Working Through Painful Penetration

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 20:02
Submitted by Carlin Ross

I've always been a size queen and I've always been able to penetrate my vagina with ease. When women would share their stories of pain during penetration and how it affected their lives, I couldn't relate...until after I gave birth.

Despite opting for a midwife and choosing a birthing center, I ended up having a C-section. Grayson weighed in at 9 pounds. I thought I could control the weight of my baby by limiting my weight gain during pregnancy. WRONG. I gained 15 pounds but he was huge. There was simply no way I could have had a vaginal birth.

I waited the perfunctory 6 weeks (post-birth) before penetrating my vagina and decided to start with masturbation. It didn't seem right to saddle my husband with that sort of responsibility. I was more concerned about my C-section incision than the state of my vagina. Everything should be as I left it.

I lubbed up my favorite glass dildo and grabbed my hitachi. As I started to insert my dildo, I felt a burning sensation. I took a deep breath and pushed out with my pc muscle - nothing. It was like I was hitting a wall and couldn't penetrate myself. I was shocked but, undeterred, I tried again. Nothing. I couldn't get more than one inch inside my vagina. It was like all my muscles had clamped down and wouldn't relax. I racked my brain for a reason and finally accepted that my body was in a defensive posture after experiencing its first surgery. This was going to be work.

The first thing I did was give up all orgasm expectations. Yes, I could have focused on my clit and rushed through a few orgasms but I didn't want to push my body. I had to resynchronize my mind/body connection and the first thing I needed to do was appreciate what my body had been through. To give birth in your 40's is a different game all together and we'd made it through with flying colors. I'm always amazed at how strong I am and how my body is always there for me. I assumed a mind set of thankfulness and banished all negative thoughts about my tight vagina.

When you're doing any sort of body modification (like extreme piercings) they tell you to soak in a hot tub before stretching your skin. Right before any masturbation practice, I took a shower or bath to relax my muscles and warm up my skin. This really helped. As the water washed over my body, I'd touch my arms, thighs - all of me - and think positive thoughts. Then, I'd put on my white terry robe, take Grayson out of his crib and head to our bedroom. Since he wasn't rolling yet, I'd lay him right next to me on the bed or sometimes he would be nursing. You can masturbate when you're a new mom but the baby will be there with you. This may make you uncomfortable but I can't think of anything more natural or healthy. I'm pumping endorphins into my breast milk and sharing sex positivity with my son. And let's face it: an orgasmic mom is a happy mom.

Extra lubricant was super important.

Generally, I lube up my labia, clit and vaginal opening before penetration of any kind (I use almond or avocado oil). This time I lubed up my entire dildo and used a lube shooter to get lube all the way up into my vaginal canal - super lifesaver. Then I'd slowly penetrate my vagina, going as little as 1/2 inch at a time, taking a deep breath, pushing out with my pc muscle, penetrating that 1/2 inch then stopping, relaxing my pc and exhaling) - bit by bit - until I was all the way in. And I didn't use my usual dildo. I sized down to Betty's barbell which was perfect.

The band of muscles right at the opening hurt the most. Once I was past those, everything felt normal except my vaginal lining felt thinner (why lube was so important). I worked on breathing through the discomfort and focusing on good feelings. Sometimes I'd start with a few clit orgasms with my hitachi - sometimes I'd start with penetration and use the hitachi at the same time to get past the painful part right at the opening. I listened to my body and took my time.

And I didn't go right back to vaginal penetration with my husband. I performed oral sex on him and shared masturbation until I was ready. I think this is very important. When we have sex to satisfy our partner and we don't enjoy it, we create resentments that build and undermine our relationship. It kills the intimacy. I cared too much about my marriage to force myself to have penetration before my body was able to receive pleasure. And I communicated this to my partner.

It was a process of slow penetration with no orgasm goal and body appreciation. For me (and I believe most women) it was a physical problem brought on by body trauma. It had nothing to do with my emotions or mental well-being. It wasn't all in my head. It was in my body. Letting myself off the hook with respect to penetrative sex and shifting my mind set to acceptance and appreciation helped reintroduce my body to pleasure. But that was the only mental connection to the pain I experienced during penetration.

Masturbation was work. I didn't feel aroused. I didn't want to orgasm. Slowly penetrating my vagina and adding clitoral stimulation to orgasm became my everyday regimen.   I had to work through the pain until I felt discomfort until I felt nothing and THEN I FELT PLEASURE.  It took about 6 months before I got my vag back. 

I also had to work on resensitizing the area around my C-section scar. When I'm stimulating my clitoris, I'm most sensitive on top of my clit towards my pubic mound. I'd lost all feeling post-surgery. When I was healed and felt up to it, I'd run my lubricated fingers over my scar. And eventually I ran my hitachi over the scar. It took almost 6 months but slowly the feeling came back.

Two things struck me during this time. How most new mothers don't think of themselves and their sexuality as a priority AND how powerful I felt after becoming a mother. If we could harness the power of motherhood and female orgasm, we as a culture would flourish like we've never seen historically. New moms don't suffer from "mommy brain". No, we think more strategically and can handle stress better than at any other time in our lives (which makes sense since caring for the next generation and insuring the species is a pretty fucking important job). But we demean motherhood the same way we demean female sexuality.

A big part of my healing was doing the Bodysex workshops with Betty. I did three pregnant and three post-birth. Those workshops made orgasm fun again, playful, light. Sitting in the circle with all that female energy, forging bonds of sisterhood and sharing orgasm made me understand the power of these groups. We should be iniated into our sexuality as teens, in the circle, then come back again and again - after birth and menopause as well as health crises and emotional loss. There's nothing more healing than a circle of women.

I have a beautiful son. My vagina is back. My orgasms are stronger than ever. It took alot of work but anything that's worth it usually does. In the end, motherhood confirmed my commitment to pleasure.

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Thank you

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 03:57

Thank you so much for sharing your story. Any birth where both the mother and child are healthy is a successful one, and women really need to be kind to themselves and to allow themselves time to rebuild themselves afterwards.

For women looking forward to the birth, it's also probably worth saying that plenty of women manage vaginal delivieries with babies bigger than 9 pounds, just like lots of women deliver via caesarian for much smaller babies. As my midwife pointed out half way through, "it's not just the head, the shoulders can be a bit of a bugger too" At the time it didn't seem so funny.

It's a very personal experience dependant on lots of factors and all subject to change at the last minute. Can we agree that most birth plans are aspirational to say the least?

I hadn't heard the suggestion that penetration be avoided for 6 weeks before, but I do remember laughing out loud and somewhat hysterically when the midwife started to talk about birth control methods on day 3 post birth. A supportive and loving partner is so important right then when it all seems so very overwhelming and out of control.

Wishing you well.

thank you for sharing your

Sat, 02/27/2016 - 07:17
Mada (not verified)

thank you for sharing your story. I remember having exact same problems after giving birth (naturally) to my son. I seeked out for information on your site but didn't find that much as I expected. Although, to give you credit, it's only thanks to your teachings that I managed to start enjoying post-birth sex.
Before my pregnancy I was non-orgasmic and didn't find sex anything special. After giving birth my first penetration try with my husband was after 3 months. He basically couldn't enter at all. At all! Can you imagine? That was super painful and frustrating. I started to resent any sexual trials from my husband, Not only did I lose interest in sex, but It started to repell me. It was a very difficult situation for my marriage. We kept trying but had almost no progress. Penetration was impossible and I avoided any form of sexual contact with my husband. At some point he approached me for a serious talk and we decided we needed to search for help. I shared my experience with my friend who recommended me your site. I was very sceptical at first, I think In the past I had had maybe one or two unconcious clitoral orgasm. We just didn't have that experience. My husband was ready to try everything and was way more optimistic when I told him what I found on your site. It took us over 30 minutes of clitoral stimulation for me to get my first orgasms and they didn't appear regularly anyway. But we kept practising. Every time I managed to orgasm I was very happy and more relaxed and ready for penetration trials. It took us around 9 months altogether (12 after giving birth) to get back to my old vaginal sensation while penetration. I also discovered the whole new world of clitoral orgasms. Now it takes me 5-10 minutes to orgasm. Practice makes perfect. I'm sharing my story because I was so depressed apnd afraid that my sex life would never be the same after giving birth. Welll, in the end I was right. Now my sex life is soooo much better than it used to be. Thank you!

I'm so glad that we were a

Sat, 02/27/2016 - 08:32
Carlin Ross

I'm so glad that we were a resource to help you get back to your orgasms.  I think it does take about 9-12 months before your body is back sexually.  Grayson is going to be 1 years old next week and I feel strong and sexy again. 

I wish there was more consideration in our culture for the profound physical experience being pregnant and giving birth is for women.  It's so common that it's not appreciated.  If someone has surgery, there's more understanding and compassion - we expect physical rehab and time for healing. 

But with birth it's like: wait 6 weeks and don't worry about penetrating the area of your body that experienced trauma.  There should be information and support for regaining your sexuality.  I can't believe that the medical community ignores all this and relies on kegels.  It's much more complicated and much more important. 

Happy Orgasms

Sex after Childbirth

Sun, 02/28/2016 - 01:36

I read this with great interest. I have children from both my marriages. It's my first wife that is most relevant, she had an episiotomy, my second wife didn't. It was wife numero uno who had been told "not to have sex for six weeks", but after about three she said she was getting really horny and fed up with masturbating. We tried, but it wasn't comfortable for her, so we stopped. Then she said "why don't you go down on me". That was something we had occasionally done before, but this was when we realised how good oral sex can be - from that time on we nearly always had cunnilingus as part of sex.

So, every woman is different perhaps, but not all women lose their sex drive. What I wonder is, is D&R losing a great chance to promote the joys of cunnilingus to women who want partner sex after childbirth, but find it painful?

A beautiful passage you crated, Carlin, thank you.

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 12:41
feminist indignation (not verified)

Dear Carlin,

This is a most enlightening experience you write about. Most of the posts here are about painful penetration have no definable source or cause. But what I am guessing it’s trauma by any other name; know or unknown. Trauma is, well, trauma. It could be form something as innocuous as having only external clitoral stimulations allowing the vagina to tighten without internal resistance (finger, penis, zucchini (as per Betty) as a way for the woman’s body to eke out more pleasure and over time the vigina is a no go zone. There are all kinds of ways we can train our bodies and neurologic responses to be less than optimal c-section being just another.

You said, “I cared too much about my marriage to force myself to have penetration before my body was able to receive pleasure.” There is a lot of beauty of care for connection within you, between you and your partner and as community as expressed here and with your family.

There is something about taking care of one’s self first where in that “selfishness” is actually a benefit to others. Perhaps that is what you meant by saying, “When we have sex to satisfy our partner and we don't enjoy it, we create resentments that build and undermine our relationship.” In other words doing something for someone else at one’s own expense is a way to “power over” and it has consequences which I think you expressed as, “It kills the intimacy.”

But in your practice you stayed connected to your self and maintained connection with him and he with you at least that is the way I understood this, “And I didn't go right back to vaginal penetration with my husband. I performed oral sex on him and shared masturbation until I was ready. I think this is very important”

What I am curious about is the other side of the relationship. This all seems to be rather I statement based, I did this, I did that, dictatorial if you will. “And I communicated this to my partner.”

Clearly your husband was part of this process, lent you his support, was there for you, emotionally, physically and sensually. Reading between the lines there was lot of understanding and reaching back and forth for each other as you coped with an infant and your new and altered life together. Some times with "I statement training" the importance of each other is taken for granted.

I’m guessing we hear Mada and APS reminding us in very different ways how important reaching “mutual understanding” is in (re)establishing connection within, between people and as community as a basis for taking blameless responsibility in order to move forward together whether it is emotionally or sensually with each other.

A beautiful passage you crated, Carlin, thank you.

Thank you, feminist

Fri, 03/04/2016 - 17:58
Carlin Ross

Thank you, feminist indignation.  My husband was both flexible and loving throughout the whole process.  Sometimes I omit more personal exchanges because my husband isn't "out" online like I am.  I'm very conscious of his privacy but I will share that we talked about our sex life, or lack thereof.  And I encouraged him to masturbate. 

Pre-birth we were having a ton of sex so neither of us were masturbating that much.  We'd known each other for 15 years but never acted on our feelings.  Suffice it to say there was a ton of pent up sexual frustration.  We weren't surprised when we got pregnant two weeks after discontinuing birth control.

I knew that I had to let him know that masturbating at night after we went to bed or in the morning before we were up was fine and that I needed him to take care of his sexual needs himself.  At first, he was a bit put off but in time he understood that by encouraging his self sexuality I was maintaining the sexual spark between us.  He would joke about "rubbing one out" to let me know he was taking care of himself. 

So we were both masturbating, me getting my vagina ready - him taking the edge off and when I was ready we danced together and didn't skip a beat.  We both missed the touching, kissing, skin on skin and the first time was a wonderful reconnection.  Now, we schedule sex and I think talking openly about how and when we have sex has liberated our relationship. 

When we can't have sex because we're exhausted, the baby is teething or we've caught each other's colds, we joke about it.  So much is left unsaid when it comes to our sex lives.  Knowing where you stand - that things change and you're willing to work through it takes the pressure off and maintains the intimacy.

Carlin, you are welcome.

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 13:15
feminist indignation (not verified)

Dear Carlin,

I apologize if you felt like I was asking you to open your marriage more publically than either you or your husband desired as it was not at all my intention to increase stress on your most important relationship or foster the likelihood of it becoming less secure. I’m grateful you felt heard and understood, that you found in my words a reflection of what you wanted known.

Truthfully I was a bit surprised that what came up for you was more sexual candor. That’s because when I was writing and thinking about what you said I imagining more how it was for the two of you to be adjusting to, settling into the stresses of commitment, the first child and how these stressors manifested themselves in your life generally. True I used your quotes about the effects of the C-section on your sex lives but I heard these as a metaphor for much more.

So what I was guessing I was hearing was a bit more complex or mundane than how to deal with an uncooperative vigina from a sex educator. It was more how both of you as a couple work out connection, emotional dependence when your lives were being altered in so many ways? That’s why I was curious about your husband’s involvement.

It’s really questions like how can I reach for my partner when I need safety and support and how can I be there when I am reached for? What is it that grants us the where with all to be connective? The odd thing is when we can facilitate deep, safe, emotional connection and are able to have deep transformative conflicted conversations, not just couples’ lives are transformed so is their sexual ecstasy and experimentation with absolutely no sensual education. Odd because while sex is an impersonal autonomic response, as a byproduct of improving sensual sensation, sexual learning can also teach the back-&-forth - care and understanding of how to be emotionally responsive both to one’s selves and one’s partner.

The learning of connection within people, between people and as community comes in many forms. “… I needed him to take care of his sexual needs himself. At first, he was a bit put off but in time he understood”

That looks like a rather simple “I statement” about how to deal with an uncooperative vigina. But I also think I heard mundane things like how can one be one’s self within a committed and defining relationship, how do we accommodate and infant in our lives (postpartum responses are often traumatic, more so for new mothers than spouses) how can we reach for our partner to find support and can and how will my partner be there for me and me for them? I’m guessing I hearing you say marriage is far more complicated than “who” wakes up and holds a bottle at 3AM or “whose” sex organs is working perfectly on demand.

Without sex being a metaphor the above is how I am hearing you talk about the complexity of being emotionally present, connected, and dependent on each other in the face of life, a commitment of life together and entirely new life with a child. “… we're exhausted, the baby is teething or we've caught each other's colds, we joke about it. So much is left unsaid …. Knowing where you stand - that things change and you're willing to work through it takes the pressure off and maintains the intimacy.”

It’s all too human to be private. How you are at home affects the doorman, the crazy lady on the corner you pass each day and how you are with friends, family, and acquaintances.


Tue, 03/08/2016 - 07:58
davryn (not verified)

It's so good to hear you Carlin, and the posts that followed. I didn't have your problems in my marriages, but I always respected my partner's privacy, as you do, and only talked as far as that allowed. Enough time has passed now and I can talk more openly, "For every thing there is a season.." 

Sex after Childbirth

Tue, 04/12/2016 - 07:37
Natalie1993 (not verified)

Huge thank you for your story: dryness and pain after giving birth is in fact most common problem and mothers sharing their experience help to overcome it a great deal. There are, of course, other problems with sex after childbirth. Ways to manage can be found here: