“My gynecologist told me six weeks after Kelsey was born that I could resume normal sexual relations with my husband,” said Beth, a twenty-eight-year-old first-time mom. “What a joke! Since the birth of my daughter, nothing in my life is normal, especially sex.”

From the moment she first cuddled Kelsey in her arms, Beth’s world changed. She loved the new sensations that greeted her—when she could comprehend them through the fog of exhaustion. Weary and sleep-deprived, Beth ranked her enthusiasm for sex right up there with mopping the floor. Even if she did desire to be intimate with her husband, where could she find the time and energy to enjoy it? Beth looked forward to the day when life would return to normal.

Like Beth, many new moms believe life will return to normal, “after I recover from my episiotomy, after my hormones quit ricocheting like a pinball machine, after the 3 a.m. feedings end, after I lose these extra twenty pounds.” The problem with this thinking is that once you have kids, normal is a misnomer. You are changed. Your husband is changed. Your home environment is changed, and your love life will change, too.

According to a survey of almost six thousand parents by Parenting magazine, 80 percent of husbands and wives agree that their sex life had suffered as a result of having children. In our new role as mothers, sometimes sleep sounds better than sex.

Creative home-cooked sex

To make sex a priority, you don’t have to run out and buy a romantic getaway trip for two to Hawaii. With a little creativity, you can plan innovative excursions at home.

1. Reclaim your bedroom for sex.

Liz and Samuel’s bedroom had become the “gathering place,” which was fine when thunder and lightning brought fears to little hearts. At first having the whole family under the covers felt cozy. Later on, it just felt crowded. Being kicked in the stomach by a pint-sized foot or knowing that at any moment a child would be in bed to snuggle put the kibosh on their sex life.

One morning over pancakes, they announced, “Kids, a new rule goes into effect today. No one is allowed in Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom except Mommy and Daddy. Our bed is our private place where we go to talk. You have your private place in your own beds. We can all play and have fun together in any other part of the house, but our bedroom is off-limits.”

If you feel Liz and Samuel went to extremes and you hate giving up cozy times in your bed, try restricting family gatherings in your bedroom to once a month. Or consider an alternative, like a family slumber party in the living room or a family read-a-thon in your kid’s bedroom. Do what is comfortable for you, but make certain your children understand the need to respect your marriage bed as a sacred place set apart for the two of you.

2.Bedroom rendezvous.

Now that your bedroom is your own again, plan a once-a-month bedroom extravaganza. Schedule the evening far in advance so you have time to plan and anticipate. Then take him to a place he’s never been before … right in your bedroom! Create an exotic Caribbean ambiance by spreading two beach towels on the floor. Surround the towels with beach paraphernalia: beach balls, sunglasses, and bottles of coconut-scented suntan lotion. Whip up some tropical drinks, purchase a grass skirt and an “ocean sounds” tape, and aloha the evening away.

3. Home dates.

Limited finances are never a reason to say no to dates. Receie and Alex, who have four sons from six months to five years old, schedule dates at home. Once a month they swap childcare with another couple who is committed to keeping romance in their marriage. Their date lasts from about 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Reecie explains how she pulls this off.

I feed the kids and get them all jammied up so we can tuck them straight into bed after we pick them up. I also prepare dinner before Alex comes home—usually something simple—so cooking and clean up don’t eat up our time together. We’ve had boxed macaroni by candlelight. What we eat is not the point (unless you’re talking “dessert”—our name for treating ourselves to each other).

Reecie says the hardest part about staying home for a date is the distractions. “I have to give myself a good talking to,” she says. “I say, ‘Reecie, this is not a time to play catch-up on household chores, but a time to concentrate on your lover.’”

4. Saturday morning fun.

Hire a babysitter to take the kids to the park for two hours while you and your husband enjoy time at home alone. Soak in a bubble bath together or give each other massages. It will be hard to decide who had more fun on this morning—the kids or you and your husband.

When you reclaim your bedroom for sex, when you schedule at-home dates and Saturday morning fun, you send the message to your husband: Loving you is a priority.

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Get me out of here!

“There’s no place like home” is a good theme song for lovemaking if we add a second chorus to the song: “There’s no place like away from home.” Extend the boundaries of physical passion beyond the walls of your home by regularly planning romantic getaways.

1. An anniversary escape.

With little ones underfoot, getting away for a weekend may seem impossible, but even couples with caregiver restrictions and budget limitations can get away once a year for their anniversary. All it requires is a bit of advance planning.

2. Triple trouble house swap.

If you are thinking, We could never get away alone; it’s just not possible, let us tell you about Kathleen. In less than two years, Kathleen had triplets and then another baby, giving her four children under two plus her five year old. (Don’t you feel tired just reading about it?) The triplets were premature, and when they came home from the hospital, they came attached to oxygen tanks and heart monitors.

Even still, a month later, Kathleen and Guy went away overnight to celebrate their anniversary. How did they arrange this? Nancy, a friend, came to Kathleen and Guy’s house for the weekend and baby-sat their children while the weary parents went to Nancy’s house and baby-sat her dogs. (Kathleen and Guy admit they got the better deal.) Did we mention that Nancy, in addition to being a loving and caring friend, was also a very capable registered nurse? Kathleen says, “Babies’ needs are important, but so is my marriage.” If Kathleen can make a getaway a priority, so can we.

3.Adult time-outs.

We send children to time-out to adjust their attitudes. Sometimes we need to send ourselves to “adult time-out” to adjust our attitudes. Schedule an adult time-out twice a month. Hire a baby-sitter, or if your budget is tight, arrange to “kid swap” with another couple. On your first time-out, go out to dinner someplace other than McDonald’s. Look your best and wear your husband’s favorite perfume, instead of Eau de Baby Wipes. Slip into a silk blouse without any drool marks. Revel in the freedom of being able to walk into a restaurant carrying a classy purse instead of a bulky diaper bag. Plan to do something that’s fun for both of you, but make sure you spend time looking into your husband’s eyes and talking about something other than the children.

When you schedule adult time-outs, when you plan anniversary getaways, when you kid swap and house swap in order to be alone together, you send this message to your husband: Being with you is a priority.

Be as flexible as Gumby

Children change. What works this week to give you and your husband time alone may be obsolete in two months. One couple we know nicknamed their children “wedgies” because whenever the parents tried to steal a kiss, the children would wedge between them, grabbing for attention.

You have to grab intimacy with each other, anywhere, anytime. Having young children underfoot requires that you make “Flexible” your middle name. It also helps if you make “Laughter” your first name. When your son gets up to go to the bathroom but misses the bathroom and goes in your shoe, what can you do but laugh together? When you plan a candlelit dinner just for two and your angel daughters appear saying, “We want candles too,” what can you do but smile, promise them candles the next day, and laugh together?

Adapted from Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus. Copyright © 1999 by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Penguin Random House.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.