A piece written for World Childless Week 2021 and shared by them for Childlessness and Intimacy day Sept 14th 2021. Reposted here with original link 

Intimacy is more than just sex

Sex is more than penetration

It has taken me a long time to realise that

As a 17year old being hit with infertility AND also being told that penetrative sex would be impossible without the assistance of dilation or surgery my preconceptions and insecurities around intimacy started young.

I was embarrassed, felt self-conscious and wondered if it would ever be possible to feel  comfortable and to enjoy being intimate.   Intimacy for me, naïvely, only be defined as penetration.

I had tried to have sex before this point.  It was disastrous, because what I didn’t know at the time was my shortened vaginal canal made it impossible for a comfortable experience. I felt like I was broken.

It scared me to even think about trying that again, particularly after finding out I would need to explore dilation therapy to do so and I wanted to do that but I was also terrified too.  I was lucky to have an extremely supportive boyfriend at the time who was patient and kind and really helped me feel at ease as we both navigated it together, sex being a new process for us both.

For me at that age the peer pressure of sex was really the dominant force over the infertility, which probably is not surprising.  But that did mean I was often not very kind to myself in the process. I often sought the validation that my body was indeed “normal” and that I wasn’t different.  Which was very helpful for natural dilation but not intimacy.  It was just sex.

As University drew to a close I started dating a friend from my course.  It felt, really for the first time that I was happy and comfortable and that we could be intimate together in a truly different way.  As time went on and we explored what options there may be for us to have children then this is when the intimacy reduced.  Our communication challenged, and not being able to find the ways to both truly express how we felt.  It made me worry more about how my own infertility affected our relationship and we ultimately split up.

Infertility and childlessness not the reason for it but our communication, and sharing what we really wanted, the main issue.

Dejected and feeling like everything I wanted was slipping away I started therapy to try and process my grief and realized a lot of what I had buried for the previous nearly 15 years was grief surrounding my diagnosis and my infertility which I had never processed properly.

I felt inferior and that I would never find happiness.

But I did.

I found my forever person and learnt that intimacy was so much more than just sex.  That it was a common understanding between us. That it was an exploration of what we both wanted.  We were more aware and more in “the present” allowing us to be more open to each other and, importantly, to ourselves which opened us both up much more to being more comfortable sexually than I had experienced before.

We are born intimate beings and we die intimate beings and infertility does not change that but a diagnosis that challenges that can make us question ourselves and heighten our insecurities.

I have learnt that, so many of us question these elements with ourselves, just as I had, regardless of the reason why.  Learning that intimacy is more than just sex has really helped me understand more about what intimacy is for me.  It also helped us connect in different ways and ultimately helped us both feel more comfortable sexually with each other.

When my boyfriend and I discussed the possible routes to parenthood and did not find an option that really we both wanted to explore, I am pleased to say this didn’t affect our intimacy largely because we spoke openly and frankly about how we felt, and still do.

He and I found a comfort in each other, in our future and have not let the prospect of us not having children impact our intimacy and our affection towards each other.

In fact, our shared understanding and communication around this topic allows us to be more connected than we were and has enhanced our desire to be close and intimate, in the many ways that intimacy is achieved.

Charlie xx

Personal blog: https://mrkhmakingmymark.wordpress.com/