Ah, young love. You snuggle together, whispering sweet nothings in his ear. You can't get enough of his smell, his gaze, his sky-blue eyes.
Remember when you felt like that about your husband? If you're like the vast majority of new moms, you're probably directing most of your emotional energy these days toward your newest little love. But between the baby-snuggling, your post-baby body blahs, and the sheer exhaustion of taking care of a newborn, you may start to look at your partner as the nice, platonic friend who just so happens to share your bed. Romance and sex fall way down the list of things to do -- far below "Buy new Diaper Genie inserts" and "Look up recipe for pureed squash."
Well, let's turn that list upside down. Even if you think you're not interested in getting some nookie right now, keeping the romance alive in your marriage will not only make you a happier person, it will make you a better parent, says Ellen Kreidman, PhD, a marriage counselor and author of How Can We Light a Fire When the Kids Are Driving Us Crazy? (Villard).
"The happiest, most well-adjusted children come from a home where Mommy and Daddy truly love each other," she points out. And that affection doesn't just sustain itself -- you need to stoke the fires every so often to keep it going.
"You can't just wait for the pleasure fairy to come sprinkle some dust and have all those sensual moments magically return," says Regena Thomashauer, creator of the School of Womanly Arts in New York City and author of Mama Gena's Marriage Manual (Simon & Schuster). "You have to work on it. Pick up your Palm Pilot and schedule in time to take care of your sensual life. If you have time to walk the dog, fold laundry, and cook dinner, you have the time for a real romantic encounter."
And if you need just a little extra incentive to get it on, consider this: "Part of being a parent is teaching your children about relationships and how people love each other," says Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage therapist and author of The Sex-Starved Marriage (Simon & Schuster). Modeling a happy relationship is one of the best gifts you'll ever bestow.
You don't have to spend a week on a secluded island to reconnect as a couple. Just insert a few of these simple, sweet gestures into your daily routine. It's easy -- you used to do them all when you were first dating!
2. Instead of just a peck on the cheek when leaving for work, take 10 seconds for a real lip lock. "One says, 'I love you,' but the other says, 'I'm still in love with you,'" says Kreidman.
3. Show you care by finding one new thing to compliment him on each day, even if it's just that he shaved his sideburns in a particularly sexy way today.
4. Remember how to flirt. When you're both bustling around the kitchen, let your hand graze his behind and rediscover the chemistry that's still there.
5. The return of "Smoochiekins!" Dust off those pet names you used when you first got together.
6. Keep a pad of yellow stickies by your bed, and write a sweet little note for him every few days. Stick it in his briefcase or on his razor, where you know he'll find it.
7. If you're too exhausted to do anything but sack out in living room watching Law & Order, lie together on the couch and play footsie.
8. Have a digital camera? Take a picture of yourself holding a sign that says "Can't wait to see you tonight" and e-mail it to him at work. Caution: no nude pictures unless he works from home.
Drop the baby off with your sister for a few hours, whip out that sexy bra, and get set to be swept away right there, in the privacy of your very own bedroom.
Anticipation is major foreplay. Psych yourself up by planning your date a couple of weeks in advance, suggests Haynes. "Get your hair and nails done, and buy a new outfit or borrow one from a friend," she advises. Even though you're not leaving the house, put on slinky heels and going-out makeup. And remember when you were first dating, how you would make a mental list of interesting things to talk about? Do it again. "Whatever you do, don't talk about the kids over dinner!" Haynes says. "Talk about where you want to go for your next vacation, relate funny anecdotes from work, discuss politics and art."
Set the scene. Dirty laundry and piles of Legos don't make for the sexiest boudoir. "You need to create the space for a sensual experience," says Thomashauer. "Pull down the shades, light some candles, and put on soft music." Spray a spritz or two of your favorite perfume on the sheets, and toss anything baby-related in the closet or under the bed.
Get in the mood. You might need a little help transitioning from Mom and Dad to red-hot love bunnies, so Thomashauer suggests you change into bathrobes (with nothing on underneath), and lie on the bed together reading erotica or just some sexy poetry. If you're not literary types, pop in a DVD of something you find stimulating, whether it's X-rated or something more subtly erotic. (See "Paramount Pictures" below, for suggestions.)
Still not there yet? Slip out of those robes, pull out a bottle of essential oils, and take turns giving each other a massage, says Thomashauer: "You can bet that within five or 10 minutes, a very sexy mood is going to unfold."
The New Romantic Reels
Our readers' tips for keeping the romance alive.
"Instead of celebrating our anniversary once a year like most couples, my husband and I make a point of getting a sitter and going out to dinner every month on the sixth to celebrate. We just celebrated our 62-month anniversary!" --Hope, New York City
"My husband and I sneak in some time together by popping in a Barney video, giving the kids a snack, and shutting our door for a half hour. The only problem is, every time I hear the Barney theme song now, I get a little excited!" --Jennie, Los Angeles
"We've started traveling with our parents. We went to the Caribbean with my folks when our son was 3 months old and to Greece with my mother-in-law a few months later. That way we get free babysitting by people we trust, and we actually get to relax." --Monica, New York City
"Most evenings my husband and I are too tired to talk, so instead, we get up an hour before our daughter and catch up. It's one of my favorite times of day." --Rehana, Orange, New Jersey
"Whenever my husband and I actually get the house to ourselves for a little while, we give each other our special 'look.' That signals it's time to take advantage of the moment!" --Anne Cavicci, Nelson, British Columbia
"Any time I hug and kiss my 2-year-old son or snuggle up with him, I make a mental note to do the same thing with my husband once I get the chance, so he doesn't feel like I'm giving all my love and affection to the baby instead of to him." --Caryn, St. Louis, Missouri
"As a token of affection, I sometimes buy my husband a small gift. Once I saw the cuffs on his shirts had worn thin, so I bought some new shirts and put them under his pillow. He really appreciated that I cared enough to notice and get the gift." --Jennie, New Bedford, New York
What scents make men weak in the knees? According to a study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a combination of lavender and pumpkin pie increased blood flow to the penis by 40 percent. Another favorite: the highly erotic mix of black licorice and doughnuts.
29 percent of men think the thong is the sexiest piece of lingerie, according to a Maidenform/RoperASW poll. Women, on the other hand, feel sexiest in a bra or camisole.