SEX: THE PREGNANT PAUSE
I remember we 'first-time-Mums' chortling at the local Mother's group about how readily women speak in explicit, blood curdling terms with women they hardly know once they squeeze a baby out into the world. Anything, from haemorrhoid size to number of stiches, even the occasional re-enactment of grunts can be exchanged blithely in supermarket cues. They are not places for the fainthearted.
Given this maternal impulse to recount details that make the splatter genre seem a mere elaboration on sprinkler systems, and the Sexpo a rather coy family outing, I was wondering why it took this mothers group a good four weeks to broach the question of 'resumption'. When the visiting family counsellor coaxed us to talk about 'time out' with our partners we were uncharacteristically discrete.
This was not merely a case of post-partum mush brain, it was more lack of recognition. 'Sex? What’s that again?' one woman jibed as the rest of us glanced down at the cranial diameters of our little treasures and gingerly crossed our legs.
Still I've heard rumours of couples rumpling the sheets during labour, which might seem premature to those of us still in shock over discovering our involuntary capacity in labour to roar like an elephant seal—an impulse that can cast something of a long shadow over one's inner-sex kitten.
Apart from reports warning that women can die from having intercourse too soon after birthing— and who can blame them—it seems terrain that only the brave are willing to even talk about. Who would have thought something so defining of our identity, such an incessant ploy in the manufacturing of our desire to consume, and so inherently jolly, could be so quickly forgotten?
To be perfectly frank, pregnancy can be quite an obstruction. Without the usual preliminaries of fleshy frottage you can feel a bit lost. Literally. 'Where are you', I recall bleating plaintively over the ever rising intermediary. 'Over here', my pleasure prince would cry from the far reaches of the mattress. If coo-eeing from either side of the bed doesn't seem like such engrossing foreplay, re-enacting 'Jack and Jill go up the hill' can be equally precarious.
As I beached on the bed (the elephant seal already making herself known) sex transferred to being, as they say, in my dreams. However, climactic scenes can be rudely interrupted by the real world and its barking dogs, revving engines and door slamming neighbours. And the unlikely people that lurk about in your unconscious as objects of desire! Of course when it comes to Australian women and their dreams Paul Keating needs no introduction (there ought to be anthology of women’s dreams about him, we could call it Keating Dreaming) But when Sam Newman made an appearance, perversely vacuuming my floor in nothing but an apron, I retrieved myself from that demonic nocturnal visitation to find my morning sickness was dramatically exacerbated.
If late pregnancy can make one forgetful, a newborn is a complete family planning kit. As if to kill off even the chance of a sibling who might displace them, babies are full of don't-even-think-about-it distractions. There‘s the nightly baptism of baby bodily fluids, the eruptions of posit trickling into your armpits, and as for their bottomly escapades, no high tech nappy can stem the tide. And there’s the quirky biological response in lactating women of leaking when aroused. Forget condoms, when there are babies around a seafaring vessel is more in order.
Then there’s babies uncontestable star billing as the object of desire. Who can look away from the mesmerising delights of newborn faces, their inspired character portraits of Hitchcock and Angry Anderson, and the ancient solemnity of their wrinkled hands. Then there’s the sheer unrelenting exhaustion, the kind that makes you forget who you just dialled and not know who to ask for, let alone what name to answer to.
Like all the other self-defining leisures and pleasures the vanquished post-partums once took for granted, sex can require a team of archaeologists to excavate it from the vestiges of your past life. Not a bad time to qualify the Cleo and Cosmo inspired mythologies that would have us all exercising our inalienable rights to multiple-extended orgasm, and get real about how sometimes the sublime raptures of sex take over our lives and sometimes they don’t. But there are still times when we are prodded, through the haze of exhaustion into a remembrance of things past. For a while my daughter put me in the awkward position of declaring ecstatically that every passing male was in fact her ‘DADA!!’ When she rapturously assigned a very dapper elderly man with this distinction, he gave me the glad-eye from under the rim of his fedora and said with a wink, ‘It’s a blessed shame when your memory fails’.