My wife and I just had our first baby together, which is a beautiful thing to go through. My question though is regarding the church’s sexual ethics at this point. My wife has stitches which means no sex for 6+ weeks. At the same time, I have never felt more attracted to my wife. Yet this is frustrating because I feel like I cannot be with my wife. I know the church says no to any alternative forms of pleasure that ends in climax outside of procreative means, yet in these situations does the church only say “abstain”? Any advice would be helpful.
Yes, you must abstain. I’ve been through this for similar reasons, and I soon will be doing so again; we’re expecting baby #4 any day now.
What I have found helpful is to fix my attention elsewhere during these periods. You have lots of work to do to help out with the baby. Focus some energy on doing extra housework so that your wife need not worry about it. Devote extra time to prayer. In general, be creative about redirecting your energy in positive ways.
Yep, abstaining is the only way to go during those 6 weeks following birth. Those of us dads have probably all experienced that 6 weeks of abstaining ;). Spend that time helping your wife with the new baby. Cuddling with her and making her feel special is good during this time. Sure it can be frustrating to abstain from intercourse, but there really aren’t alternatives for us Catholics wishing to live the faith. Stay busy and the 6 weeks will go fast.
My wife’s always had C-sections so we were always told 8 weeks. To be honest, I don’t think we ever made it the full 8 weeks. However, the 5-7 weeks we abstained were never that difficult since we were both so wiped out. Just focus on how awesome it is to have a new baby and treasure every second with him/her. The six weeks will go by much faster than you can imagine, and far faster than you want them to.
Yes, same for us. 4 children, all by c-section, and generally back into relations quite soon after…as comfort and tiredness allowed.
It’s natural for the man (in our case, that’s me) to be ready for sex sooner than the woman, and even to push the issue a little. But keep your wife’s health and respect you have for her in mind. If she’s not physically ready for actual intercourse, and is pobably too tired even if she were, then it’s a bit selfish to expect something from her that is ostensibly about intimacy but may actually be more about a man’s own desire for sex. I don’t say this to be judgemental…it’s more sharing the stuggles I’ve had myself. Times of abstinence are always difficult, regardless of the particular reason.
We generally resume (because I want to) at about 3 weeks postpartum. By then I really really miss the intimacy of being with my husband. I had a cesarean with my first and then 2 vbacs which both required some stitches. Intercourse was pretty painful the first 4 or 5 times after my vbacs so just be patient with your wife. Everything will be back to normal fairly soon.
I usually cannot wait more than a couple of weeks. I needed quite a few stitches after the birth of my first, but still couldn’t control myself. Whenever you resume relations, just make sure you go really slow and gentle and have a water-based lubricant available in case you need it. It is not immoral if you and your wife absolutely cannot wait the full six weeks. It is more about health and prudence.
The surge in hormones for the wife and the feelings of love and joy between the couple are often overpowering! But while you are waiting, plenty of kissing and cuddling is wonderful. It helps the wife to know she is still attractive to her husband, even as she goes through tremendous body changes.
Your question was answered so I won’t repeat it, but since you are brand new parents (Congratulations and many blessings) also be aware that if your wife is nursing, intercourse may be more painful for her due to dryness “down there”. If she can handle a lubricant, you can try that, but not all women can use that as well. I never could as I am prone to UTIs.
A very important thing is to be very attentive to your wife and make her feel like the most beloved and beautiful woman in the world. She will probably go through a lot of hormonal changes and may not feel so attractive, may be very emotional, etc. Just go with what helps her right now. I’ve had two c-sections and have gone through the emotional roller coaster, and my husband was so understanding and gentle during this time.
Just repeating what others have said–there’s no “rule” saying you have to wait 6+ weeks. DH and I did it as soon as my bleeding had pretty much dried up after our last baby, and that was around 2 weeks. I had 1 stitch, which had been taken out a couple days before. We got all swept up in the hormones and elation, and it just kind of happened, but really gentle-like.
That being said, please be very careful about not pressuring your DW. It is very possible that she doesn’t feel ready, and might not for well after the 6 weeks. You will not be doing yourself any favors if you force the issue and she is not ready, because there likely is no other time in her life when she will be as sensitive about sex as she is now!
My husband who is devout in his faith, open to life, etc seems to think he’s found a loophole in the whole postpartum bit. When I am “unavailable” to complete the procreative act due to having had a baby, he has decided that its ok to be stimulated in other ways–as long as I’m involved. He is trying to argue that since I am not fertile anyway he is not trying to thwart God’s design if he climaxes by my efforts. He would be perfectly willing to complete the process in the usual way–were it possible. But since it is not that I should have mercy on him as a man and please him by some other means.
When I argue that that sounds no different than masturbation, contraceptive sex, fornication or any other sexual encounter that places pleasure as the primary goal he insists that it is not because he is with me, his spouse, and is generally open to life. He argues that if I were in some other way not here–like were I to be gravely ill, far away, or even dead–that he would manage his desires differently (as in cold shower or whatever). But since I am right here, cuddled up next to him–he is driven mad by desire and lies awake distracted. He thinks it is loving of me if I help him out. His next step–should I refuse him is to sleep elsewhere to lessen his level of desire. That makes me feel rejected.
I have no idea what men go through–so I am asking for insight here. Who needs to step up the loving here? Do I need to be more sensitive to his plight and either help him relieve his desires or send him to sleep elsewhere? Or does he need to be more sensitive to me and “offer it up” when he has to defer fulfilling his desires? When I try to explain my understanding of catholic sexual teaching (that does not allow for this?) he claims I’m being legalistic and puritanical.
You’re not being legalistic and puritanical at all – in fact, you are 100% correct. To do what he is asking you to do is indeed a sin. I’m certainly no expert in this, but I think you both need to sacrifice a bit. He needs to man up and control himself, and you need to sometimes understand that when desires are really powerful, he may have to get away from you for a while. Don’t feel rejected by this, as it has nothing to do with rejecting you, it has to do with him respecting and loving you by not objectifying you (And indeed, having you pleasure him to climax is objectifying you). However, I would make sure that he doesn’t do this as a sort of childish punishment – in other words, “You’re not giving me what I want, so I’m going to punish you by sleeping on the couch.”
I am usually very pro satisfying one’s spouse’s sexual desires. I firmly believe one must be there sexually for their spouse, and that if they cannot, they must seek psychological or medical help. However, this is not the case here. You have just had a baby, and have physical limitations as a result. I personally think it would be a lot less selfish/sinful for him to masturbate than it would be for him to basically coerce you into sex.
“The sexual desire is a God given desire (Romans 11:36) and it is not evil in and of itself (Romans 14:14). Moreover, God has made a way for even those who are not married (male or female), or those who are away from their spouse (like a soldier at war), to at least somewhat satisfy the sexual drive via masturbation. It is oppressive to teach that such an act is against the will of God, and it is evil to maintain such a cause against the innocent in this matter (Proverbs 30:5-6).”
Oh dear! I’m off to hell then. I still think that is a good overview of the subject matter though. I know that the Catechism also has this to say on the subject, “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.”
Anyhow, it sounds like this lady is having a very tough time. I am all for marital love and think more women need to take it seriously. However, this is not the case here. The woman is healing from childbirth, and she cannot be expected to lie in the marriage bed. If your husband has issues with lying next to you, does not believe in masturbation (although he seems perfectly fine about using you sexually!) and will not take cold showers etc., then can he not just go sleep in the guestroom?
The Church is quite right to say this, but it’s still grave matter. It’s an issue that many, many people struggle with both male and female and I think it was wise of the Church to explicitly address the situation in the Catechism.
Why? Because there are many quite faithful people who still deal with temptation and falls in this arena. Her notation here, which applies mostly to priests and other ministers but also to the laity, is a good way to assure those who are struggling to be earnest in their struggle, not be so concerned that any slip will immediately send them on the express train to Hell and instead focus on God’s love for us… even as we know our own need for repentance.
If your husband has issues with lying next to you, does not believe in masturbation (although he seems perfectly fine about using you sexually!) and will not take cold showers etc., then can he not just go sleep in the guestroom?
Outside of the “believing in masturbation” bit, we completely concur. I readily concede that waiting weeks/months after childbirth is… um… tough. Really tough. Especially for someone like me who, yes, has struggled with sins of impurity. But it’s important to keep in mind that a) life goes on b) there will almost assuredly be a time when they can come together again and c) it’s no picnic for the wife either! Healing from childbirth, nursing a new baby all that stuff. It’s not something I would choose for myself.
As for you quest. I think ATeutonicKnight said it best. Yes, you should understand that his desires aren’t going to slack because he’s tired of dealing with kids. But he should indeed “man up.” I think communication is really important here. He might indeed be “driven mad” and physical separation might actually help him avoid temptation. I can’t possibly know if that’s true or not. But maybe it is. What I do know is that if he decides to sleep elsewhere a) he should still be committed to helping out with the kids at night and b) he needs to explicitly communicate that he’s not rejecting you, does not resent you and that he’s really and earnestly only doing it to avoid annoyance and temptation.