March 30, 2016
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Between breastfeeding, playdates, postpartum fatigue, birthday fatigues and the countless other aspects of mother- and fatherhood, a Cuban couple tries to find new ways to explore something that is often lost in the middle of the parenting storm: sex.
HAVANA — It was Summer, 2015. Nine months later, our daughter would be born. It wasn't planned, but I was sure I wouldn't end my first pregnancy. I was 22 years old, had a degree, my dream job and my own house — something unthinkable at that age in Cuba — plus a three-year relationship, and the summer heat.
I remember those months as the most fun, crazy and experimental of my pre-motherhood life. It was the time of my first kiss with a girl, and our first threesome.
Every weekend, we went to the Cuban art factory and ended up at the CornerCafé until 7:00 a.m. That September morning, we were very drunk, and in that second-floor room of my house, it was unbearably hot. The sex was otherworldly. A few days later, the symptoms began.
She arrived when and how she wished. That's how rebellious she is.
She was born on a hot June morning. After recovering from the C-section, we returned home with a nearly five-kilogram baby in our arms and the new life of first-time parents on our shoulders. Everything from that moment can be summarized in three words: crying, breastfeeding and poop.
How was sex in that first year? I don't know. I'm not even sure we had it. A cloud of diapers obscures that memory. Lust and wild passion didn't exist. Instead, there was an infected C-section wound with staph bacteria from the delivery room, my overweight, eternal fatigue and sleepiness, breast pain from her inexperienced latch, and an excess of milk.
I know friends who started having sex before the postpartum period ended. I envied them a lot; I couldn't understand where they found the energy. I still don't understand. My partner says we did have sex, but he doesn't remember any specific moments.
Those initial months were all about learning, maximum concentration and above all, dedication to the new family member. There was no desire or brain cells left for sex.
A year passed, and sex returned, but as a routine. We were a young couple, but it wasn't the same. We had to manage it differently, look for new strategies, try other places in the house because the baby's crib was in our room until she turned four.
I couldn't have sex in the bedroom. He would start caressing me, and I imagined that the child would wake up.
We were a young couple, but it wasn't the same.
We experimented in another room on the ground floor, in the living room, in the kitchen, but I couldn't stop worrying about her. I couldn't see her, I didn't know if she was breathing or doing okay. My motherly thoughts didn't let me enjoy or have orgasms as I should have.
I also don't recall masturbating during that time. Perhaps I did, probably hiding in the bathroom during the few minutes I had to shower, because the baby could need my breasts at any moment.
During labor and the first weeks of breastfeeding, pregnant bodies produce oxytocin. The hormone shortens labor and makes it less stressful; so much so that some women think about having another baby. In my case, oxytocin flew in abundance and made me forget the difficult moments, the good ones — and sex. It made me forget if we had it during that period.
"When there's a child, you have to plan things more carefully."
Until she finally reached an age where she could stay with her grandparents. One weekend with the maternal grandparents and another with the paternal ones. The earthly paradise and the return of sex.
Children complicate certain practices such as sexy dances, loudness, pre-party music, role-playing and group activities. It depends on each couple's intimacy, but we needed certain things.
We were lucky to have the "old folks." This marked the beginning of a second season in our relationship and our bed. We returned to some parties and bars, met new people and reconnected with old friends.
Five years, married, and with plenty of fantasies in mind.
In university, sex was always a topic of conversation. In any gathering, amid any work, we ended up talking about penetration, fellatio, indecent encounters and related topics.
It was delightful to discuss these things with friends. After becoming parents, our circle of friends was mainly composed of other young parents like us. Geeks with sons and daughters. We would meet at children's playgrounds, birthdays or any impromptu kid-friendly gathering, but the topics were not the same as before.
Complaints about elementary school teachers or head lice were the center of discussion. Anything related to sexuality was forbidden because children could hear us, and "they understand everything."
"Desires to explore, to learn, to exchange"...
Polygamy and group sex practices are complicated after giving birth. When there's a child, you have to plan things more carefully. My partner and I discussed inviting a "unicorn" girl to our home to break the routine, but questions about the child always arose. Our experiences were limited to when she was with her grandparents, and it usually lasted only one night.
During an outing with friends, I ran into the girl I had my first kiss with, before I became a mother. There was only one kiss between us, and we never saw each other again. We had never bumped into each other, not even in the bus queue. There was joy in our reunion. We caught up in just a few hours. She was a mother and married. We arranged for the girls to play at her home in Vedado. We became quite close during those days, and the girls got along well and were happy.
"The girl from the kiss" talked to me on the way to her daughter's daycare. Her husband and she wanted to try with another couple, and we were the chosen ones. But it had to be at their place, and carefully organized because their daughter and the girl's mother would be there.
We scheduled a weekend. One thing about having children is that plans can fall apart at any moment. No matter how many schedules you have, no matter how much you plan ahead, you can never be sure it will happen. The first agreed-upon weekend, one of the girls had a slight fever, and we had to cancel.
Our encounters with them started at their house, with the girl asleep but there. No noise, so as not to wake her. No moaning, spanking or motivating phrases. We had a rehearsed response in case she woke up and asked what her parents and uncles were doing in bed. Everything happened stealthily, but it was enjoyable. It was something new and thrilling for all four of us.
On one occasion, we met at our house when they had their place occupied and her mother started to suspect. At our home, it had to be in the afternoon since the girls were at the daycare center. We would stop around 4:00 p.m. and pick them up.
Around that time, I was reading a book that was given to me by "the girl from the kiss"'s husband, a sort of manual for polyamory: The Ethical Slut by American authors Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. That book helped me understand many things that were not clear to me until then, especially in terms of managing emotions. I understood that polyamory is not a simple practice, and it shouldn't be taken lightly; on the contrary, it requires a lot of maturity, trust, communication and emotional responsibility.
After emigrating and living in Europe, we discovered a broader world of sex and affection, more colorful than the one we knew in Cuba.
So, we still limit ourselves to having sex.
Swinger clubs and saunas, apps to find singles or swinger couples, nightclubs open at all hours, theme bars of all kinds, sex shops, dark rooms, BDSM parties, erotic dancers, escorts, nudist beaches — much more open and willing people. I've thought that if all this existed in Cuba, the divorce rate would be much lower. Also, if there were babysitters and decent salaries to afford them.
But here, there are no grandparents. So, we still limit ourselves to having sex. Our Olympic performances take place in the mornings and early afternoons. We don't want to disturb the neighbors either. In these apartments, everything can be heard, especially in the silence of the night. Despite her age, our daughter still doesn't get used to sleeping alone in her room and comes to ours. That's detrimental to our sexual health.
The reality is that, in both Cuba and Spain, we are still parents, but also a young couple. The desires to explore, to learn, to exchange, to delve a bit into the new possibilities offered by European culture. Better and wetter times will come.