How Can You Think About Sex At a Time Like This?

The last three months have been some of the hardest of my life.  I’ve not shared many details publicly, but one of my daughters is facing some significant health challenges.  I’ve spent many hours driving to hospitals and doctors’ appointments, researching treatments, and what seems like an eternity slashing through red tape and bureaucratic bullshit to get her the right help.  After a variety of false starts and setbacks, I am thrilled to say that she is progressing on the road to recovery.  We have every reason to believe that, in time, she’ll be back to her old self.  But the journey has been, and will continue to be, difficult and convoluted.  It is emotionally and physically draining, and there are days when I feel like collapsing in exhaustion.

In the midst of all the turmoil though, there are moments.  There are times when, at least for a little while, everything feels stable and I can breathe.  Or times when I am so overwhelmed that I have to think about something else before my brain implodes.  And in some of those moments, I find myself thinking about sex 1 . Considering that I am a sex blogger, you’d think I would know this is normal and healthy.  And objectively, I do.  But then the shame would set in…


How can you think about sex at a time like this?


I told myself that I deserve a break, that sacrificing my own pleasure does nothing to help anyone and quite possibly makes matters worse.  When I have done all that I can do at that point in time, I should relax and take the pressure off myself.  I can accept that.  I can watch a movie, have a beer, take a bubble bath, curl up with a book.  But when I found myself thinking about sex and orgasms, I would psych myself out of it at least half of the time. Even when I presented it to myself as “work” (like toy reviews), the negative feeling lingered.

Despite all my efforts to fight shame and sex-negativity, I still had some lurking in this particular corner of my mind.  I had internalized the idea that there are “acceptable” ways for a worried mother to unwind, and that orgasms are not on the list.  I’m supposed to try exercise, or chocolate, or inspirational reading, or a bubble bath, or a glass of wine, or a support group, or any of the other stress relievers frequently prescribed for frazzled moms.  Society tends to be ridiculously bad at acknowledging that moms are sexual creatures 2.  Most articles and advice columns completely ignore the therapeutic power of orgasms in favor of less risqué suggestions.  A massage might make the cut, or “date night” with a partner…but there’s never a mention of hot and heavy sex, nor of spending quality time with one’s vibrator.  The absence of those key items made me wonder if I were somehow “broken” or abnormal to crave them.

"Nice, but not gonna cut it..."

“Nice, but not gonna cut it…”

There was also this toxic idea in my head that grief or sorrow have to be all-consuming to be “real”.  How can you say you’re upset if you’re able to get aroused, even for a little while?  It intertwines with a twisted bit of magical thinking that tells me if I worry enough, if I suffer enough, somehow it will help my daughter heal faster.   When I look closely at these thoughts, I see that they spring from the vestiges of my Catholic upbringing.  While Catholicism is heavy on guilt in general, there’s a special focus on sex-related guilt.  Which goes double for women.  And of course, the Ultimate Mom in the church’s eyes was a perpetual virgin.  I thought I’d pulled up those psychic weeds years ago, but there they were, running rampant and trying to strangle any sexual thoughts that might begin to blossom.

"All you need is prayer and a pure heart..."

“All you need is prayer and a pure heart… right?”

Finally, there’s the fact that I am undoubtedly my own worst critic.  I judge myself far more harshly that I do anyone else.  So I stopped and asked myself what I would tell one of my best friends if they were in a similar situation. Would I advise them to become celibate?  To give up orgasms until their long-term problem passed?  No.  I would not.  I would urge them on, suggest ways to find time and create the right mood.  I would remind them that they have to look after their needs as well as those of their children.  I realized that I give pretty decent advice, and it was about time I took some of it for myself.

Having dissected my inner argument against sex, I moved on to looking at the benefits of accepting my urges.  Sex is a way for me to celebrate the successes, remember the joy and beauty and fun in life.  It can also be cathartic, a noisy, messy, primal release of pent up emotions.  It’s a temporary escape into a bubble where there is no room for worries and what-ifs and panic.  It’s a place where words are superfluous, a respite when you’ve spent so many hours telling the same, increasingly long story to yet another doctor, nurse or therapist.  It’s a way of shutting down the overworked circuits of my brain, letting me reboot and refresh to face another day.  If a pill existed that could provide all the benefits of sex, I would take it in a heartbeat.

"OK, I need one for relaxation, better sleep and orgasms..."

“OK, I need one for relaxation, better sleep and orgasms…”

I’m highly prone to overanalyzing things, but in this case, the list of pros and cons left no room for debate.  I declared all-out war on the shame blockade, aggressively thumbing my nose at the negative voice inside my head.  I decided I was done denying myself the physical and emotional release that I need.  I have made time for my pleasure (solo and partnered), including scheduling time off from work expressly for sex.  One way or another, I make a point of ending most days with orgasms.  Even if I think I’m too tired.  The nagging little voice hasn’t gone away completely, but silencing it takes much less effort now.  When it does start complaining, I repeat my new mantra (courtesy of Emmeline Peaches):


Just because you’re going through some problems in life doesn’t mean you are less deserving of sexual wellbeing.


I read Emmeline’s quote as I was figuring out how to wrap up this post, and it resonated with me on a very deep level.  Yes, I am going through some monster problems, and they are awful.  But that is not a reason to neglect my sexual wellbeing. The fates seem to smile on my choice.  Sex has proven to be a key component in improving my mental and emotional state.  Thus far, no deity has smited me with lightning bolts.  My daughter has not suffered a catastrophic relapse…in fact, she’s improving steadily.  Life has gone on, with me happier and more balanced.  I sleep longer and have fewer nightmares.  I’m better equipped to deal with the times when new challenges arise.  I feel like the universe has affirmed my right to be a sexual being regardless of what else may be going on in my life.  And it is good.

I’d like to say a special thank you to those in the blogging community who have advised, listened and comforted me when I needed it.  You are my online family, and I love you all.


  1. For the purposes of this post, sex includes any solo or partnered activity dedicated to the pursuit of orgasms
  2. Speaking here of actual moms with young children, not the fabled MILF’s of the porn world.
  • ImaGodiva
    May 26, 2015

    I can relate to so much of this. We’ve been going through something similar with my youngest son, 10, who after years of being the easiest, happiest, most laid-back child started having severe emotional difficulties at school before Christmas. It took months of stress, worry, working with the school daily, and navigating the healthcare system to finally get a diagnosis of ADHD and probable mild Autism Spectrum Disorder, but we are finally on the upswing and he’s improved greatly. They are so important, it’s difficult to take your own needs into consideration, but it’s also imperative to do so. A mom needs to be whole herself, to be the best she can be for her kids. Thanks for writing about this. 🙂

  • Lunabelle
    May 26, 2015

    My daughter is also ten, and while the exact diagnosis is different, we had the same type of issues with a very sudden onset. We’re still navigating, but I’m hopeful that we’re on the right path now. I’m glad your son is doing better, and thank you for your kind words about my post.

  • SweetWomanDirtyMind
    May 31, 2015

    I too am my own worst critic. When someone I love is facing difficult issues, I can fall into the trap of thinking my own suffering is somehow “helping” them. Also, if I neglect my own needs, that “proves” I love them.

    The branding of self-care, sexual or otherwise, as “selfish” I think is the most damaging legacy Catholicism left me.

    My first thought on reading your story was to remember a few years ago when my Dad died after an 8-month battle with leukemia. My husband and I had sex a few days after he died, when we returned home for the days between his death and the funeral. My brother and Mom were handling the funeral arrangements, and I had done all I could for the moment.

    Reconnecting in that way with my husband, not to mention the orgasms, helped me get through that difficult week.

  • Beauty's Punishment
    June 14, 2015

    Hugs from me to you. We should have a group get together, everyone goes around the circle to say, Hi, I’m also a recovering Catholic. 😛

    Just trying to get through life can just suck the energy out of anyone. My youngest son, when he was in first grade had a teacher that said he was doing things on purpose to make her mad. We were referred to the ADD doctor that had connections with his school after the school psychologist tried to talk to him. Kee migrated all over the room, and ended up lying on top of the table to talk to the psychologist. That was nineteen years ago, and you would think I would be bald after pulling my hair out helping him grow up to be an adult.

  • Lunabelle
    June 15, 2015

    Love the support group idea! I thought my rebellious and defiant attitude toward the church as I grew up had protected me, but some of the dogma definitely got through my armor.

    We had a similar issue with a teacher insisting my daughter’s behavior was aimed at getting out of doing work. Yet the minute she got her anxiety under control, she would do the assignment…correctly, and faster than the other kids. She hates feeling “different” and drawing attention to herself, and teachers who treat her problems as disciplinary issues make things worse rather than better.

    I’m glad you made it through the school battles with your son, hoping things are going well for him in the adult world!

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