to pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. While doing so, she queers our view of pregnancy and birth – deliciously so.
Here, she talks about the sexual side of the bodily changes that accompany pregnancy:
I began to wonder if anyone knew what went on in women’s sexual lives during pregnancy. The most definitive statement the books managed was: Sometimes she’s hot, sometimes she’s not. This wouldn’t be the first time that conventional medicine had nothing to contribute to an understanding of female sexuality.
Meanwhile, my clit started to grow.
Everyone knows that a pregnant woman’s breasts swell in accompaniment to her belly, but why had no one told me that my genitals would also grow? My vulva engorged with blood; my labia grew fatter; my clit pushed slightly out of its hood. I was reading absolutely everything on the subject of pregnant sex by this point and, by picking out the fragments of pertinent information, I learned I was not peculiar in this regard.
…I was being physically and psychologically dominated by the life growing inside me, and I wanted both to escape and to submit. I was unusually sensual and amorous, and yet, twenty weeks into pregnancy, I found I could not successfully masturbate the way I had been doing since I was a kid. I was stunned and a little panicky. My engorged clitoris was different under my fingers; too sensitive to touch my usual way. What other way was there?
That’s when it hit me. The experts all say that it is a mystery why some women get more horny when they’re pregnant while others lose interest.
I’ll tell you something— no one loses interest. What happens is that your normal sexual patterns don’t work the same way anymore. Unless you and your lover make the transition to new ways of getting excited and reaching orgasm, you are going to be very depressed about sex and start avoiding it all together.
Bright also exposes perineal massage for what it really is, what most people wouldn’t talk about it “polite company” let alone in a childbirth education class:
Sex is also a crucial way to prepare for childbirth. Start with the premise that birth is the biggest sex act you will ever take part in, and everything will flow from that. If you are smart and take childbirth preparation classes, you may even get a teacher who knows something about the sexual side of birth.
My teacher was subtle. She gave us an almost unreadable handout in the fourth month, an instruction sheet for an exercise called “perineal massage.” I thought of my perineum, the little inch of skin running between my vagina and my anus. How could rubbing something the size of a birthday candle help me in labor?
The flyer (which opened, of course, with the obligatory spiel: “Mommy and Daddy love each other very much…”) said that Daddy should massage and finger the vaginal opening until he could put more and more of his fingers inside, relaxing the vaginal muscles through such caresses until he might be able to press a small orange or even his whole hand into Mommy’s opening.
His whole hand! I called up one of my friends who has the breadth of experience as both a mother of two and a retired porn star. “Is ‘perineal massage’ really fist fucking?” I asked her.
“Of course,” she said, laughing, “and it really helps.”
She also illuminates how heterocentrism affects the care and information we provide:
Perineal massage is not discussed in every hospital or prenatal setting. Most couples and their care providers are steeped in the dominance of penis-vagina intercourse. It requires a different sort of orientation to devote attention to the possibilities of fingers and hands. But with a little encouragement and a flyer with pictures and plain English, I think more parents would enjoy the intense relaxation and vulnerability that comes with fisting, or “oranging,” if you prefer.
In the middle of talking about using her vibrator on her clit to help alleviate contractions (just like masturbation helps period cramps), she even has time to comment on underrepresented pregnant women:
There was a traffic jam of births at the city hospitals the week I had my daughter. It was about nine months after the big earthquake hit San Francisco, and apparently staying home had been a fertile pastime during that otherwise sobering period.
The other women who had children the day and night I was in the hospital did not appear to have husbands at their sides. It was easy for me to imagine their stories: they were single; they were lesbian; they had husbands who didn’t want to see them that way; they had husbands who had left them earlier in their pregnancies; they had husbands in the service and far away.
I didn’t read a single parenting book that reflected any of these lives, although they are as commonplace as conception itself. The fractured fairy tale (“Mommy and Daddy love each other very much”) is only resonant in the sense that parents need to be loved and nurtured, because they are about to give of themselves in a way that they never dreamed possible before.
Bright continues on to address sex after pregnancy, breastfeeding, the sexual side of lactation, sexual fantasies, etc. Go read the whole thing here.