I’m excited to share this essay from my good friend & fellow-gentle parent, Alanna. She is someone for whom I have deep respect & love. Having known each other for the last 5 years or so, we’ve seen each other through a lot of things, both joyful & sorrow-filled. She is also a book author, a teacher, & an associate pastor. And she wants you to have more sex! ;-)
Please enjoy, & leave comments & questions for Alanna below. If you want to see more posts from her, be sure to mention it! Maybe she will consider writing for us again.
I’m very new to the world of attachment parenting. I had never even heard the term until about 4 years ago following the birth of Alyssa’s first daughter. Though I don’t remember the exact conversation, I remember the mention of attachment parenting. I acted like I knew what she was talking about (something I do often because I’m afraid of looking ignorant, not being able to participate in conversation, and many other reasons), but I knew it was something that needed more research on my part. I had no kids of my own at the time, so I had plenty of time for research. :) And the more I delved into it, the more appealing it became to me.
By the time I married my wonderful husband, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, co-sleep, baby-wear, and not vaccinate (not necessarily something associated with AP). I’m very honest with him, and I made it known what I thought about these things. As I explained what I had learned, we decided together to attachment parent.
Now we also practice gentle parenting and are committed to being hands-on with our son, JD, who is 9 months old, as well as the children we hope will follow. We strive to respond always with love and sensitivity, and we’ve found that wearing our little guy not only has tons of benefits for him but is so convenient for us! We’re certainly not “there” yet, wherever “there” is, but we operate under the guide that when you know better, you do better.
We want to always know better.
Introductions aside, there was one thing that neither my husband nor I prepared for in becoming parents, and especially parents who decide to attachment parent: intimacy. A few months ago, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was having to sleep in our guest room with the baby because the bed my husband and I bought was no longer comfortable in the weird positions I found myself in while also sharing the bed with baby. Not enough information was gathered, assumptions were made, and before long, I received a concerned email about how I was choosing my son over my husband. Ouch. (I have since found a nice cushy foam pad to make our bed more comfortable, and hubby and I sleep together again, with baby.)
Many times when people hear you bed-share or co-sleep, the questions are not far behind:
What about sex?
How do you have sex if your baby is in the room?
How do you maintain intimacy with your husband and still pour out your soul (feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?) to your children?
Why is it even important? What does it even mean to maintain intimacy?
The last of the basic principles of AP is to strive for balance in personal and family life; that must include intimate time with your spouse, right?
Here’s a few things I’ve learned through my own experiences and from others:
1. Intimacy isn’t sex, but sex is intimate!
Yes, sex is important, don’t get me wrong. But as I see it, it is the high-point of intimacy in a marriage, while it is not intimacy in and of itself.
Intimacy is closeness, and that can be culminated in many ways. Sex, if you can, but often times either one or both of the would-be participants just isn’t up to it. Work, school, taking care of the house, and yes, even our kids, can sometimes leave us utterly exhausted and sex just doesn’t happen. That doesn’t mean we can’t be intimate with our spouse though!
Have a conversation with your husband, ask him to share something with you that most people don’t know about him. Share a meal together after the littles have gone to bed. Share dessert together for that matter. Find unique and special ways to cultivate intimacy between the two of you that doesn’t necessarily include sex. That way when those days come, and they will come, when you’re simply just too exhausted to think about sex, you’re still deepening the connection with your lovey.
Hubby and I love to cuddle on the couch. That’s it, just cuddle. It doesn’t take long, or it can take up your whole night. For us, it’s a simple way to reconnect and continue the intimacy that we’ve cultivated.
2. My relationship with my husband is number 1.
If you’ve adopted any of the principles of AP (breastfeeding is probably the most common), you understand that it can be, for lack of a better term, very demanding on your time. If you commit to being a hands-on parent, that means a lot of touch bonding with your little one from birth.
Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, little ones have bad days, just like we do.
Chances are when bad days strike, you’ll be carrying little one around the house. All. Day. Breastfeeding takes time, even for the seasoned veteran. Responding with love and respect and sensitivity means that often you must put your own bad attitude aside. As attachment parents, we give over and above the societal norms for parenting, and what’s left for our spouses? Exhaustion.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been blessed with an amazingly patient husband. When it’s been too long since we really connected, he doesn’t get cranky or angry. He’s loving, supportive, encouraging. Basically everything I’m not. I know when I don’t give 100% to my relationship with him, he’s not going to hold it against me. He won’t whine, he won’t hold in anger, and he won’t “pester” me for sex. But I don’t want to neglect my relationship with him. He came first, before JD, before any other kids that may come along. Without my husband, I wouldn’t have the babies, and he needs to know that he comes first, even if there are times when baby’s needs are pressing.
We do this through modern technology often. It’s easy, yet very meaningful to send my husband a text while he’s at work: “Hi, googlybear (my nickname for him), just wanted to let you know I love you and I’m thinking of you today.” It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to write a Shakespearean sonnet. Just be honest and loving. This might not seem like a lot, but it can go a long way in keeping lines of communication open with our spouses, maintaining our relationships with them, cultivating intimacy, and letting them know you care and they really do come first.
3. Get Creative!
This goes for everything. Show your love in creative ways.
Write it on the mirror after your shower so he’ll see it after his. Leave love notes in his underwear drawer. You get the drift. It’s these little creative ways of showing my appreciation and love for him that really do mean a lot. Newlyweds are really good at these cheesy, rom-com things, but for some reason, as life and reality sets in, we stop.
We think other things are more important, but as I said before, my relationship with my husband is number 1. When I do the little creative things, more balance enters my relationships. Even though I might not be devoting much more time to that relationship, it’s become something my mind dwells on frequently.
And what about sex?
Yeah, get creative with that too! If you bed-share or co-sleep in any form, who says you have to put off sex because baby’s in your room? Get creative.
My husband and I like to christen every room in our house when we move to a new place by having sex in every room. Been in your house for years? Try to think of places in your house you’ve never had sex, and go for it! To those people who question how sex happens if you co-sleep, I say: “If you think the only place I can have sex with my husband is in our bed, I feel sorry for your husband!”
We all know that with the busy-ness of life, our sex-lives with our spouses can be one of the first things to take a back seat. Finding new ways to reignite the passion brings balance back into our lives.
So there it is. Three things I’ve learned about sex, intimacy, creativity, and my relationship with my husband amidst being an attachment parent and completely giving my all to my son. It’s not easy, but if it was, why would we do it?
Another thing I’ve learned about being an attachment parent? The things most worth it in life come only with a lot of hard work and determination.