I remember one evening eight years ago stretching out naked in bed with my now husband in a warm post coital fuzz. As we lay tangled up in each other I commented to him that I'd just read in a newspaper that 40 percent of married couples barely had sex more than once a month. It was a statistic we found impossible to believe. How could that be, we wondered? How could couples not make love every night? Bar illness, or a seriously early start, it was inconceivable for us not to jump each other the moment we got under the sheets -- and usually when we woke up too. Oh how smug we were. For eight years later it's a different story. Now we are that statistic. So what happened, dear reader? Children.
I'm not the first and I won't be the last woman to admit that having children has obliterated my sex life. It's not that I don't fancy my husband any more - because he's still pretty great and gorgeous. It's not that I suffered any physical damage squeezing out my kids. It's not even that I am being kept up by a screaming new born or truculent nocturnal toddler any more. It's more that somewhere in the maelstrom of my life which now consists of feeding and clothing two young boys, rushing them to school, dashing to work, dashing home to take them to football practice, gym, piano as well as baking last minute offerings for cake sales, scamming together costumes for birthday parties and World Book Day, that the girl who was contentedly curled up naked with the sexy man she was planning to marry eight years ago seems to have disappeared.
With so many demands on me - most of which are about as unsexy as they get (wiping bottoms, scraping dog poof of football boots, hawing muddy bikes in and out of cars) my sass, my glow has gone.
On Mother's Day at the weekend, I got two beautifully artistic cards with scribbles and stickers all over them and the only daffodil that was growing in the garden from my boys, and a cup of tea from my husband. I love them all so much I only need their presence to make me happy. But what I would really have liked for Mothers Day, is something from inside me, and that is my sexy old self back. Not only do I know that sex is vital for the longevity of a relationship, and that is good for me. I miss it. I miss the spark and thrill of excitement when my body first meets my husband's. The slow steady build-up of pleasure dragging me into the moment and casting all my worries aside. That lovely warmth and relaxed feeing afterwards that you can't get from any other pursuit.
So how do mothers get their sexy selves back? Whether in a relationship or not. As the Sensual Healing Harmony retreat is all about helping women get their glow back and rediscovering their authentic selves, I asked their therapists for their tips. I also asked a US -based motivational speaker and successful business woman Traci Bild, whose forthcoming book Get Your Girl Back www.GYGB.com is all about this very subject.
Here's what they said..
Sarah Rose Bright (BA Hons, MSc) is a Certified Professional Sex Coach, Certified Somatic Sex Coach, sex educator and Shh... therapist.
Create the space | Sometimes we're not in the mood for feeling sensual or we can't imagine who we are beyond being a mum, but creating the space can help us transition from the everyday and connect to our sensuality. This can be as simple lighting as candles and playing music that makes you feel good.
'Me' and 'We' time | It is vital to have some 'me' time for you and 'we time' with a partner, if you have one. Plan the frequency that works for you and ensure the time is uninterrupted. For the 'me' time, what do you love to do? Follow what you love to do rather than what you 'should' do. This could be anything from a dance class, time out with the girls, a massage, time on a hobby or learning a new skill, a bath or simply time in bed without interruptions.
Make this a regular date with yourself, even when you don't feel like it - it's essential space for you to connect to you beyond the role of 'mum'.
And having date time with your partner whether it's dinner together, the cinema or intimate time. You put many things in your diary, its important to put these in too to ensure they happen otherwise weeks and months can go by.
Make a transition in the evening | What do you need to transition you from child to adult time at the end of the day? Different things work for different people. Discover what works for you both (and this may change!). It could be having time by yourself, tidying the kids toys away, chatting with a friend, a shower, enjoying a glass of wine, reading, moving your body.
Body image | How you feel about your body is fundamental to how you feel. How has your body changed since childbirth? Any body based practices help us to connect into ourselves and our sensuality - ranging from yoga and tai chi to dancing, walking to massage. And these don't have to take time - play your favourite music and wiggle your hips when cooking the tea.
Know your pleasure | Your pleasure may have changed after childbirth and having young children. You may find your body doesn't respond as it did before. Take time to explore your body and your genitals on your own and with your partner without a goal of penetration or orgasm.
Experiment with different types of touch all over the body and let your partner know what you like and how they can make it even better. Rediscover your genitals in this way too. And, just like back massage, genital massage can be really healing, especially if things feel different after childbirth. Take time to massage your genitals with loving, sensual touch.
Day to day, spend a few extra minutes in the bath or the shower to slowly wash your body and enjoy the sensations. Take time to sensually massage body lotion into your skin.
Self love | Notice what you are telling yourself. We can spend hours being very critical of ourselves and telling ourselves things that are not always true and this drains a lot of our energy. Often this is underpinned with "I'm not good enough" and we're not going to feel sensual when we're being critical! We wouldn't let the people around us talk to us in this way, so why do it to ourselves? Finding kindness and compassion for ourselves is the elixir, treating ourselves like we'd treat our own best friend.
Slow down | We're often rushing from place to place or thinking about 'to do' list. Slowing down is one of the most important things we can do and from this place, we often get more done. Life is full of endless sensual experiences if we slow down enough to notice them - feeling the sun caress your skin, taking in a beautiful view, fully experiencing the flavours of the food we're eating, taking a few more moments and melting into a hug.
Breathe | Most of us shallow breath which activate the part of the nervous system called the 'sympathetic nervous system' which is associated with the fight/flight response and cuts us off from what we are feeling. Breathing shallowly actively promotes stress and anxiety. Yet when you breath deeply, it activates the 'para sympathetic nervous system' which instantly reduces stress and generates relaxation. Breathing is key to sensuality as the more you breathe, the more sensations you can feel in your whole body.
Jemima Eames is an Emotional Freedom Technique specialist and Shh... therapist
Let go of your roles | We are labeled all the time - a daughter, sister, mother, aunt, wife, lover and many more. Each of these labels come with a set of 'rules' attached to them that affect our behaviour. These rules are written as a result of our life experiences. We see how mother's behave, learn from them and copy what they do. This is true of every role in society. The first step to getting out of these roles and back into being ourselves is awareness. When you notice what you are doing or saying and question it "Is this me, or is this someone else's voice?" you will start to notice what your way is.
Set boundaries | Being able to say yes and no in an authentic way is crucial. Be willing to let others down in order to give yourself what you need. This can be the toughest one of all. We are all programmed - particularly as women and mother's - to put everyone first.
A quick way to notice if you are doing something that you want to do and that is right for you is to notice your body. Your body sends you messages all the time to trigger certain behaviours.
When you start tuning into your body and the signals it sends you, you can begin to learn what it is you truly want. Sit quietly for a few minutes, breathing into your heart. Notice how you feel. Think of your 'to-do' list. How does your body respond to each of the items? Hopefully somethings will make your energy go up, you might get excited and smile. Other chores might make your body feel tired, heavy or sad. Listen to your body and start to learn it's language.
Traci Bild is founder of training firm Bild & Company and author of forthcoming book Get Your Girl Back. Her blog can be found on www.GYGB.com
Dress like a woman, not a mum | Cut the jogging bottoms, scruffy hair, old t-shirts. How do can you feel sensual when you are dressed like a first grader? Put on a pair of jeans, with a stack boot or shoe, a fitted shirt, belt and accessories. How we dress determines how we feel and in turn the energy we put out.
Wear beautiful lingerie | A friend taught me long ago the importance of wearing pretty bras and panties that match. Even if no one sees it, you feel like a woman and bit more sexy. Most importantly these pieces do not have to be expensive.
Set your mood with music | Nothing changes your mental state faster than music. Get a glass of wine, play music you love, that relaxes you and if you're in a relationship, slow dance in the kitchen. You'll instantly feel more sensual.
Put on a pair of heels | Something about heels reminds busy moms of their sex appeal and they can be worn with just about anything other than sweats.
Bridget Harrison writes for the Times, Glamour, Red, Daily Mail, Sunday Times Style among others. She is a regular on BBC Radio London 94.9 FM and has written a memoir about dating in New York called Tabloid Love: looking for Mr Right in all the Wrong Places.