After giving birth to my daughter, a doctor at the hospital looked at my husband and said, “Remember, no sex for six weeks!” I was immediately tempted to shove a sock in his mouth. The thought of putting anything inside my recently battle-tested vagina made me cringe. My stitches hadn’t dissolved, I couldn’t sit without using an egg crate, I walked slower than most octogenarians — and here’s a man telling my husband that it was cool to have sex in six short weeks!

I knew after the baby was born that my life would change, but I never really thought about how my sex life would change. Here I was, happily married to this sweet, hunky man that I love so much, and having sex with him was the absolute last thing on my want-to-do list. Today, our daughter has just turned 18 months old, and while our sex life has bounced back considerably, I still wish I’d known a few things about my post-baby sex life in advance:

Sex after baby hurts
I didn’t wait six weeks to have sex — I waited nine. Because that was the time frame I was comfortable with. And let me tell you, having sex for the first time after giving birth is like losing your virginity all over. It’s painful and there’s a lot of fumbling and awkwardness. If I had a dollar for every time my husband asked, “Does this hurt?” I’d be carrying a Chanel diaper bag. There are a couple tried-and-true hacks to getting through those first few times, though: courage, laughter, and lot and lots of lube.

Get used to that “new” body
The CDC recommends that women with a normal BMI (a category I fall under) should only gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. I gained 47. (What can I say? I’ve always been an overachiever!) In my last trimester alone, I gained 19 pounds — many of which I owe to some truly delicious late-night strawberry milkshakes that I do not regret.

Immediately after the baby, I felt like a stranger in my body. I was swollen, dripping milk, and the heaviest I’d ever been. It took a few months to get used to my new skin, but eventually, I did. I bought some new clothes and had my hair done. I just kept reminding myself that I carried a fucking human inside of me — I was amazing and I didn’t need a tight tummy to prove it. Soon after, my confidence came back… and with it came my libido.

Making the time is important
A baby doesn’t stay a baby forever. Eventually newborns turn into infants who turn into toddlers. They get out of their bed in the middle of the night and come banging on your door, they cling to your legs, they throw tantrums in public places — they’re exhausting. Sneaking a quickie during nap time won’t work when your kid decides to drop naptime for good. I wouldn’t dare suggest planning every sexual encounter (nothing kills romance quite like scheduled intercourse), but I have discovered that carving out time for intimacy is incredibly important. And not just for a healthy, happy marriage, but for the sake of having a happy family.

Having sex as a new parent is a real adjustment, and accepting that is half the battle. I now treat every moment that my husband and I spend alone together as a rare gift. In some ways we appreciate each other more and the sex is better for it. I may not feel like the best mother or the best lover every single day — but I’ve yet to fall asleep midcoitus, and for that I am proud.

Samantha Cipriano is a writer, editor, and mother. Loves include snacking, traveling, and the Oxford comma. She’s widely regarded as the Steph Curry of power naps.