Q: Since my baby was born six months ago, I've found it hard to go from mommy to wife and lover. I want my old sex life back, but how do I switch gears at the end of a busy day?
A: I think the problem you describe is much more universal than the cliche of the new mom who wants nothing to do with sex, while the new dad can't get enough of it. For most new parents -- women and men -- a baby is a powerful obsession, and falling in love with that baby is a lot like falling in love with a grown-up (minus the romance, of course). You have trouble thinking or talking about anything else. So it makes sense that this new love would have an impact on your marriage and your sex life, to say nothing of the fact that you're both just plain pooped much of the time. But you won't always have a newborn, and you won't always be in the throes of new love with your child. Avodah Offit, M.D., a New York-based psychiatrist and sex therapist, mother of two and grandmother of five, thinks the key to getting through this period is to not worry so much about the sex and focus instead on another important ingredient of a good physical relationship. "Increase the displays of affection between you -- touch, hold hands -- and don't think about whether it will or won't lead to sex. Affection is the glue that holds couples together," she says.
As for switching gears, few women can go directly from whispering in their baby's ear to whispering in their husband's. Give yourself time to make the transition: Sit together on the couch with a glass of wine or cup of tea after your baby has gone to sleep -- even if it's only for 10 minutes -- and make it a rule not to talk about your baby, or anything baby-related, for the entire time. And whether you feel like acting on it or not, don't forget to let your husband know you still think he's just as handsome as ever. "Even if you're not capable of being turned on at the moment, you can intellectually know he's attractive, so tell him. Then there isn't a big gap between you, and he's reassured," says Dr. Offit. Besides, this little bit of effort can work the same way it does when you force yourself to smile at someone at a party you thought you were too tired to attend: The person smiles back, you introduce yourself and start to talk, and a new mood takes over. Soon you really do feel the way you'd been wishing you felt.
Contributing editor Trisha Thompson is a former editor-in-chief of BabyTalk magazine.