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GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO FAMILY

Take Time to Nurture Sex Appeal

May 07, 2000|VICKI LOVINE

Dear Vicki: I am the mother of a wonderful 5-month-old boy. My husband and I have a rather easy, conflict-free marriage. However, our intimate life has left something to be desired since I became a mother.

You're probably thinking he wants it, and I don't. In fact, it's the opposite. I am yearning for intimacy, but he says he sees me as a "nursing mother." I am breastfeeding our son, but I don't want to give up the physical aspect of our relationship for a year (which is how long I plan to breastfeed).

Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with this issue without feeling I've lost my appeal (if you know what I mean)?

--THIS BODY'S NOT MEANT

FOR JUST NURSING

Dear Body: Ouch! A "nursing mother," huh? Gosh, when I was only five months postpartum, I was still in the grips of a case of the baby blues that were so deep, they were nearly navy. I think your husband is awfully lucky you didn't throw a brick at him!

You're right, I usually hear more complaints from new mothers whose husbands want to resume their normal sex life when the mothers would rather sleep than even take a phone call telling them they've won the Publisher's Clearinghouse grand prize. Still, there are plenty of moms on your side of the bed. I don't pretend to be Sigmund Freud, but I do remember reading in Psych 101 about some kind of complex in which men can see women only as untouchable Madonnas or as "unlike a virgin" as any video by, well, Madonna. Sounds like your mate may be living out this syndrome.

Girlfriends who've confronted this marital minefield tell me there are two effective cures for it: time and shock therapy.

Time is on your side because sooner or later, sheer biological desire will force him to reconsider his fussiness. I sincerely believe that men are often as traumatized by becoming parents as we women are, but most of them recover. If they didn't, there would be a lot more only-children on this planet. Don't lose heart or take this personally. Your husband might just need a little extra time to get used to his new status as an official grown-up.

By shock therapy, I mean that many women swear they've overcome this temporary chill by acting so "nasty" in the bedroom that there's no way they could be confused with anybody's mommy. It may sound like a lot of extra work, but I promise it will be worth the effort. Pay more attention to your looks and attitude. Skip the muumuus and the sensible haircuts. Bring out the black lace and rent an X-rated video some night when you've pumped or nursed and are good to go for about two hours.

I don't know why this isn't taught in Lamaze class, but breastfeeding women are notorious for experiencing arousal and their let-down (milk) reflex at the same time. It can be kind of like making love in a carwash and is a big surprise to our partners.

Maybe you and Daddy have already discovered this interesting little biological party favor, and your husband is still in shock. If neither of these remedies helps, you will have a big decision to make. I have several friends who weaned their babies earlier than they'd intended to ease their husbands' confusion about whether certain body parts were a source of nutrition or their personal playthings.

I'm not taking a side here! I breastfed all four of my kids, and I know it's best for moms and babies. I would be missing your point entirely, however, if I didn't acknowledge that people have to make compromises to keep a marriage alive and satisfying.

Whatever you decide, try to avoid adding guilt to the equation. Being a mother can feel like a lifetime of near-misses and unachieved goals. Our job here is not to be perfect, but only good enough. I have no doubts that you'll be more than good enough as both wife and mother, so make sure you take care of yourself, too. Without you, the whole train will come screeching to a halt.

*

Vicki Iovine is the author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine and parenting correspondent for NBC's "Later Today." Write to her at Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, L.A., CA 90053; e-mail GrlfrndsVI@aol.com.

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