Protecting a marriage after pregnancy/infant loss may not be at the forefront of your priorities after such an ordeal. However, losing a child can have a devastating impact on relationships.
Before I had our triplets induced, I recall spending a good couple of hours arguing with Florian over them. Florian stuck to our prior agreement – that we would let them go since they were still 23 weeks’ gestation. I had changed my mind and insisted on doing whatever we could to keep them alive. Even as I argued my reasons, I knew that our marriage could be sacrificed in the process.
Later, Florian shared that while we were in the delivery ward and I was persisting in my endeavour to keep our babies, he realised that he could no longer press on about letting them go. He felt that if he did, he would not be able to look me in the eye knowing that he was going against what I wanted.
Be Prepared (If Possible)
The doctors were upfront with us about a very likely pregnancy loss. We had a medical social worker to help us figure out what we would do should we face a late miscarriage. We had a whole week to digest the news of what loomed ahead.
I knew the consequences of delivering our babies at 23 weeks. Yet, my heart screamed for our babies to be taken home. I was aware of the challenges ahead of us, and the possible complications for them should they survive. It was my maternal instinct that kicked in in wanting to protect them. The preparation Florian and I had made days before however, helped me get a clearer perspective as I calmed down.
Having a mutual understanding didn’t make it easier to bid goodbye to our little ones, but it did make it easier to recognise why it wasn’t ideal to make them struggle to live. It made it easier to realise that I was being selfish in wanting to keep them.
Of course, not every couple has Time on their side to plan for possible pregnancy/infant loss. For some, Loss sneaks up on them and everything happens too quickly. In these cases, the medical professionals generally dictate what is to happen and there is little time to think or react. The lack of time for preparation means giving up the decision-making processes to the doctors. As such, both partners should never seek to blame each other for whatever happens within the hospital.
Florian and I went through our own grieving process separately but together. For Florian, he needed time to gather his thoughts and emotions. At one point, I was worried that he was gaming to distract himself from dealing with our loss. I didn’t want him to escape and pretend that it all hadn’t happened. Thankfully, while the gaming did help to take his mind off our babies, it did not consume him. Florian and I made sure to spend time together talking about our loss, digesting it, accepting it. We also determined early on that no one was to blame.
For me, I needed to talk and cry it out. I talked a lot about what had happened, I shared with Florian and my parents about my constant what ifs. I was often teary in the morning, and at night, I cried myself to sleep.
The funny thing is that when Florian was going through his ‘gaming’ period, I thought that he wasn’t coping as well as I was. I feared that if we couldn’t get through the grieving at a similar pace, that it may be to the detriment of our marriage. Then, when he started picking himself back up, I started falling apart. I felt like I was slipping into the darkness. Florian began worrying about me instead.
I realise that in grieving, it is so important to respect each other’s need for time and space. Even more essential is the need to cling onto each other; to support one another; to keep each other afloat. Whenever I struggled, Florian pulled me up. When he was down, I tried to lift his spirits. We leaned onto our mantra that ‘We are stronger together‘.
Being on the Same Page
Two days after I miscarried, while still in hospital, Florian sat next to me and suggested that we make the most of the next few months. We both knew that we wanted to try to conceive again. However, we were aware that it would take a few months before we started trying.
In the meantime, Florian said that we should enjoy the time we have together, just the two of us. He proposed we go to Japan since he has been wanting to take me, and I have been wanting to go. We thought of other countries we wanted to visit, and things we wanted to do together.
We have been practising yoga together when Florian’s schedule permits. Our plan to spend more quality time doing more quality activities has brought us to go for a few morning walks along different nature trails. We’ve been spending time with friends hosting cook-ins and meeting them for eat-outs. We fly to Japan in December.
On one of our morning walks along MacRitchie Reservoir, we both agreed that we still wanted to work towards a family of five. Florian and I talked about our hopes for our future together. Our heart-to-heart talk made us feel more connected than ever. It was reassuring to us both to know that we were on the same page.
It may not be easy to become intimate so soon after a late miscarriage or stillbirth. I followed the recommended 4-6 weeks wait that mothers who carry to full term are told to, before we engaged in any sexual activity. In fact, I waited until 7 weeks post-delivery because I wanted to see my gynaecologist first to make sure I was free from infection and my cervix had healed.
Sexual activity was psychologically difficult at first, but Florian and I made sure to spend time being close with each other. Knowing that Florian’s love language is affection also pushed me to be close with him. I didn’t want him to feel neglected. In turn, his patience in waiting for me to be ready showed me how loved and cared for I am.
Communicating with your partner is essential to moving forward together. This ensures that both parties understand the needs required by the other. It also helps in learning how to help one another through the emotional rollercoaster.
It is important to understand that your partner may not grieve in the same way as you. While I grieved by sharing about what happened and talking it out, Florian preferred to grieve on his own. We respected each other’s way of dealing with our loss, but made sure to always be there for each other. Protecting our marriage after pregnancy/infant loss came to the fore for us.
For some couples, extra support in the form of therapy may help them ride the waves of losing a baby; losing the future they had envisioned with their child. There is no shame in that. I invited Florian to come with me for counselling but he didn’t think he needed it. Still, I made sure he knew that any time he wanted, he could join me. I continue to see my counsellor to help sort my thoughts out and make sense of various emotions I feel.
Spending time together and creating new memories help draw partners closer. Find joy in cooking a delicious meal together, going for a walk together, or going for a pottery class together. Be empathetic towards each others’ sexual needs and connect meaningfully with one another.
Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting about your baby. In fact, Florian and I intend to commemorate their lives on their estimated date of delivery in December. I plan to celebrate their birthday every year and share about them to their future siblings. They were a part of you, and always will be, just as my babies are a part of me.
Standing Strong and Protecting Your Marriage After Pregnancy/Infant Loss
It is natural to feel some strain on your marriage after such a devastating loss. As diamonds become stronger under intense pressure, let your ordeal cement you together; Allow it to build you up instead of tear you down; Hold on tightly to each other rather than flounder alone.
By protecting your marriage after a pregnancy/infant loss, you can create a bond that is resilient and long-lasting. Communicate honestly, show empathy and foster intimacy. Nourish your relationship, and with time, your marriage will emerge stronger.