There was a lot I was prepared to deal with after having two miscarriages. I knew to expect grief. I was prepared for a world suddenly teaming with pregnant bellies and babies. I was even somewhat expecting that this loss would affect my husband and me differently.
But the one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how much I would suddenly fear sex.
I can’t seem to look at the very act of what brought us here and caused me so much pain with anything other than fear and anger. How could something that’s supposed to be an act of love lead to this chasm in my heart? How am I supposed to look at sex the same way ever again?
I feel the invisible distance between my husband and I — neither of us sure how to take the first step to cross it; neither of us sure what lies on the other side. We are both different people now and the emotions of navigating intimacy after losses that have driven us apart feels far too muddled now.
Sex with my husband feels like something our marriage needs and yet, something I can’t imagine to be the same way ever again. Sex is now intermingled with pleasure and pain; love and loss. In many ways, these conflicting, connected emotions make sense, as they are the very lesson motherhood has taught me. My body, still fresh with the memory of the scars it has borne, feels impossible to see in the way it was before — light, carefree, and eager to give and receive love.
Now, my body feels like a stranger that has betrayed me; heavy with the weight of grief and the strain of what now stands between us. I know I need to reconcile this new version of myself before I can reconcile crossing this divide. I know I need to forgive my body for failing my baby, failing my husband, and robbing us both of the joy I could see so clearly in my mind.
But I’m just not sure I can get there.
The first time it happened, my miscarriage felt like an anomaly — a fluke in the natural way of biology. Despite the searing pain it caused, I accepted it. I absorbed the loss and I softened towards my body that had been through so much. But this time? My second miscarriage has made me fear myself and the intimacy that brought me here. Two losses in a row have broken down the woman I was before.
Honestly, how can anyone woman who has gone through it possibly look at sex in the same way ever again? Before loss, sex was, well, just sex. But now, it carries a hidden weight and reminder of the physical price that as a woman, only I have to pay. A few moments of pleasure, a brief joining of bodies, for what? For the physical pain that wracked my body as I curled on my couch and cried? For the invisible pain that has become my companion? For the dark cloud hovering near me always?
I think about telling my husband, but I fear his own pain. I sense his own hesitance and guilt for what he perceives his role to be in his wife’s pain. I worry my husband won’t understand that it has nothing to do with him personally; it’s just that everything about sex has changed for me and I feel terrified to face it again. I worry he will take my rejection of the act as a rejection of him, my partner; the man I love.
I’ve talked to other moms who have gone before me and I know that I am not alone. Although their partners may feel the weight of loss in their own way, the stark contrast between our physical experiences can feel worlds away. My body flickered with the heartbeat of our baby, it grew with the evidence of the changes within me, and it bled with the remnants of what could have been. And as for his? It held me when I cried, kept its distance when it didn’t know what to do, and watched helplessly as I retreated where he could not follow.
Maybe, in a way, I do I resent that his body was allowed to continue unscathed while mine was not. Maybe, in a way, I do wonder if sex can ever feel the same for me again.
And then there are other moments when I can see a glimmer of intimacy on the other side of our losses. Sex may not be the fun, carefree gesture it was before, but it can have new weight. Maybe it can become a representation of the way our love has changed with deeper layers than before, carrying the reminders of the losses and pain that can make us stronger than ever.
And maybe, just maybe, I can get to a place where I view sex not by what it took from me, but instead, by what it gave.