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 and clothing and toys and musical inspiration. Sex is, ultimately, a sensory experience and, therefore, a means of self-expression, of communication, and enjoyment, which keeps us energized enough to keep going 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 by examining our personal 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 an entirely different set of 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 not only for the pregnant person but 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, of deep connection we have.
Maybe you feel swollen and slow, heavy and irritated. But what about the sensation of taking a shower, or 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. The fact is, as birthing bodies, we’re supposed to swell and stretch and leak and tear. It’s actually a good sign! To be in a birthing body means having access to all that makes life so precious — it’s temporary, it changes whether you want it to or not, and it’s 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 let yourself 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 kind of 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 the expression of 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, your pregnancy, and your 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. The way you feel about yourself is the fuel you need 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 are generating enough momentum and power to ride the waves of each contraction to push your baby into their first breath.