Sunday 22 April 2018

Dear Mary: We have a beautiful daughter but I seem to have 'lost' my loving wife

Picture posed
Picture posed

Mary O’Conor

My wife has changed so much since having our first baby. Our baby has brought such immense joy into our lives and she is everything we've ever wanted so we are the proudest, most obsessed parents.

Baby is only four months old but I'm starting to get worried about my relationship with my wife. Before she became pregnant we had a great sex life. The pregnancy was quite difficult for her and she really suffered in the last two months. She ended up having an episiotomy and I witnessed her in such pain because of this for about six weeks. She then seemed to suffer from some psychological problems.

Even after she had healed if I as much as touched her on the shoulder she would wince and say she just didn't like to be touched after having the baby.

She was so much less affectionate, no kissing, cuddling and, of course, no sex. She spent all her time with the baby and she just didn't care about anything else. Now it's not the sex life that I'm most upset about as she has reassured me it will happen when she is ready and she said recently it will be soon - it's her self-confidence. She has absolutely none. During pregnancy she gained some weight, especially around her face and stomach. I still think she is beautiful and I love her so much but nothing I can say changes how she feels.

She thinks she is beyond disgusting and can hardly look at herself in the mirror. She dresses like she is trying to cover up and says that she hates how fat she is. Her hair has been falling out in clumps and she is beyond upset about this.

Nothing I say helps, we go for walks, go out for coffee and have lots of time together and with the baby but it's like she's embarrassed to go out in public because of how she looks.

How do I help her out of this post-pregnancy slump? I want our intimacy back, I want my confident carefree wife back. But I'm worried she will never be the same.

Mary replies: The first baby is such a huge time of change for a couple, particularly nowadays as people often wait until they are in their thirties to have a family and have by then become used to a certain lifestyle without any responsibilities. Then with the arrival of a much anticipated baby everything changes utterly and nothing will ever be the same again. This little baby is totally dependent on its parents for survival and that is pretty daunting in itself. Even something as simple as a visit to the shops becomes a major expedition what with trying to calculate sleep times, feed times, nappy changes, clothing, transport and so on.

Your wife had a pretty traumatic time during, and after, the birth, and many emotions have been stirred up for her.

Also like a lot of new mums she is unhappy with her body shape and on top of all that her hair has been falling out.By now she will have visited her doctor and been told that it is all right for her to resume sexual activity. Try to bear in mind that everything that has happened to her, directly or indirectly since the birth of your baby has been the result of a sexual act whereby she got pregnant. So her natural instinct is to stay away from anything that might result in her getting pregnant again, no matter how much she loves you.

This will change as time goes by - indeed she has indicated to you that fairly soon she will be ready to get back to having sex - and I know from the very thoughtfulness of your letter to me that you will take things slowly and gently with her when you begin again being sexual together. During pregnancy a woman's estrogen levels are raised resulting often in thicker hair. After giving birth the estrogen levels go way down resulting in hair loss particularly in the first five months. This can indeed be very distressing for the new mother along with everything else she has to cope with. However, nature takes care of things and certainly by the time the baby is one-year-old her hair should be back to normal.

Regarding the weight gain, this is difficult for girls who may have a tendency anyway to put on the pounds and they look with envy at people in the public eye, like Kate Middleton, who seem to effortlessly shed all the post-baby weight within weeks. They forget that behind the scenes there are personal trainers and dieticians helping to make this magic happen. Of course, exercises need to be done but this is difficult for young mothers to do - particularly at the beginning. You should investigate with your district nurse regarding mother and baby groups where your wife could chat to other mothers in a similar situation.

Meetup.com is another resource to find mother and baby groups. Your love for your wife is so apparent that I feel sure you will together work through all these difficulties.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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