It can be a little surprising to come back to sex postpartum; your body feels completely different from before pregnancy, and the combination of physical strain and exhaustion from caring for a newborn. You and your partner may not immediately be sharing suggestive glances while heating up bottles or changing diapers. However, there are ways to ease yourselves back in, choosing a path toward postpartum sex that will help you co-parent and maintain that spark.
Definitely heed doctor advice when it comes to how soon postpartum to begin having sex, but also heed each other. Your birth experience could mean that you need a lot longer, or that you are ready as soon as you are cleared. Read each other's non-verbal cues as well as verbal ones; if your partner is distant and not expressing affection through a touch on the shoulder or a kiss, you may want to have a conversation about taking it slow. If you are ready though, give some of those signals! Your body is an amazing miracle that is able to give birth and recover, so start working toward sex when you feel ready.
Sometimes, couples miss sex before it is comfortable or advised to go "all the way." One important reminder for long-time couples is that sex isn't encompassed by one action; there are a million little steps on the way toward it, and many of those steps are pleasurable in themselves! Establish with your partner a "see where this goes" mentality, and experiment with ways to enjoy each other that do feel good, even if it is just some good old fashioned kissing for a little while. If possible, give yourselves the night off and have "date night" - most people find it hard to transition lightning-quick from caregiving duties as a parent to feeling like a lover. Give that transition time to happen.
Make Communication Sexy
One of the easiest ways to create distance between you and your partner is to not tell each other how you are feeling, postpartum especially. There is no shame in any of the things you may be feeling: "I'm not ready." "I want to sleep more than I want sex." "I want it now!" The problem arises when you each are guessing what the other person feels, rather than talking about it for yourselves. Try to let go of shame and fear for long enough to actually be vulnerable and share where you are; usually, a loving partner will be so relieved to hear what is going on with you that they will respond with some disclosure as well. Together, you two can overcome obstacles and make some - ahem - creative solutions for whatever you are feeling, even if part of the solution is calm, comforting patience with the process.
Once you are actually back in the saddle, do everything you can to make small reassurances along the way a normal part of your sexual experiences. Saying "does this feel good?" and "what can I do to bring you pleasure?" may sound cheesy when you aren't in the mood, but these questions normalize changing course, which sometimes needs to happen! Rather than silently guessing, ask what will feel good for your partner, and follow those paths.
Moving Forward Means Feeling Sexual Again
If your body has gone through the changes of pregnancy and birth, there is a completely reasonable chance that you are having a hard time recognizing yourself: your body has done amazing things, Momma! But that also leads women to occasionally speak negative self-talk to themselves, idealizing their look from pre-pregnancy rather than accepting and loving the way their body looks now. You can't avoid this process entirely, and as a partner, it's not wise to dismiss these feelings. However, the same things that have always made your partner feel cared for and sexy can be part of the path forward; a kiss on the neck, or a quick squeeze of the hand, or even a surprised and appreciative smile when she wears something that you like, all of these gestures remind a Momma that she is also your lover. Don't do these things as constant overtures of sex if that's not happening quite yet; the goal isn't pressure. Rather, do them as part of your continued bond of reinforcing care for each other.
Patience Yields Pleasure
Not rushing, communicating well, and taking the fleeting moments to remind each other of your bond can all contribute to a safe and exciting return to sex postpartum. Above all, patience seems to be an important trait, which can be frustrating if you are the partner who didn't give birth. However, empathy with your partner's hard work and exhaustion can be a great way to move forward, and consider this: the time you spend with the baby on your own is time that your partner is recharging and rebuilding. The more enthusiastically you parent, the less stressed and overwhelmed your lover will be. This bodes well for future sex, and for the relationship itself!