Monday, July 29, 2013

Resuming Sex Following Your Baby's Death: How, Why, When

“After the miscarriage I didn’t have a problem with having sex at all. It was so comforting, so exciting. We had missed each other so much.” —Cecelia

“I didn’t want to be touched. Sex felt forced. I was sad because the loss had taken the joy out of sex as well as out of pregnancy and childbearing.” —Sylvia

The grim reality is that a pregnancy loss affects every aspect of your marriage, including your sexual relationship. And you will end up confronting this as individuals and as a couple.

You may find that intimacy brings you closer together, or you may feel dull, dead, asexual and uninterested. You may feel excited about resuming your relationship; or the thought of it may repulse you.

You may be frightened, feeling inadequate. Depression, particularly severe bouts, can kill your desire. Antidepressants will only exacerbate this. Then, after months of saying “no,” avoiding sex becomes a habit you find difficult to alter.

Your doctor will insist on a waiting period, which will be different depending upon whether you had surgery or not. Then, even after you resume sex, he will give you a timeframe in which you shouldn’t try to become pregnant again because the uterus needs to return to normal size and healing needs to occur.

When your relations do resume, you may find that it reminds you of your tragedy and causes recurrent emotional and psychological pain. Guilt at not having been able to carry a baby to term, or losing the baby at delivery, may cause you to feel so inadequate that you’re fearful of trying again, and having sex seems just too risky, or mentally painful for you.

Or you may urgently wish to become pregnant again and try too hard, turning sex into a cold, tense, joyless reproductive act instead of a joyful coming together of two people who desire to express their love and passion for one another.

A husband may worry about physically hurting his wife. He may feel guilty for having put her through so much pain after conception.

You may avoid it out of self-protection. You may feel vulnerable. You may lose all interest. You may feel cheated because you’re not getting what you really desire out of sex: a healthy baby. Resentment and mistrust for one another freezes any desire to resume intimacy, just for the sake of intimacy.

Then there’s the issue of birth control. When to restart it; when to try again. How long should you wait? If you had a high risk pregnancy that resulted in a loss, are you even willing to try again on another pregnancy, taking the risk? A subsequent high risk pregnancy may curtail all sexual activity, for months.

Taking a risk was foremost in our minds. Initially, Chris said he wanted to “try again, right away!” That abruptly changed to, “I don’t even want to talk about it” for almost a year. He wouldn’t even discuss it, roll it around, think it over. Since I was ambivalent about it—okay, downright terrified about it, since I had a considerable risk of having the same problem in another pregnancy—I didn’t push him too hard into talking about it, or making a decision, at least for the first year. Then I started encouraging and “pushed” for more discussion, particularly since my reproductive clock was winding down, and I didn’t see how waiting any longer would make things any easier, physically or mentally. You’ll soon read the rest of our story, but eventually I finally sat him down and said, “We need to make a decision here. I’m not getting any younger, and I can’t keep wondering, guessing, about what we’re going to do. It’s claiming too much mental space, strangling me emotionally." (I appreciated his feelings, but I was beginning to feel as if I were being held hostage to them, manipulated by them.) "Either we decide to take a risk again, or we decide not to chance it. I can’t keep waffling around with ‘maybe.’”

But in my heart, I knew I couldn’t—shouldn’t—go forward with another pregnancy if I were doing it just to replace Victoria, or to have my perfect family: a girl to go with my boy. Unless I was willing, and able, to put my life and the outcome of another pregnancy in God’s hands, I had no business charging blindly down that road again.

So what to do? Above all, be honest and open with one another about your feelings. Love and respect each other through them. Find other ways to express togetherness; tread slowly. Be prepared mentally for the possibility of a subsequent high-risk pregnancy curtailing all sexual activity. But be aware that sexual abstinence, for any great length of time, can place an unbearable, damaging strain on your relationship. And this sexual tension can add an unnecessary stress burden to your grief journey.

I’ll leave you with two things to consider, biblical wisdom that might make you bristle, but can help you in this delicate, but critical process. Consider them carefully, prayerfully, remembering that as husband and wife you truly are one flesh:

“The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to ‘stand up for one’s rights.’ Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it’s for the purposes of prayer and fasting—but only for such times. Then come back together again.” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5; The Message (The point: if you can't have pleasure, for whatever reason, figure out how to impart it to your partner. I can assure you that giving your spouse pleasure may likely be satisfaction and joy enough for you!) 

“…in lowliness of mind, let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3 (NKJV) (Same lesson as above.)

If you’re both pouring your heart, soul, mind and body into doing these things, seeking the other’s interests and needs above your own, remembering that you've made a solemn commitment to one another for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, you’ll emerge from your pain stronger, better, more in love, and with a deeper, more abiding faith in your marriage and one another.

But if you’re having difficulty getting the flames fanned again, I highly recommend Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, Turn Up the Heat: A Couples Guide to Sexual Intimacy, (Revell, 2009).


NEXT WEEK: My story continues with: One boy, one girl: The Perfect Family…shocking, hurtful comments,…and the pain of facing the world.


Until next week…

Thanks for joining me!!



(For your reading enjoyment and ease, I'm attempting to shorten my blogs!)