Sex and Intimacy After the Loss of a Pregnancy or Child

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Note: this topic may be unsuitable for some readers.

Oh snap! Did I just write that? Are we really going here?

Yes.

We all know how babies are made. Still, our society is still very prudish when it comes to openly discussing the topic but we should be able to talk openly about sex and intimacy…and, how both change physically and mentally after the loss of a pregnancy or child. I’ve been dabbling in my mind of writing this post for some time now so I figure the week of Valentine’s Day seems appropriate to publish it.

I was in no way prepared for how hard it would be to become intimate again with Brett after our loss. I craved for physical contact – to be hugged and to have someone hold my hand or caress me in a supportive manner. However, kissing and sex were very difficult for me, and still are.

We couldn’t have intercourse while I was recovering after the delivery as well as the infection that I developed from the retained pregnancy tissue, which was about 6-8 weeks. When the doctors told us that, in the back of my mind, I wholeheartedly thought, “Ok, that’s not a problem. We’ll be back to trying to get pregnant again in no time once my cycle gets back on track.”

I was entirely wrong.

The first time we just tried making out I was in tears within minutes. Hormones raging inside me. Massive amounts of guilt. The deep hole in my chest became ever more evident and I realized I wasn’t ready yet for this type of activity with my husband, a man who I have been with for more than a decade and who I trust with my life and my heart. I felt like such a stupid idiot. This is an entirely natural action and part of life but there was that part of me that felt it was wrong and abhorrent.

Thankfully, Brett is very understanding and patient, and didn’t push me to do something I didn’t feel comfortable with. He could comprehend that mentally I wasn’t ready yet. I also felt ugly after the pregnancy and loss. How could any man want to be with me and my stretch marks? I felt so unbeautiful inside and out. I was still being consumed by the recent loss of our son, feeling guilty and I needed more time to heal.

We started to talk more about what was bothering me and preventing me from ever initiating intimacy between us. I was just content being together. For quite some time before we started trying to conceive, I experienced something similar due to the high dose of Prozac I was on. I talked with my psychiatrist about it and told him that I wanted to ween off it. Very quickly I felt my libido coming back. I didn’t realize that grief and loss could be such a powerful libido hindrance as well. Weeks, or maybe even a month or two later, I can’t be sure now, I started to feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin.

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The next time we tried to be intimate, I felt better. I still wasn’t 100% but I could focus on things more intently instead of my thoughts immediately seeing my son’s little face in my head. It wasn’t mind-blowing or anything, but it was a hurdle leaped. I feel awful comparing our love life like that but there was a sense of relief, a little stress taken off my shoulders that I could accomplish that. I wasn’t prepared for the next surprise.

I mentioned in the last “I Hate My Body” post that it’s been painful to use tampons. Thankfully, I haven’t needed them much since my flow has been much lighter since my cycle returned. That pain I thought was just my body healing from labor, delivery and the subsequent manual evacuation of the placenta tissues.

So, the first time we tried to have intercourse, I screamed out in pain. A sharp, intense, stabbing pain. My OB as well as my PCP haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary in any gynecological exams so I’m currently working with them on figuring out what’s going on (and why I keep having the ongoing bacterial vaginal infections).

I was so unprepared for how my sex life and intimate relationship would change after the loss of our son. How my mind is on a hundred different things and can’t focus on the one person who means the most to me.

I still struggle to initiate any type of intimacy and it’s something I’m working on with my current therapist. I lot of it is anxiety. I’m scared to get pregnant again. Even though we use birth control, I’m not prepared yet to go through pregnancy again. I still don’t know if I ever will be. That thought weighs hugely on my mind when we’re together.

Now, while I don’t feel guilty about being intimate because of Emmett, I feel guilty because I can’t be intimate with my own husband. Let’s be honest, men have needs (ok, so do women…) He’s no different, and that makes me feel awful. There’s the part of me that tries to rationalize that if we try to do it more that it will help relieve a lot of the stress and anxiety that we are experiencing. But, there’s that other part of me that just tries to avoid it at all costs still. I’ll work into the wee hours of the morning or I honestly just don’t feel well sometimes because of chronic migraines but mostly the bacterial infections make me feel and smell so gross.

I know that like every other part of my life after loss this is just another part of my life that has changed completely…and forever. There’s the “before” loss me and the “after” loss me. This “after” me still is madly in love with my husband but our relationship has changed after everything this year. We’re no longer those two young kids living in a small Boston apartment. They say married life and life after kids changes your sex life but what you don’t hear is that the loss of a pregnancy or a child also changes your sex life.

Just like other aspects of grief, I’m sure there are certainly those people who jumped right back into sex soon after getting clearance. I’m sure there are those who could and want to get pregnant right away. I’m just not one of those people. And that’s ok. It’s just coming to terms with this “new” me and all the different ways that it has changed me both physically and mentally.

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