The average Brit apparently has sex four times a month. This year there have been months where we haven't had sex at all. Rather than buoying up the national average, I'm dragging it down. I'm a one-woman assault on a nation's virility. There's a lot that I've missed about sex: the physical sensations, emotional connectivity and orgasmic bliss, for sure, but also the sheer fun of it, occasional inopportune fanny farts and all.
For me sex used to be like ice cream: something I was up for pretty much any time, anywhere and preferably with second helpings. The boy and I had sex a few times a week at least. Ideally, I'd have done it every day. Looking back now, I can barely believe I used to see a week without sex as an interminable drought.
Over the past couple of years, a combination of chronic pain, work-related stress, feeling miserable and all the associated medications have destroyed my libido. Obliterated it even, like sexual napalm. On one particularly nasty drug even on the rare occasions when I actually wanted sex, my body just wouldn't comply. I felt like a dried up shell of a woman, a failure. I was worried we'd stopped being partners, lovers and become mere flatmates. I wondered if the boy would stick around.
It's a rubbish situation, but the boy has been amazing and we were just dealing with it. But now we are trying for a baby.
Desperate for magic tricks and tips on getting pregnant quickly, I went to my old friend Google for advice. And that's when it hit me: we were going to have to have more sex. A lot, lot more. Although there is a short optimum window around ovulation for conception, couples are advised to have sex every other day. Right then, I thought, time to get cracking. My chances of getting pregnant so soon after coming off the pill were tiny, but the optimist in me wondered if maybe, just maybe, it might happen on the very first shot.
I pounced the boy. We were both getting into it and to my relief my body was behaving. Perhaps this was the day I was going to get pregnant. Foreplay over, we got down to business. So far, so good. Time for a quick position swap. And then he came. All over my thigh. Premature ejaculation has never been an issue before so this was comically bad timing; talk about crying over spilt milk.
We're determined to keep trying but quite not sure how we'll maintain the pace. Finding the time and energy - let alone my long lost libido - seems pretty daunting.
On a friend's advice I downloaded the Period Tracker app. You enter your period dates and it tells you when you're likely to be most fertile. I like the logic behind it: instinctively you'd think focusing your attempts on your peak fertility period would help you conceive more quickly. And that's certainly the advice you're often given.
But maybe there are holes in the popular wisdom. Some scientists think so. Research has challenged whether fertility-focused sex makes any real difference to the speed of conception. Elsewhere, research has found that the fertility window is not quite as rigid and predictable as it is often made out to be.
For someone like me who struggles with low sex drive, the idea of timing sex has obvious appeal. But I'm finding it creates a lot of extra pressure on the days the app identifies as fertile. The rush to hit the sheets just because an app tells you to has to be one of the least erotic things ever. And it's pretty depressing when you're sick and out of action through the whole window, like I was this month.
But I can see a financial benefit to using the app. Pregnancy tests are suspiciously expensive: I wonder how much the manufacturers profit from our desperation. Much like the infamous 'wedding tax', is there a 'conception tax' at play? But having taken the progesterone only pill for nearly a decade, I haven't got a clue about my monthly cycle. Just having a rough idea of when my period's due could save us a fortune in wasted pregnancy tests - although I have quite the stockpile after going nuts in the chemist recently.
Call me picky but I wish they'd improve the app's design and stop pandering to lazy stereotypes of women. I cringe every time I see the cartoon flower on the app button, the lashings of pink and the coy euphemism for sex, getting 'intimate'. I prefer my apps without a side order of condescension.
Has anyone else found that sex to conceive feels more like business than pleasure?
An earlier version of this article appeared on www.breakingupwithcontraception.com