sex

"We started exploring new things." How my views on sex changed while trying for a baby.

Growing up, my parents never talked about sex. They barely showed physical affection towards each other. If you saw them interact, you would almost think they were siblings instead of a romantic couple who have been married for over 40 years.

My mum would preach about not giving it up before marriage. She would shame women who had too many partners and engaged in casual sex. While my mum was vocal and firm with her beliefs, my dad kept silent. When it was brought up, my dad would awkwardly turn his gaze away while looking for the nearest exit.

Most of my information came from what I saw on movies and television plus the brief week of sex education during high school.

Watch: A group of adults who've never had sex share what they think their first time would be like. Post continues after the video. 


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In movies and shows of the '90s and early 2000s like American Pie and Dawson’s Creek, the female characters were always being pursued while the male characters were doing the pursuit. The ultimate goal for the male was to get into the female’s pants and they had to go through a series of obstacles to get there. Of course, there was a huge focus on losing your virginity and the different meanings for boys versus girls.

The education system did not fare any better. Having safe sex dominated the curriculum. For the entire class, my fear-mongering PDHPE teacher warned us about STDs and teenage pregnancy. There was nothing about the health benefits of sex, intimacy, consent, sexual orientation, gender identity, pleasure, fetishes, exploration, and so forth.

So for most of my adult life, I viewed sex as a 'gift' women offered to men as a reward for good behaviour. When I entered relationships, I inadvertently created a point system for when I would "do the deed" with my partner.

If he behaved well and treated me right, then he deserved to have sex with me. If he didn’t, then I would punish him by withholding sex, and acting cold and distant. I thought I had a right to do this because I was conditioned to believe all men want sex and as a woman, I was the gatekeeper.

I didn’t realise I was using sex as a weapon until we started trying for a baby. Then, my values and beliefs about sex completely shifted.

No more point system.

Trying to conceive meant having a lot of sex. We both knew we had to get under the sheets regularly so it forced me to dismantle my whole point system.

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I stopped keeping tabs on whether he was on his best behaviour and started focusing on the ultimate goal of what we both wanted, which was to expand our family. Having a baby together was the gift that we will share together, eliminating the power dynamic.

No more fears of rejection.

Before trying to conceive, my beliefs around initiating sex were deeply tied to my ego. I rarely initiated because I was scared of getting rejected.

However, when we were trying, I stopped keeping track of the number of times I had to initiate sex. It was no longer about who was coming on to whom because rejection didn’t matter. I didn’t get upset or hurt if he didn’t feel like it because it wasn’t about me. It was about supporting each other as a team working together to create a life.

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More experimentation and fun.

I didn’t get pregnant right away. From ovulation sticks to tracking your temperature to scheduling a time and place to do it, trying for a baby became an entire project in itself. Month after month, my period came, and I became discouraged. So I Googled how to improve my chances.

Multiple articles always ended with something along the lines of, "Relax and try to have fun." Whenever I read that, I’d roll my eyes. But over time, I realised we were getting overwhelmed because we were focusing too much on the strict schedule and had forgotten to have fun in the bedroom.

Without a tally system or an ego tied to sex, I felt safe telling him when I was aroused and sharing my sexual desires and what gave me pleasure. We started exploring new things and became adventurous together, experimenting with different locations, times of day, positions etc.

More empowerment and liberation.

Trying to get pregnant not only created more intimacy in my marriage but I learned a lot about how my hormones affect my body, specifically how my ovulation cycle affects my mood. I started keeping track of my emotional ebb and flow throughout the month.

Being in tune with my body liberated my sexuality and empowered me to embrace my instinctive needs and desires.

My journey to conceive led to the birth of my children and the death of my unhealthy beliefs riddled with shame and self-judgement. It’s made me more comfortable to talk about a topic that was never discussed openly and honestly when I was growing up. I’m grateful that will not be the case for my kids.

Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP is an author, wife and mum of two. She writes stories to empower individuals to talk about their feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them. You can find more from Katharine on her Website or Podcast, or you can follow her on InstagramFacebookTwitter or YouTube.

Feature Image: Getty.