Have you ever cried after sex? How about in the middle of it – bringing the entire sweaty, messy thing to a crashing halt? I cried last night. It wasn’t the first time – I’m sure it won’t be the last – but it was the first time in a long time and it caught me off guard. Sex after spinal cord injury isn’t something I’ve talked a lot about. I’m not sure why, as it seems I’ve talked about everything else. But for those of you hoping this is some sort of paraplegic’s guide to sex, I’m sorry to disappoint – may your Google search take you to a different corner of the internet. This is a little about sex, a little about loss, a little about adapting and, quite simply, another little piece of my story.
Sex changed after my spinal cord injury. Couples in long-term relationships often look for ways to spice up their sex lives – paralysis forced it upon us. Without any sensation below my bellybutton, we had to get creative between the sheets. Through trial and error, trust, honesty and laughter, we discovered how to keep sex fun and satisfying. But it’s still different – still changed.
Early on in my recovery I often got sad during or after sex. My husband, ever patient and comforting, never made me feel guilty for those emotions. Still, it never feels great to say, “I need you to stop” while pushing your husband away from you. It has been months since this scenario played out – I honestly can’t remember the last time. Until last night that is.
I don’t know what it was about last night as nothing was particularly different. But for a brief second, I let my mind wander to the absent sensation below my waist and it consumed me. I surrendered to the feelings of loss and frustration and pushed away just a second before collapsing into tears and apologies.
There was no need for Ian to ask me what was wrong – no confusion about the moment unfolding that has somehow become both rare and familiar. My apologies were unnecessary and mostly ignored as he handed me a tissue. He smiled and said, “this isn’t usually the reason I reach for the tissue box after sex” and my sob broke into a laugh.
I caught my breath. We both knew it was just a moment to feel sad; it was just a moment to miss the way things used to be. These feelings wouldn’t follow us into our next escapade, nor would they cast a shadow over the next orgasm – no, they would pass. But it was a reminder that it’s possible to love something as it is now but still miss the way it was then. That’s mostly how life works though, isn’t it?
That’s it I suppose. Another moment of grief and another story in my collection. But what I’m taking from all of it is probably not what you think. I’m thinking that if after 16 years, 3 kids and a spinal cord injury we still have a sex life – even if it sometimes gets cut short by tears – that’s pretty damn good.