CS: birth trauma (details), gender identity feels, body image, mental health, sexuality, kink/BDSM, sex work
Maron identifies as a white, able-bodied, middle-class, employed, occasionally depressed, parent, poly, queer, genderqueer: agender, they/them pronouns, and is married to a cis-dude in a triad and lives in a poly household. Maron and their husband are the bio-parents of one child who is 8 and adoptive-parents of another child who is 11. Maron noted how when they decided to become a poly triad household, there was a parenting learning curve. With Maron’s partner who is also the bio-parent and adoptive parent, they’ve had years to figure out their parenting style. For Maron’s most recent partner, this is new for them.
For Maron, understanding how their gender identity, birth experience, and pelvic health interconnect is paramount for understanding where they’re at with their sexuality. Let’s start with the birth experience.
The birth experience.
Maron really wanted a homebirth, but blood pressure spiked and had protein in their urine so they were sent to the hospital by their midwife at 36 ½ weeks for induction:
“And it was horrible from there, straight from the very first vaginal exam from the on-call OBGYN was invasive and painful and like, I was just a body in the system... I’m glad in a way that I didn’t also have to like, think about the gender stuff at the time because that would have been so much worse."
Maron went on to have pitocin and a forceps delivery that left them with an extensive episiotomy, without being given the option of having an episiotomy or not.
Maron described the scene as a “room full of people, flat on my back, surrounded by strangers, like I fully dissociated from my body, take the baby away and wouldn’t give him back, for quite some time, doing their things over in the corner I’m like, ‘I want my baby’ there was like no immediate skin to skin which I would have got at home with the midwives and all of that stuff so like, it was nothing like what I wanted and I have like the small shred of at least it wasn’t a cesarean because then I wouldn’t have felt like I was a complete failure.”
Because of Maron’s birth experience, they felt very motivated to successfully breastfeed:
“Learning to breastfeed was like ‘I have to make this work.’ Two weeks of agony learning to do that. ‘Oh this should be easy, this should be instant’ but then it wasn’t.”
Maron later took doula training because of their experiences:
“I got really mad [laughs] about how I was treated and so I took doula training almost a year later, some stuff came up then that I hadn’t realized I was still holding… I’ve heard so many awful stories, and who would want to go through that all of the time… I felt violated, I felt raped.”
Maron also found that sometimes their birth experience came up in other contexts, like when they had to seek pelvic physiotherapy treatment for a prolapsed uterus:
“I went to see a specialist cause I was experiencing pelvic organ prolapse. Kegels weren’t helping and I said, ‘I think they’re making them worse’ and she said, ‘no, if kegels aren’t working the only solution is surgery.’... There are other options and also kegels by themselves, especially if they’re not done right, aren’t going to fix anything, so… um… I had a [traumatic] visit with her because it sort of dragged everything up again so it’s the same sort of invasive things with tender parts. And ya know, measuring my bladder size by filling my bladder with a bag of saline, all of that stuff... so it’s definitely slowed down my ability to seek help for pelvic floor prolapse, which has helped since I stopped doing kegels all the time [laughs].”
After Maron’s birth, they started to explore their gender identity:
“A few years [after my birth] tumblr and multiple gender identities started coming up and I thought to myself, well, I can recognize that there's’ multiple. Like, gender’s a spectrum, and then someone from the 519 came into my office. I organized a trans 101 workshop and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, if you even acknowledge that there’s more than two genders, that could fully qualify you as being genderqueer’ and I was like, ‘I could be genderqueer maybe’ and I took a few more years to think about it and realized, ‘yeah, that does apply to me’ and separating identity from presentation… reading more stories about how you don’t have to be dysphoric to be trans, and nonbinary, and yeah, I’m pretty happy with my body but just because I have these parts doesn’t mean I am whatever.
So now when I talk to people about birth stuff I’m very conscientious about using neutral language, reminding people ‘hey, this and that!’ You get to be the squeaky wheel at work [laughs].
I’ve had a bunch of gender stuff happening in the last couples of years, like I came out to family and friends, and to work. I’m fully out. And being out has meant I felt more secure in this identity and not questioning it as much, which is really nice.”
The intersection of gender identity exploration, birth trauma, and sex.
While Maron explored their gender identity in the postpartum period, they considered how their experiences may be impacting their sex life:
“That was really interesting to explore presentation on my terms. And, um… That plus, like, depression and my relationship with my husband being ya know, sometimes rocky, sometimes okay. Keep working on things and then it’s like, okay, is it my depression? Is it my anti-depressants? Is it birth trauma? Or is it gender stuff that’s leading me to not want to have penetrative sex anymore, like at all, and I can’t tell. And that’s really frustrating, sad, and then, ya know, I could go and see a pelvic floor physiotherapist but like, is that gonna make things all traumatized again and what if they use gendered language when I’m talking to them about it and… it’s just, stuff.”
When faced with the question of treating depression with medication, Maron explores the paradox:
“I told my doctor I’m depressed I need medication, if it affects my libido I don’t want to take it because my sex life is such an important part of my mental health. That you know, it’s not a good trade-off for me. So… yeah! I’m not suicidal anymore! But, also not having the fun sexy times with my husband who suffers from depression and anxiety and my other partner who usually has stuff going on too. We’re all struggling and it’s so hard… I don’t think that there’s enough understanding around that, it’s like, an essential part of being happy.”
What was postpartum sex after adoption versus postpartum like?
“I think the adoption impact is dependant on the age of the child. Our kid was 7 and a half months. Was bottle fed. Was used to sleeping on her own in a crib. Not in the same room as us, and when I gave birth that kid co-slept, and that kid who is also genderqueer, they stayed in our room for 2 years. And our kid suffers from [separation] anxiety, so that doesn’t help [laughs].
So I think having a kid go in a separate room in a separate bed, goes down to sleep, sleeps through the night, all of that bottle-fed baby stuff, didn’t impact our sex lives as much.”
What was kinky sex postpartum like?
“Being pregnant in the kink community we do kinky stuff in the bedroom and then... baby arrives [after birth], I didn’t want my husband to touch me for nearly… a year?... I had no libido for like, nearly a year. I didn’t want to be touched sexually because of the experience. And also, I had been really looking forward to doing lactation play or something, and then I like any time I would nurse it was like, nipple sucking = baby is not sexy. So there went that fantasy. And then yeah, having a baby in your bed that wakes up twice a night maybe three times at first, you’re exhausted, of course there’s no sexy times happening.”
Professional pro-doming sex work.
Despite not having the best kinky times postpartum right away, Maron did start taking on clients to work as a pro-dom[minant]. For all that Maron enjoys kinky sex in their personal life, their professional pro-dom work can look quite different:
“I do lots of stuff professionally and personally in kink, not a lot of my professional stuff is stuff that I find inherently arousing… so I’m providing something for a client who’s requested something specific and there’s no sex involved, as in penis-in-vagina, so there’s no sex involved according to the government so yey!... It’s fun to be able to do sexy things without being penetrated.”
I asked Maron if they found any of their pro-dom skills or parenting skills overlapped:
“The skills that I learned as a doula and as a parent have been really helpful in doming. Teaching my kid how to use a toilet… teaching my kid how to handle pain from falling over and scraping their knee… it’s applicable!
Some of the pro-doming stuff… some people are scared to accept their bodies or accept their experiences. They look to me for permission to experience certain things. That makes me think about acceptance in my body and what do I give myself permission to experience in particular.”
Sex work has improved their sex life in the sense that a good session always makes them feel good. Maron only had a couple of clients that made them feel like that wasn’t great, but after a good session they say, “I’m struttin’ home. That was the best, I’m the best!”
Maron is still trying to find the words to talk to their kids about the work they do:
“I can talk to my kids about anything, except I don’t know how to talk to my kids about sex work. I can talk to them about sex and kink and they’ve seen me in rope a couple of times [laughs] where it’s like they come down in the middle of the night and knock on the door, now we have a basement because it’s in a house rather than an apartment.. And it’s like, ‘well, that person can’t get up, I’m covered in rope and have to answer the door covered in rope’ And it’s like, well, ya know, coitus interruptus.
I’m comfortable talking to them about their bodies and politics and everything… but I don’t know how to talk to them about this and it’s like stigma and shame and all of that stuff that’s tied in, and like they know that I’m genderqueer. The older one is like, ‘I don’t care what people gender me as’... the younger one is like I’m a they/them, don’t call me she… They’re great kids.”
“I think it was clear four years later I realized it was kind of fucked up that I just accepted that my body was broken, as being just like, as fact. And then, was like, it’s not broken, I have a scar but it still works.
[I was also] angry at the idea of bouncing back to a pre-pregnancy body. That is so harmful. There is no back. It does not happen. And so many of the changes are hidden and private and shameful, um, like pelvic organ prolapse apparently runs in my family and I didn’t learn about this until I started telling my mother that I was suffering from it. Who wants to talk about that? So… I have a lot of frustration and anger with the shame associated with bodies and this idea that babies just magically appear out of nowhere and everything’s fine afterwards, and like, somebody gives birth: Mom and baby are doing fine! Like, you can’t post anything else. If you share any other message people will freak out. As soon as you tell people, ‘oh I’m pregnant,’ ‘oh my Aunt had the scariest delivery, she almost died.’ and like, ‘I almost died.’ I don’t want to tell those stories to people because it just perpetuates this awful scary birth culture, it’s terrible. Um, and then who’s going to feel sexy with any of that?"
For all that Maron has struggled with body image postpartum, they have been learning how to become reacquainted with their body:
“Part of reconnecting with my body after pregnancy… I have so much more body awareness now than I ever have. And part of that is figuring out my gender, and part of that is how do things work now in a postpartum body.”
Learning about the “must-haves”
Maron talks about being real about what you need actually need in parenthood and leaving the rest behind:
“What are the essential things you need to go somewhere, what are the essential things you need to do right now. The difference between must-have and nice-to-have and, ya know, would-like-to-have, and like really really being ruthless about what’s a must-have.”
Since Maron’s traumatic birth experience: safety, being validated, and feeling heard, are their must-haves across all experiences— including coming-out as genderqueer.
For sex, Maron has some additional must-haves, such as a willingness to be aroused:
“So my husband and I, if I’m like, ‘oh hey I was thinking maybe sexy times would happen’ and he’s like ‘yeah, I could be convinced’ and our other partner is like, ‘I don’t like that phrasing because it makes it seem coercive.’ But for my husband and I it’s understood that it’s like, ‘I’m willing for you to arouse me. And see if that happens.’"
When the stress piles on.
“One of the things that’s been difficult is not feeling connected to my husband lately, and it’s that gender stuff… this disconnect is a killer. [Maron shaved their head and he had loved their long hair. Maron also explored submission and he didn’t like seeing them like that]. So, to feel like I want to have sex with him, I need to feel connected to him. But my other partner I feel connected, so then there’s also that, but then the time and energy— it’s sucks!— [laughs] it’s a full-time job, two kids, and hey there’s that part-time job too, and the hobbies and all the other things, and the constant amount stress.
So… um… the three of us went to Forbidden two summers ago and ya know, five days, everything is taken care of. Kids are being looked after, I don’t have to worry about my job, we have all the food we want, we can just be ourselves, I don’t have to censor myself— there was so much sex through those 5 days. We had so much sex [both laugh] like, whenever we wanted, which was all the time because we were so destressed, right?
Being able to walk around naked if I wanted, dressed-up if I wanted, oh hey, ‘I’m feeling good about myself, I’m feeling good about my body, I’m feeling comfortable with these people who get me or understand me, who use my pronouns correctly, and yeah like, having this experience with my partners… Connected, safe, and happy, and no stress!”
Another time they were going to a birthday party at a big barn and Maron got excited to bring a bunch of gear and ropes, but the stress of getting there and hiccups along the way sent stress through the roof. There was still some sex, but the stress definitely got in the way.
Maron has also been thinking about this idea of sex having to culminate in penis-and-vagina penetration and orgasms, going from a body that could easily orgasm to a body that struggles with orgasm:
“So for me it’s like, okay I realize I don’t need to have an orgasm and my other partner is very happy to receive the penetration that I don’t particularly want right now… but like, it’s making me feel inadequate, or like I’m failing in some way, um, I’m doing it wrong, even though I know logically I should be aiming for mutual satisfaction, contentment, do you feel satisfied? Rather than, did you get off?
Figuring that out myself, and unfortunately some of that figuring out sometimes happens mid-point [sex] and I’m like, ‘so this is awkward. How am I supposed to relay that now? Maybe we can talk about it later at some point.’ and then like having that conversation with my partners and figuring out what sex between the three of us is going to look like because we don’t always have sex with just two of us together… and then like how do we relay I don’t want to have penetration but I don’t feel comfortable with them doing penetration in front of me, and like it’s further complicated than just ‘I need some sex’”
Maron says it’s great when they do have sex and everyone has a good time, but there’s too much stress and exhaustion getting in the way:
“And then like, the kids getting older, and then they’re going to bed later… and thinking about stuff like, spanking, well are the kids asleep yet?
Talking to my partner about, ‘hey so, I could hear you guys last night about the spanking and the moaning’ and I’m like, ‘well… that’s just a reality we’re going to have to face.’”
I’m happy to share my experiences because I know it can help other people because we don’t talk about this stuff… my situation is unique, everyone’s situation is unique but I tried to google:
How do you introduce a femme parent in a poly household when one kids adopted, blah blah blah… there’s nobody that’s had this experience.
I googled stepparent articles, but a lot of the stepparent articles are about when parents are divorced. And if we were to get divorced it would be to marry one of the other parents to so that we have more legal protections for the three of us.
So I’ve done parenting while poly and I did parenting while kinky and my googling for parenting while poly turned up a bunch of stuff I had a bunch of panel members… decent sized number attended… parenting while kinky there was like NOTHING. I found one article that danced around it.
When I came to Toronto in 2002 into the the scene I was like, ‘there’s a demographic missing from the kink scene. There’s young eligible people and then there’s like the middle-aged people with teenagers. Where’s the people in the middle? And it’s cause there’s so many demands with young kids… we were out of the scene for like 7yrs after getting married and having kids because there’s just no space in it, and then one of my goals getting back in the scene was let's build a community a network so now I know a bunch of kinky parents, and poly parents, and queer parents, so I can be like ‘you don’t have to give it all up while you’re raising your kids and it’s possible to do all these things, you don’t have to be an open book with them not everyone is comfortable with that, but like you don’t have to feel ashamed and hide it and I know someone who has an arrangement with a dungeon to be like, ‘I’m going to use your dungeon space instead of scening at home because my kids can hear me in exchange for like professional consulting.
It’s not all of the things at the same time, there’s trade-offs.”
You can follow Maron on Twitter @MarondeSade