Sex makes babies. I mean, that’s obvious. But if that were the singular purpose of sex, we wouldn’t have so thoroughly inquired into the “accessories” of sex, like scent, clothing, toys, and musical inspiration. Sex is, ultimately, a sensory experience and, therefore, a means of self-expression, communication, and enjoyment, energizing us enough to continue through life. Without sex, our species would cease to evolve, let alone exist, not only for the propagation of the species but because of the level of self-awareness sex demands. Self-examination is not something that everyone engages with when it comes to sex. But examining our feelings about it can shed light on our individual experience of self-worth, self-trust, and self-gratification. Notice how many times I said, “self?”
Pregnant people have access to different sensations and bodily experiences, which amounts to an enhanced state of sensuality. The high priority our culture places on standardized experience and appearance can wreak havoc on this unique experience for the pregnant person, their partner, and the overall relationship. How we feel about ourselves — physically or otherwise — determines the level of intimacy we can experience. Not the amount of sex or babies we’re able to have but the level of intimacy and deep connection we have.
Maybe you feel swollen and slow, heavy and irritated. But what about the sensation of taking a shower, the scent of your favorite flower by your bed at night, or the taste of your morning tea? Your sensual body is not gone from you, and the more you connect to your body again and again and again, through all of the changes, the more you connect to your power, to your baby, and the pleasure of being in a healthy and capable body.
As birthing bodies, we’re supposed to swell, stretch, leak, and tear. It’s actually a good sign! Being in a birthing body means having access to everything that makes life so precious — it’s temporary, changes whether you want it to or not, and is literally life-giving. You are a resource for nourishment and sustenance for your child, and the more you discipline yourself (let’s be serious, it takes effort to break free of the belief that we “aren’t sexy enough”) to be reverent of your own body, the more you will be revered.
Sensuality is not only intercourse. It is your sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. When it comes to the body, to feel the good, you also have to be willing to feel the not-so-good. Pain is part of having a body that feels pleasure, so if you fixate on what doesn’t feel good — ugh, my ankles, ugh, my thighs, ugh, my back, ugh, my hemorrhoids — you inadvertently numb yourself to the good things! Oh, my nipples! Oh, my shoulders! Oh, my…. there are definitely still good things. You simply must permit yourself to ask for what you want.
Pregnancy is the perfect time to have that “never-the-right-time” conversation with your lover: “You know, it doesn’t feel very good when you touch me like that, but it feels really good when you do this.” “I need you to be still and hold me here.” “I want you to speak softly in my ear.” This clarity is only possible when you’re willing to engage with your experience of your senses more than your appearance. THIS is the secret.
Sense your body, feel your feelings, notice your thoughts responding to your emotions, and express yourself. The way to freedom is through expressing your needs and desires, and if we feel shame — body shame, shame for wanting or needing something we’re not getting, we foster resentment.
Resentment is like a wall that blocks us from our own body. If you can’t feel your body, the possibility of pleasure in your partnership, pregnancy, and labor will elude you. Embrace the curve of your belly as proof of your adaptability and resilience. Relish the way it feels to rub your shea butter into your skin. Express verbally how it feels when your child moves inside of you. That willingness to be in your sensual body is sexy.
You don’t have to love the skin you’re in to get pregnant, but when it comes to getting your baby out, feeling good in your body goes a long way toward an easier labor, not to mention your mental and emotional recovery.
The fact is that what gets the baby in gets the baby out — oxytocin. A revved-up engine gets you to the end of the road faster than a nervous one. And while there’s nothing sexy about a laboring body, it’s ultimately the power under the hood that gets you where you want to go. How you feel about yourself is the fuel to keep things moving smoothly.
Your willingness to be in the full experience of your senses — the smells, sights, sensations, flavors, and sounds of birth, relates us to our sexuality, to the pleasure of being in a body. During labor, this sensitivity becomes extremely helpful in easing the process. By staying present, you generate enough momentum and power to ride the waves of each contraction to push your baby into their first breath.