Love/Her: Reclaiming Myself as a Sexual Mother

“One of the most radical things you could ever do is to decide to really and truly get to know yourself“ Cleo Wade

I recently watched the show, Sex/Life, for work research purposes of course. Wink. To be clear, i had quite a bit of thoughts about this show, and it left me feeling disappointed. Not in the heavy sex scenes (they were fun), but rather how yet again another show could have done so much better in their narrative on sexual mothers. All general critique of the show aside, i did feel compelled to share some thoughts on the depiction of women who are mothers on their journey to reclaiming their sexual self.

Let me back up and bit and share a summary, in case you don’t know the premise of the show. I don’t think this will create any spoilers as the show is more about the steamy eye candy than deep content. Billie is a mother of two young children and in a seemingly happy marriage to her type A successful husband. She left her career while still doing her PhD in Psychology, in order to be home with the kids. Before meeting her husband, she had a wild and invigorating relationship with a man. He came from an insecure attachment due to his absentee father (of course) and they had wild sex. Even though she was literally studying sexuality at school, she always presented as surprised and hesitant to do things. She was more ‘vanilla’ to his adventurous offerings in bed.

Fast forward 8 years and she is settling into her new life. She starts to have doubts and regret about the path her life has taken her on. She loves her family and yet she misses the good sex since she settled down and became a bored housewife. Her career-focused husband presents as involved and yet he seems sexually disinterested. Until one day when her sexual fantasies, both real and imagined, came flooding back. The extent of the show is all about Billie re-imagining her old relationship with her former lover and wondering if she can have it all. She is faced with this dilemma: try to accept life with her husband and children, or leave her family to pursue unfinished business and sexual escapades with the lover who left her when it got too hard for him.

Over and over again, Billie is left in this quandary of wanting more sexual pleasure and feeling guilty for it. She sees herself as a “postpartum exhausted mother of 2 version of a midlife crisis.”

This latest series again reminds us that culture shows that women’s primary role is to be caregivers and helpers, not care receivers or pleasure recipients. If we are, it is only in our rebellious and care-free youth. We are called selfish and judged harshly for it.

We need to unlink sex, love and gender to only be valid during the Maiden phase of our life. In fact, i think i am a more sexually confident woman now because i am older and have a sense of the magic my body can do.

Enter the “Initiated Woman”

I kind of like that the show included liberated and confident women, mainly seen in Billie’s best friend, who also happens to be a professor of psychology. Her character even launches a new book called The Third Way, which i can’t help but assume the creator of the show slipped in there for us viewers to ponder. That ‘third way’ is to not choose to be single and work-focused, or married with children and bored, but rather having it all and being satisfied.

Women typically are taught that our sexual desires and fantasies are not a priority, both by our partners and society at large. So we engage in code switching to make us more marriage-worthy. This allows us to be less than in order to fit in and get something out of this so-called life. We are taught that the Maiden archetype is more prestigious than the Whore and when we become Mothers, that former part of our life should become non-existent.

Fuck that.

Having children does not mean the end of our sexual identity. In fact, for a lot of us, sex is what is intrinsically tied to having babies in the first place. While not all babies are conceived this way, there is still that connection that sex leads to becoming a mother and yet we are shamed to believe that motherhood should not also be sexy. The early postpartum stage of life, though, is a season of sacrifice. It is a time to pause and learn more about our new identity as parents, as mothers. Our bodies are healing from birth, and our time is now spent learning how to keep this new child alive. Our bodies are not so apart from our babies and it’s hard to think of much else.

Plus new mothers are exhausted, overwhelmed and our hormones are literally trying to do us a favour by not getting pregnant again. I remember being so touched out by my babies when they were tiny. All i wanted was a bath to reclaim my body for myself, not to want to cuddle with my partner and give more of me out. And yet, i learned that this was the transition process to start to integrate this new identity into my full life. This is what Matresence is at its core – the metamorphosis process of becoming something new.

Can you have it all?

In Sex/Life, Billie asks herself “is it possible that the person who gives you love and safety can also give you a rush and excitement?” My answer is YES it’s possible, but not magically and without the effort of work. I know it is because that’s what I’ve established over years of partnership myself. It took vulnerability too – to first acknowledge to myself what i wanted and then to speak about this needs out loud.

Betty Friedan is known to say that we can have it all but not at the same time. So when we practice acceptance of this truth, it brings freedom from pressure. We live so many different lives in one lifetime. A lot of things give us butterflies – what that is changes over time. I am not the same vania i was at 20, or 30. I’m not supposed to be. So of course, what i find important and how I practice pleasure changes.

I have seen this past year that i have died several little deaths of myself over the years. This past year it was just more noticed, evident and celebrated even. I am stepping into my own one true Self. I’m excited about this stage in my journey. I am starting to hear that voice of Self. My goal has become to return to that one true Self. She has always been there, hiding in the shadows under duty, performance and people pleasing.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, the present and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Anais Nin

So what do we do about it?

One thing to start doing, if squashing the patriarchy feels a bit too big and overwhelming, is to Fantasize. Literally take time to remember your core sexual fantasies. I have shared some ways to do this in past articles HERE and HERE. Now it’s about sharing them with your partner or lovers. Speak your truth. Share your needs. Open up to the vulnerability about having fantasies.

I read recently about a key way to heal your inner people pleaser is learning to be loving instead of nice. I adore this reclamation. It so aligns with what is important to me. I don’t think our partners realize how overwhelmed, burned out, and touched out we are. We are screaming it from the tops of mountains, and it falls on deaf ears. Why? Because this system is working for those in power as is, they don’t want to hear that change is necessary. That’s why therapy has been so taboo, and that couple counselling specifically is scary for so many couples – the truth is hard to ignore once it becomes heard. So don’t be nice – be clear with your needs and love yourself. Love your partner when you have capacity and want to, versus playing that good wife role.

Another way to honour this part of you is to find ways to be feminine and have pleasure. You don’t have to identify as a woman to be feminine, but rather play with what this energy feels like. It also is not as binary as we have been taught. It’s time to femininize sex. We need to move from the old paradigm of heternormative sex as penis in vagina penetration and male orgasm as the end result. We need to slow down and have warm juicy sex. Let me again give credit to Billie for sharing that nugget of info – “coital alignment technique.” It sounds so technical, and yet it’s so helpful to get partners in sync versus racing to get to the end.

Do a Desire Discrepancy check-in – marriages fall into a rut over time and especially when we are in the throws of a new identity. This global pandemic has definitely derailed desire and intimacy. Maybe your relationship with your partner was already stale. Maybe you felt pressure (internal or by others) to redefine your relationship now that you are parents. Your identity as polyamorous, for instance might need an updated review.

These archetypes of Woman – Maiden, Virgin, Mother, Whore, Crone – are just that: stories and myths that we continue to aspire to. We do not need to have children to be born from us and raise to be in the Mother phase of our life. This time period is when we are nourishing ourselves and our community, when we are in our full self, and when we have come into our bodies. For some women, this stage is mired in trauma, shame and sadness as their journey to become mothers with children of their own was not conceived. Does this make them not members of this age-old archetype?

This time period is when we are meant to be in our ‘full bloom’ of life, when we claim our inner power and maturity. This is when we start to have things fall into place. And yet it is a messy transition, and one that is typically done alone in the shadows. This is a discredit to this seemingly powerful and wonderful reclamation.

The Woman in the Shadowy Mirror

So, we need to see our Self as human: A woman with hope, dreams and desires too. Here are some ways to do this:

Learn more about how your physical body is adjusting now that you in this Mother Stage If you have had a baby, this is especially important. It’s no surprise that new moms struggle with body image issues, when our world still values skinny white women in their Maiden stage of life. So where do the rest of us fit in? Also, take some time to understand hormones and that “new mom brain.” It is minimized and yet i think it’s something to be proud of as that brain is prioritizing things to keep the baby alive. Similarly, this early postpartum time is a chance to focus on Matresence and adjusting to the early stage of parenthood. We may already know how to be a couple but we do not know yet how do be a couple with children in tow.

Intimacy does not have to be just intercourse – it can be cuddles, slow dinners, hand holding, and that 12 second hug. It can be showers that start the day with sexy texts and love notes. Dr. Tracy Dalgleish shares some helpful tips as well – when we are feeling more like roommates who are co-parents, it’s hard to get back to feeling like lovers. It can be wearing something that helps you feel like a goddess, even if you are the only one who knows. As we know that women-identified folx with vaginas and estrogen take 30-40 minutes to be aroused, that means we sometimes have to start the process during the day. It’s not just 40 minutes of foreplay at once. Because who are we kidding, we don’t have time to wait that long these days! Our bodies are designed to prepare us. Thank the Goddess for that. This is why these smaller acts are not just teasing, but rather tantalizing and getting us turned on for later.

If you are breastfeeding/chest feeding, that can feel very non-sexy. So do simple things like change the room and scenery you are intimate in. Throw some pillows off the bed or light a candle and play a sexy song mix. Get rid of baby things for the time being – set your scene up for success. I know it feels counter-spontaneous but it helps to schedule time to do it so it’s not when your breasts are full or you just fed the baby. This helps your brain hold space for the adult part of you that wants connection.

Speaking of your body, both your healing process due to birth or previous trauma and pain can be a barrier to sex now. Your body has changed (both due to having a baby and this last year of living in a pandemic!). So make sure you take time to get support and heal it. This will have a great healing effect on your body image and self-worth. Happy as a Mother featured a great podcast recently where a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist came on to discuss this at length. Check it out here to learn more!

I know that some of what happens is in our head so we also need to address our expectations, narrative timelines, and assumptions. Maybe you have a stuck memory of walking in on your own parents when you were a kid. That image has impacted your own interpretation as a sexual parent. Or maybe it’s hard to switch gears so easily over the course of one day. It’s okay if the first few times ‘fail’ or are messy. It helps to have a self-compassionate reframe instead of being hard on yourself – maybe shift that judgemental voice of “what’s wrong with me, i used to enjoy sex” to “i know this is a journey and i will get there again.” Honour the human in you and your partner. Sex is already a vulnerable and intimate act so it helps to acknowledge the elephant in the room even when it’s in our mind.

Also, even deeper than this is if postpartum mood challenges and disorders (PMAD) are getting in the way of your desire for sexual intimacy. So, it’s helpful to learn about the signs of PMAD as there are links to low arousal and postpartum depression.

This past year has been so hard for couples and relationships in general. We may have had sufficient quantity time due to sheltering at home, but that did not necessarily increase quality time. As social creatures, we need more connection than mere physical proximity. Having a healthy relationship takes work. Luckily, there are so many resources to help you along the way. David Richo’s book How to be an Adult in Relationships shares these Five Keys to Mindful Loving – attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. They are very aligned with the Gottmans’ concepts of Connection Bids and the Emotional Bank Deposits as well as the theory of Love Languages. Esther Perel, a renowned couple’s therapist speaks a lot about re-connection. She shares that “the quality of our life depends on the quality of our relationships” – this is social engagement theory in action. She offers fantastic workshops for couples all the time, like this recent on on rekindling desire -there is even a part on sex after having kids!

The Gottman Institute has done research on sex and intimacy after having a baby. This work is so important as it is validating and empowering to know how many relationships struggle. We assume it’s just us and this is so far from true. In heteronormative relationships though, the male partner needs further reminder that his partner has spent days and months at home with the baby so is feeling a different reality with their body, body image, drain and burn-out, and desire needs. So, he needs to lower his expectations to make them realistic – no one can switch gears this quickly; he needs to expect less and not rush partner to “bounce back,” Catastrophize when sex isn’t happening – this is a chapter of life, not the end; it helps for the non-newborn caring parent to meet the needs of the new mom so she can meet needs of baby – she is running on fumes of exhaustion. And it’s okay to relearn how to meet you own needs with self-pleasure and masturbation.

Build a new foundation as a couple who are now parents. Make time as a couple to date again. Have this in place so when your children grow, they see this time as normal – we want to share love with our partner as it sets a good example for them later in life. I love that my children see me love their dad. They even count how long our kisses are sometimes (yes they meet the 6 second requirement!)

Sex postpartum happens during a shift in hormones. It can take time to come back into balance due to feeling touched out OR a relationship concern that is bigger than new parenthood. Sometimes, one partner needs more and then will need less; dynamics change over time. Ironically, when you just spend the day being a mom with a baby, your partner was still playing the role of adult or partner even when apart. Our roles are not permanent, as they depend on what the work is. It is our values and purpose that is the constant. So remember what kind of woman/person/human/partner you want to be. What is exciting for you? What feels aligned with these old dreams that got you to this point?

Come back to your why to find your way.

At the end of season 1 of Sex/Life, Billie is left wanting more and asking herself if the person who gives you lust, thrill and excitement can also be the one that also gives you security. She worries what it may cost her – I think that we can definitely have both.

What if you could do it, all of it? Don’t underestimate or short-change yourself. This is a quiet awakening happening in the collective. You, like me, have more to offer than you think – the world is waiting for you to see that potential and for you to own it.

Come claim your seat in the re-wilding, this awakening. This is the re-awakening of embodied feminine pleasure and energy.

So yes we can have that cake and eat it too. We just have to make it first.

7 Days of Embodied Sensual Pleasure: Implementing a Pleasure Practice

I recently completed a course that I have been wanting to take for years. After being a student at University of Guelph for my undergrad, it had always been a dream of mine to take their intensive sex therapy course. I can now share the exciting news that I’ve completed it! While I’ve already been offering couple and relationship counselling as well as sexual health and sexual violence healing, this new training has offered a further breadth of support I can offer.

One of the final assignments of the course was to put together a pleasure practice guide. As this is something I’ve been working on in my own life and supporting others with, I’m sharing with you now some of the ways that you can start or enhance your pleasure practice.

It might be hard to access what you find pleasurable sexually, if you don’t already have a sense of it in your daily life outside of the bedroom. This guide is a great place to start. Each day, commit to some time to try out how you might add an intentional way to reflect on how to bring pleasure into your life.

In the amazing book, Pleasure Activism, adrienne marie brown shares that you find your pleasure path when you have embodied joy, happiness, satisfaction and connection. This is the embodiment of a pleasure practice.

As a somatic therapist, I created this guide to start from the bottom-up, instead of staying in our brain and thoughts. Using the 5 senses, pick one a day to see what brings you pleasure. This practice is about attuning to what gives you that felt sense of pleasure. If some of the senses are not available or accessible for you, focus on the ones that are. Notice if you can also connect any of these sensory anchors to what your core fantasy might also include.

Over the course of a week, spend some time daily just thinking about each of these and see how you can incorporate time to play with them. Each day, over the course of the day, focus on one sense. On the final day, combine the practices and set the scene. You don’t have to do them in order as presented, but try to do all 7 days. Repeat a theme if you have an abundance of ideas, need a do-over, or one sense is not available to you.

Please CLICK THIS LINK here to take you to the FREE Creating a Pleasure Practice Worksheet.

End the week by bringing in all five senses and save this last one to set your scene up for success. Set the room with the items that evoke pleasure, and see what happens when you bring it all together. Maybe you want to get candles, a cozy blanket, chocolate and wine. Put on some playful music, and wear a sexy camisole. Or how about setting up your backyard with a private oasis. Surround yourself in nature. Rest your feet or sit right on the earth. Take your undies off and sit right on the grass (thanks to amb for this gift!) Remember the goal is not necessarily sex but rather an embodied sense of harnessing your own pleasure.

Journal your reflections – what did you notice? What surprised you, would you do again, differently? What felt like it was missing something?

In last month’s article, i shared the idea of a Core Erotic Theme. If you haven’t spent time with it already, this is a perfect opportunity to create one. Think of what your Core Erotic Fantasy is now that you have spent some time discovering your pleasure path.

If you want to learn more, here are some great resources that speak further about this. I especially love adrienne maree brown’s book Pleasure Activist and that reminder that we all have a right to embody pleasure. Esther Perel’s body of work on pleasure is also a must. She recently did a workshop on enhancing foreplay pleasures. With topics on ritual, desire, exploring the senses, imagination and setting the right ambiance, this is a great resource. Blaire Lindsay’s free webinar series on finding your Pleasure Path also has some great activities. Rachael Maddox created this lovely gift as well.

While i said that this practice is for yourself, and i truly mean it as a stand-alone gift to yourself, it is also a great way to create more attuned intimacy with your lover. When new parents struggle with desire discrepancy, a new take on creating pleasure is a great way to get back on track. When new couples are trying to get connected in bed, this resource can be a great starting point. Or, for survivors of sexual violence, abuse or boundary violations, working on a pleasure practice can be a beneficial step to become clearer with how to meet your sexual desires with others. Vanessa Marin has great visual aid to help folx have a better sense of their sexual compatibility. Looking at this graphic, can you discern what might be lacking in your own relationships, what you can work on, or what is on fire?

Remember, the goal for finding your pleasure path is not to be sexually intimate with others, and yet it is so helpful to notice what feels compatible with others’ paths.

Now that you are starting your path to pleasure, you can get a sense of your compass or guide. Think of it as your ‘love pulse’ – it is your divine witness. Every once in a while, spend some time checking in with your love pulse – if it feels low, it may be time for a pleasure practice!

Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Journey to Embracing Myself as a Sexual Mother

These past couple of years, i’ve been diving deeper in the parts of me that make me whole. It’s been a very intentional journey of getting to know what is important to me, and what has been missing. As i have found a way to integrate the mother role into the rest of me, i have now put all the other pieces back together. This is how matrescence is a journey of re-entry. The metamorphosis of who i have become is based on what i have been already, and than a new version of me arises.

I’m a big fan of the Wheel of Life resource. It is typically used by life coaches to help people make goals for their life, and to see where it is imbalanced. A few years ago, i did this exercise for myself. I use it further as a feminist therapy tool to see where the burn-out may be happening, and if there are parts of our life that we are living for external reasons or expectations.

I also like this way of looking at 6 parts of our Self – Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Intellectual, and Environmental. It was through this process that i started to see that my Sexual Self was not listed as its own (and well deserving) category. Is it physical, emotional, social or dare i say, spiritual?

I realized it’s important to add a couple of parts of self to this configuration. For me that includes my sexual self, my inner child, and my inner goddess. It also includes my healer, wise woman and warrior. While these may be more archetypes that make me whole, i value them as the parts of me that are steeped in my values, dreams and full essence.

It can’t be an oversight that these various self-help tools and resources don’t intentionally include a category for Sexuality. It’s typically assumed in the relationship category. So what happens if there is no other person to be intimate with? Really, i think we can look back over the centuries and see how our sexuality was always pushed to the shadows. This is especially true for women and mothers even more so. Back in the days of yore, religion and white colonialism ruled over all other parts. Since i’m not a historian, i’m going to skip ahead to how this impacts us now – our spiritual selves are still what is pure and right, and our sexual self is dirty and unholy.

This is where the dichotomy of mother/whore comes in – virginal maiden and mother are seen as wholesome, safe and acceptable. Whore and crone are pushed to the shadows. One is too sexual and the other is seen as unworthy. Yet we need them all in order to live a full life.

Gender roles and sexuality was put into binary lines. Anything that was deemed women’s work was soft, gentle, nurturing, and in the home. A major part of women’s role was to bear children and raise them. It was then that sexual acts were deemed valuable only for reproductive rights, and not for pleasure or connection between the partners.

Research is now showing us now that our brain’s nervous system is designed to include a social engagement system for attachment, connection and safety. While we have made so many gains to reclaim sexuality for pleasure and joy, as well as for connection, there is still so much more collective healing we need to go through. First, i think it helps to look at the benefits of feminine sexuality and energy.

The benefits of reclaiming our sexual self? What’s that, you wonder? For me it’s access to pleasure, attunement to self, and seeing it is a superpower for energy and a life force in and of itself. And yet, reclaiming sexuality takes time, steps and a commitment to do the messy work of unpacking age-old embedded stories. It also takes resilience to do something defiant and subversive.

Most of us have been taught about sex in school, and a very basic overview by our parents, if we were lucky. One way to heal and integrate this part of our Self is to heal our family of origin’s repressed view of sexuality. As women, we are socialized to be modest. So instead, let’s reckon with our desires, body image, internalized shame; this is built from a false idea that our sensuality belongs in our shadow.

Part One: Reclaiming My Sexual Self
Before we can integrate our sexuality into our motherhood, we need to reclaim it in our womanness. Here are some ways i have found this reckoning, and this reclamation of my divine sexuality. It is our birthright after all. As you choose to journey to rediscover yours, think of what your sexual story is. What is the word that honours it? Be mindful that you will need to push past the discomfort to get to a better end. The history of your sexual self is important to acknowledge, as is the future of your reclaimed pleasure.

1) Know your Body and Nervous System
We have been taught only part of the story regarding female arousal, desire, and our reproductive system. It was only when i was trying to get pregnant for the first time that i truly learned more about my anatomy and how it all works. When we know our Nervous System response, we then don’t replay the stuck circuit.

Fo instance, it takes 30 minutes to get blood to engorge the vulva. We are not fully aroused during foreplay, and we can arouse over the course of a day, just by thinking or fantasizing. This helps us get to arousal so it’s important to know what turns you on. And yet most heteronormative monogamist couples centre the man’s orgasm as evidence of successful sex.

Foreplay isn’t just the step-by-step guide that happens moments before sex. It is also the acts of attention and care in the day. It really is the emotional and mental offerings that give us self-permission to relax in pleasure. Women today more than ever are taught to only do self-care acts after getting all the to-do items done. We literally can’t relax if the kitchen is a mess, or the bedroom is not conducive as a boudoir. And if you are a parent, well… Anyone who has been a mother to young children knows the feeling of being touched out. Even if the rational part of the brain can see that partner touch is different than a child’s need, it is hard to disentangle the exhaustion on our body.

For those of us that experienced sexual assault, whatever that looked like, it can be hard to feel safe when aroused. So it’s crucial to find ways to reclaim that felt sense of safety. Learn how the nervous system kicks in with a fight/flight/fawn/freeze response. Learn where the trauma is stored in your body. Find ways to tend to the emotional, physical spiritual parts of you. One way to do so is to remind your brain that you survived: “That was then, this is now”. And this healing takes time.

Self-pleasure is a wonderful way to reconnect with your body, to learn how to attune what you like. Learn more about vagina mapping, sensate focus exercise and mindfulness to get some hands-on awareness. This will help get to a deeper sense of safety. Breath work is also a major component of access pleasure and presence in the sexual realm. Practice vulva breathing by placing your hand on your vulva and simply breathing mindfully. Have a yoni steam – controversial i know, and yet it can be just what you vag has always wanted. Give it the same care and attention you give your face, teeth or hair. Oxytocin, or the love hormone, can work wonders to help access pleasure and desire.

2) Consent Consent Consent!
Learn more about the dance between consent and approval. Betty Martin has a great resource called the Wheel of Consent. In her new book, she dives deep in explaining how to practice giving and receiving pleasure, and sees how consent ins pivotal in both receiving pleasure and giving it.

Planning a date night ahead of time, even when you don’t leave your home, also helps with informed consent. The date is agreed upon, and it can be helpful to explicitly put sex on the table (literally or not, wink!). It is also a chance to track how you feel about the upcoming date, and to plan accordingly.

There are 6 Pillars to Sexual Health and consent is the #1 pillar, for good reason. That’s why it’s so important for couples (whoever and how many they are) to explicitly discuss their needs, desires, worries, and fears. We also need to bear witness to past experiences of sexual behaviour, especially of one partner has a history of sexual violence. As we know that 1 in 4 women (cis, trans or non-binary folx) experience sexual assault in their lifetime, it is crucial to learn how to be a trauma-informed partner.

3) Core Erotic Theme
Once we have a felt sense of knowing what our body feels when safe, we have more capacity to tend to the desire that lives there. Female desire has been stigmatized in such a way that it is hard at times to honour the eroticism that hides even further in the shadows. So, it’s time to bring your sexy self out of the shadows. Spend some time thinking back to old fantasies. Maybe you have favourite not-to-be-talked-about scenes from books or movies. Maybe there is an old scene that you have always wanted to create. Spend some time with a journal and pen, putting these themes to paper. What might be the core fantasy theme. What is sexy to you? Is it that you want to dress sexy? Maybe it’s that you want to be kissed all over, and have your toes sucked. Or having sex in a shower turns you on. Once you have your core theme, then see how you can ask yourself to start putting it into practice. If you’re not partnered, don’t worry – you can still get your sexy on! If you want to know more about finding your core fantasy, adrienne maree brown speaks about it in her book Pleasure Activism or this article here.

Maybe for you, nature is sexy. Nature’s elemental life force definitely is sexy and invigorating. How can you bring more nature into your theme? How about setting up your space for fresh greenery, candles, or a photo of your favourite place.

If finding a core theme is tricky, how about doing an experiment to find what your sexy is? Can you let down your guard a bit? Try being vulnerable – there is courage there! And, definitely try to turn off the inner judgment, move into it, and move through feelings to get them out.

Activate your senses by taking some time this week to put on sexy:
*Sight: Clothes, makeup, visualization, show to watch
*Sound: music, listen to a story, read erotica
*Smells: Lotion, candles, incense
*Touch: texture, skin, massage, water
*Taste: what spices, foods, or treats stimulate your desire

“The way to maintain one’s connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is that you want. This is the sorting of the seed from the dirt.” —Clarissa Pinkola Estes

4) Daily Pleasure Acts
It is hard to know what brings us pleasure with lovers when this feels foreign in our own body or daily life. Pleasure shouldn’t just be about sexual or erotic practices, but daily ways to feel joy in our body. For me, dance, the sense of smell, and being creative with paints and clay are ways i access pleasure. Maybe you can channel Georgia O’Keefe, and paint some erotic flower scenes. Just take a look, a real look, at the painting in this article!

Have a pleasure practice – be it meditation, stroking your body, lotion, masturbation, yin yoga practise, connecting with senses, flower bouquets, anchor smells, being present, candle in the bath. What can you do to make the thing you are doing 5% more enjoyable? Ann Nguyen created this concept of making an event or activity 5 % more pleasurable. This helps to build capacity to enjoy the day more. This increases pleasure IN the bedroom as well.

I also love the idea of working on ways to surrender. I don’t mean to give up, or to be passive, but rather to build up the pleasure muscle: we need to do it mindfully and with exquisite risk. Think of the words of pleasure, alive, vibrant, abundance or ecstasy. These words may be challenging for you. How about Primal – do you need to go to this deeper place, can you dive in? Or how about dipping your toes in that? Our depth of eroticism is tied to self-expression, as well as that energy and full essence i alluded to earlier.

Part Two: The Sexual Part of You and the Mother You are Can Co-exist

Okay, so with those first few tips you now have a good foundation to re-connect with your sexual self. To take it that step further and feel sensual after becoming a mom, we need to claim space for your Self. This is more than just getting regulated and rest. It is deeper because it means intentionally visiting the other parts of ourselves – remember that Wheel of Life resource?

So, how do we do this? It can start by seeing yourself in your body. You may have brought your child into the world (by birth or not), and you existed before them. One simple way to acknowledge this is the voice practice of claiming your body in a moment. For instance, you may want to stand or sit in front of a mirror – and yes mirror work is a vessel for this work. Look at your self (your eyes, mouth, neck, or anywhere that feels safe enough. Then, place a hand there and say “This is my body.” “This is me.” “This is my cheek, these are my lips.” Hold the pose. Breathe into it. Take a moment to notice it.

We can access pleasure with grounding exercises like this. This can be triggering for some of us, so track your breath. Take time away from your kids. Masturbate. Feel the water on your body when you next take a bath. Eat juicy watermelon mindfully. Walk barefoot on some grass.

5) Who’s Your Role Model?
What is your sexual legacy? How you tend to yourself, and take care of yourself builds on this legacy. Who were your actual role models and how did they receive pleasure? This gets stored in our body and psyche. Is there a character from a story that you loved? Is there a person you know (IRL or not) that you can channel. What do you want to continue on you family line, or not?

One other way i have reclaimed my sexual self is to get to know the role models who have paved the way for me. This has helped me feel less shame and has been a beautiful way to get to my authenticity. One of my role models and mentors is Kimberly Ann Johnson. It was through her various courses on reclaiming our sensuality that i found my wild side. Her new book Call of the Wild: How we Heal Trauma, Awaken our Own Power and Use it for Good has been such a gift. My long hair and big boobs have been a source of objectification by other for years. I was sexualized at a very young age. I started a path to get to know the various goddess figures this past year. It was when i saw one that looked like my body that i realized i could reclaim this feminine energy and power. More recently, i have found that my Inner Goddess feels so empowered and confident when on top, in bed. I love feeling my hair flow around us, and feel so in control. I have my own fantasy attached to this, but that’s my story to tell (wink).

Maybe you need to rewrite the story of the Siren or seductress, the Goddess/priestess, whore, vixen or slut. Just think of the term ‘Cougar’ and what it even means. For women, it’s a pejorative word of a woman who enjoys sex with younger men. But maybe it’s because men her age and older don’t turn her on, or they are not seeking her out. When i think of our animal counterparts, i love the idea of a cougar or jaguar seeking out what she wants and tending to her body’s needs. That is powerful shit.

Putting the Pieces Together
Now that you have sat with some of the reflections, tended to some of the body exercises, it’s time to put the pieces together. Similar to a Venn diagram – where is there overlap?

Since it is said that feminine energy is to teach, that means we can guide our children in all aspects of life. Babies and kids share our body territory so it can be hard to feel agency autonomy over own body. The journey into motherhood had been a sexual act for most of us. And yet, the afterbirth experience almost erases the sexual act. In the early postpartum period, we intentionally heal the body to get into wholeness again. We are taught to bounce back – but to what end? To be sexy again, pure? Or to produce more children? I like to think my postpartum journey has been more about moving forward – a process of Self reclamation and putting the new pieces together. It has been about finding ways to be sexual and mother intentionally. It’s like a bouquet of roses mixed with peonies and ranunculus. All separately are beautiful, but a more blended bouquet is even more stunning.

Our society doesn’t value nurturing or pleasure in the same way as being financially successful or productive. So one way i have created an intentional split from this is to not keep my sexuality in the shadows. I dance in front of my kids, i kiss my partner, and we remind our kids that date night is as important and family game night.

My daughter has noticed that the dates her parents use to have, where a babysitter came in, and mom got dressed up, have obviously been put on hold. While we have gotten creative to still be partners in the midst of a global pandemic, that too has been impacted. As my children are getting older, we have updated our conversations about sexuality. We normalize sex and discuss it if they hear about it (from us, from shows, from songs – it finds a way in pretty easily, doesn’t it?). We talk to our kids about relationships, love, pleasure, and dating. I also have updated the books and resources my kids are reading, to complement this information. And more books for adults on this are coming out, be it slowly. While my pre-teen cringes at the kissing scenes in real life and on TV, we still want to model this as natural and right.

There is discrepancy between partners’ desire and arousal after having children. Foreplay can become more emotional and practical. The primary parent is touched out and exhausted by the end of the day. Modern parenting is definitely playing a role in our lack of intimacy. Just read this article to get a better sense of this. The non-primary caregiving partner wants to be intimate to feel connected, and the primary parent wants time alone to feel rested. These are not incompatible needs, and yet they can feel like it.

We need to soften our edges, so that the parts are not so separate. We need to blend them to take the strengths and gifts from both – it is not either/or. We are creators so need to respected and supported, but we aren’t tended to now as mothers are still devalued. Postpartum mood challenges add a further barrier to desire and sexual intimacy. This research article shares more.

Sexuality is not just about an act but rather being part of the parts that make us whole. That includes tending to your feelings, physical body and spiritual rituals. It also includes consent and the felt sense of pleasure. This then connects our body to strength and embodiment.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anais Nin