I would like to provide a disclaimer for the readers of this particular blog post. This post deals with a sensitive issue. I am writing about sex after an amputation. I want to be honest without being graphic.
After much debate and a discussion with Scott, I have decided that this needs to be openly addressed. I have received numerous emails from individuals who are struggling with the issue after their amputation. Many others are fearful of how their upcoming amputation may affect their sex life.
I am certainly no expert on the subject. I can, however, speak frankly about my experiences. Sometimes, merely validating fears can go a long way towards eliminating them. I thought I was the only amputee worried about intimacy. It wasn't until I started reaching out to help other "new"amputees that I discovered my fears about sex were universal for the amputee and his or her partner(s).
I was worried about how my amputation was going to impact my sex life before my amputation. Because it is a sensitive and personal issue, I did not feel comfortable broaching the topic with amputee mentors. I was left to deal with my fears and emotions on my own, which probably made my adjustment more difficult.
Before my amputation I assumed that I would wear my prosthetic during intercourse. I figured that I would feel more comfortable wearing the leg. I never envisioned that I would want to be intimate without a foot. I quickly changed my mind after I received my prosthetic and discovered how awkward and heavy the device is, especially when I am lying down.
It took nearly six months until I was "ready" after my amputation. This extended time was due to the infection in my stump but, in retrospect, was also because I was feeling ugly. I simply wasn't eager to be seen. For partners of the amputee, patience is imperative!
After my amputation it was difficult for me to look at my body. I assumed that it was difficult for Scott to look at me as well, but I have since learned otherwise. He loved me unconditionally and wasn't "turned off" because I happened to be missing a foot. The problem was, I turned myself off.
I didn't feel attractive and any sense of sensuality seemed to have evaporated. It took months before I could look in a mirror without tearing up. Scott knew that the lights were going to be off, and that any touching below my knee was NOT going to happen. I didn't want anything to remind me that I was now an amputee.
No, I didn't wear my prosthetic. I did wear my liner. I worried that my sensitive stump would get bumped somehow. The liner just made me feel more comfortable and safer. I suppose I felt more comfortable keeping my residual limb covered. We never discussed removing the liner. It was never an issue.
As my stump healed and my self-esteem recovered, I no longer needed to keep my stump covered. It was a natural and slow progression. I don't need to wear the liner anymore. If the liner is on, it is because of the spontaneity of the act versus my desire to keep my stump concealed.
People are often curious about how an amputee has sex. All I can say is that I have learned that a foot is not necessary for intercourse. An active and adventurous sex life after an amputation is possible, but every position may not be feasible. For example, sex in the shower has been completely eliminated. I have enough trouble balancing to wash my hair!
Keeping an open dialogue is paramount. I realized that it was up to me to let Scott know when I was feeling discomfort. He certainly doesn't want to hurt me. He was equally as nervous about causing me pain.
I have learned that laughter can go a long way to ease a tense situation. Scott and I laugh a lot, including when we are being intimate. After an amputation, some positions just don't "work" anymore. However our inability to recreate positions from our youthful escapades is probably due to our increasing age and decreasing flexibility as much as it is because of my amputation!
You really won't know until you try. Sometimes my stump hurts or gets pinched, so we simply change position. We have a lot of pillows to provide extra padding for my residual limb (and to reduce friction abrasions). And when a specific position doesn't work, instead of getting upset or frustrated, we just laugh it off.
Patience, love and open communication are the tools we needed to rebuild our sex life after my amputation. Just as my body changed for me, it has also changed for Scott. He admits that some positions feel "different." Because of my amputation, we laugh a lot more, and we talk more. Both of these are good things.
A brief note: My Mom, a retired English teacher, reads my blogs before they publish to fix my punctuation etc.. I was worried that she would feel uncomfortable reading a blog about such an intimate topic. Her reaction when I voiced my concerns? "Peggy, it may have been a long time ago, but I have performed the act. And I am constantly getting screwed." Love ya Mom!