It was a standing joke—literally—between Chucho and me. He would pass me in a doorway, our bodies brushing against each other, and suddenly grab me in a crushing embrace, panting, while I smiled sheepishly and waited him out. Then he would pat me on the hindquarters the way you might a favorite horse, and we would go our separate ways.
But as two months postpartum turned into four and six and eight, my libido stayed stuck in neutral. We tried, once in awhile, to rev up the engine—we dimmed the lights, bought a new tube of K-Y jelly. But nothing could get me past the thought that this contrived, paint-by-numbers kind of sex was taking up a lot of prime sleeping time.
What, really, was the point? I felt like Andie MacDowell in Sex, Lies, and Videotape, when she admits to her therapist that she doesn't masturbate. "It just seems so stupid," she says. I must point out that this is a rare phenomenon in my 15-year marriage, which I would optimistically guess (based on no comparison data) is sexually healthy. Certainly our sex life has changed over the years, which I take as a sign of growth. We aren't the same people who used to scramble home for a quickie on our lunch hour, but as we approach middle age, the comfort of our long acquaintance has made intimacy more, well, intimate.
We wrecked all that by producing Lucia, an unbelievably happy baby. Her older brother and sister had been challenging infants, but Lucia was a dream: flexible, easy to entertain, a good sleeper. All through the pregnancy I had sworn this was my last one, and meant it. I was 37 years old and three children were enough. Then, after Lucia's blessed arrival, I began to feel an odd kind of grief: The exquisite and bitter pain of knowing I was doing something I loved for the very last time.
I clung to the last of my Pink, precious baby days—the tiny onesies, the soft little cheeks and toes, and especially the hours spent nursing in the rocking chair. Breast-feeding was a love-drug for both me and Lucia. We cuddled together day after day like a mama bear hibernating with her cub. We didn't need anyone else. Breast-feeding, of course, was the root of my libido problem. All the baby-care books explained how the hormones that made me produce milk were also shutting down my sex drive.