Men & Miscarriage Series: Marriage, sex, and intimacy
Welcome to the Men & Miscarriage Series where we’re exploring how miscarriage impacts men, listening to their stories, and finding ways we can support them in their grief. Miscarriage is not a “women’s issue”—it’s a family issue, a human issue. When we minimize miscarriage as a women’s issue only, we reinforce the notion that women are the only ones affected by this type of loss, which simply isn’t true. The Men and Miscarriage Series features contributions by both men and women. I’m especially excited to help set the stage to give space to the voices often unheard in conversations surrounding fertility and pregnancy loss: the voices of men—fathers and grandfathers who have lost and learned to give expression to their grief, and have learned to grieve with hope, despite what cultural norms surrounding masculinity have instructed them. Together may we discover ways to normalize this grief and find our way forward.
Please note: If you’d like to read further, you can also pick up a copy my book, Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss, which includes a special section for dads written by my husband, Ryan.
The following is an interview with Sarah about how miscarriage impacted her and her husband Steve’s marriage, intimacy, and sex life. She wanted to share their story so it could benefit other couples, but she also wanted their privacy protected so a few details have been altered, including their names.
Adriel: How has your miscarriage impacted your marriage?
Sarah: Ultimately, it made my husband, Steve, and I a stronger team. Nobody else experienced the loss of our son (Ezra) in the same way we did. Yes, our family and close friends grieved with us, but he was there holding my hands while I delivered our 16 week old at home, so there is an intimacy that was strengthened due to the trauma we both endured. We also were the only ones that got to hold him.
All of this has strengthened our marriage because we look to each other first for everything. Where some may go to a family member or close friend, 98% of the time I share everything with Steve first. Also after our loss there were no more secrets about physical things that happened to my body. This may or may not be a good thing at times.
We now have an eight week old daughter, Lucy, and as is the case with most couples after a birth, my husband learned a lot about my body and bodily functions whether he wanted to or not. This is part of sharing in the experience of having a child together, which in our case was a good thing because we had already entered into conversation about that due to our loss.
Adriel: Has this changed the way your husband approaches pregnancy?
Sarah: During my recent pregnancy, and since having Lucy, I have found it easier to communicate to him about what I am going through. He also has a heightened interest in my physical condition in a way that is unique. I contribute that to the open communication that began after our miscarriage.
Another aspect of our marriage that I don’t think would have been as strong, is that during our season of trying to get pregnant after our miscarriage, and again during my pregnancy, he tried to carry part of the physical burden (hypothetically) to lessen the burden of it on me. I have openly said many times that I am tired of being the one who physically experiences everything—the exams, menstrual cycle, pregnancy, etc. Obviously he can’t take the physical burden from me, but he has taken this to heart and invested in communicating about it and being an active helper through it. He has been my cheerleader, encouraging me when I’ve most needed it.
Adriel: Has your miscarriage brought you closer? How has it impacted your home and the way you related to others?
Sarah: We experienced unexplained infertility for a couple years prior to our loss. We also had just gotten licensed as foster parents when we found out we were pregnant with Ezra and had a three-year-old come live with us when I was ten weeks pregnant. Losing Ezra drove me into depression but we were parents of a toddler and we needed each other to survive. This, in turn, brought us closer and in some ways having the child in our home helped us through that period. God sustained us and used this part of our story to strengthen our marriage. God has also used our story to walk through life with other friends who desire children and are waiting. He is using Lucy to give others hope. This again has made us closer.
Adriel: Did your miscarriage impact your sex life and intimacy? And if so, how?
Sarah: Yes, miscarriage impacted our sex life. As I said before, we journeyed through infertility. This made our sex life frustrating at times—a chore. We argued about when we should or shouldn’t have sex and at times were just plain old tired of it. After our miscarriage it got even harder. Not only did I go through a traumatic delivery of our son, but then my body thought I had had a baby. My milk came in and I became engorged but had no baby to feed. I didn’t want to be touched anywhere. One way to cope with grief is to physically hold each other, but it was not comfortable to be held. Another way to cope with grief is distraction and sexual intimacy can be a good distraction but we were told to wait a couple weeks before being intimate again. At the time it was very hard for us to wait those couple weeks. All we wanted was to get pregnant again. That eagerness faded quickly. We were more tired than ever before and grief weighed both of us down. We were also still parenting a three-year-old, which drained us of any left over energy we had.
After several months and no positive pregnancy test we were getting discouraged. This led me to seek answers via the doctor. Something had to be wrong. After a couple months the answer was that I had an infection (common female infection) but it is technically categorized as an STI (sexually transmitted infection). I started taking antibiotics, which interrupted our sex life a bit. We also got to wondering where did the infection come from? Whose fault was it? Those questions made us both feel guilty at times and caused frustration with ourselves and each other. The only reason we were given for our son’s death was due to an infection. They said it wasn’t anything we could have caused or prevented but they later would recommend we use condoms, thus making us feel like it was one or both of us who was to blame. You can imagine the emotional turmoil this caused us to feel.
Several months later we found out we were pregnant again! This caused my doctor to suggest we use condoms during the pregnancy as a precaution. Again we both felt guilty as if it was one or both of us who may have caused Ezra’s death. My husband especially struggled with this due to the function of a condom, and we both feel our sex life is less exciting and comfortable when having to use a condom. In this way, our miscarriage impacted our intimacy negatively.
So I guess you can say—circling back to your first question—miscarriage impacted our marriage both positively and negatively. But honestly now that we’re through the thickest period of grief, I have to say that overall we grew closer.
To read more on marriage, intimacy, and sex after miscarriage, please see also:
How Miscarriage Affects a Marriage by Lindsey Bell
How My Marriage Changed After My Miscarriage by Jessica Zucker
THE MEN & MISCARRIAGE SERIES:
(Find the whole series here: Men & Miscarriage Series.)
How to Grieve with Hope Devotional—A free 7-day devotional on YouVersion Bible app based on Grace Like Scarlett
Book: Grace Like Scarlett: Grieving with Hope after Miscarriage and Loss by Adriel Booker