otters hold hands while they sleep so they don't lose each other
It takes more than one person to make a baby (this may come as shock to any of you that played hooky from middle school health class) and it takes more than one person to heal from a miscarriage. I've been thinking about the emotional recovery and perspective of the non-pregnant partner after a miscarriage occurs. Twice in the past my husband has been a guest blogger and shared his point of view (you can read his thoughts here and here), but it's been a while since I talked about this topic on these hallowed pages. Lately i've been thinking about the long-term affects of this (pardon my French) shit storm of an experience on my husband as well as on us as a couple.
As I write this blog each week, I think about my relationship to the experience of miscarrying. It gives me a structure and a containment for my emotions, a platform to explore those feelings, and a vehicle with which to connect with others who are going through it. Even if I didn't have this blog, however, I do think that the partner who physically miscarries gets more opportunity to speak about and process it (whether we like it or not). There seem to be fewer venues for the other partner to express his or her experience (I would refer you to the incredible work regarding support for partners that The Miscarriage Association in the UK is doing if you are interested). There seems to be an initial expectation for the non-pregnant partner to move forward faster or perhaps "stay strong" for their lady. This disparity is clear right off the bat, but what about four, six, eight, ten months down the line?
Even having moved through the acute phase of heartbreak, I am consistently surprised by the way it lives with me every single day in big ways and small. It only stands to reason that this experience also has an insidious way of clinging to the non-pregnant partner as well. There have been a few distinct times over the course of the last ten months that Chris and I have had to really pause, reconnect, and respect that fact that our differing styles of coping and recovery were butting up against each other. I am constantly wanting to name and deconstruct every phase of my emotional journey (this may come as a shock to you) and he is more inclined to put it all in the past and not dwell on it. Sometimes this difference in survival mechanisms emerges incognito in the form of other issues and we've had to make a conscious effort to keep that in check.
There is no guidebook or marital preparation for surviving the motional exhaustion a miscarriage brings to a partnership. Initially you cling to each other for support and then you start the process of finding your way out of it. The latter journey has to be, at least in part, an individual one even though the trauma is experienced as a couple. Although it weighs on us less that this point, the experience definitely activated fears, disappointments, and insecurities that we've had to work our way through. Without communicating about these emotions, they have some pretty dark and sneaky ways of embedding themselves where they don't belong even all these months later. As much as we might wish it, miscarriage does not exist in a vacuum. It is like the glitter of emotional experiences (it gets everywhere and even when you thought you cleaned it all up you find more stuck in the oddest of places).
There is no doubt in my mind that what we went through has made us a stronger partnership. Our bond was reinforced by experiencing and helping each other through something that only the two of us can ever fully understand. However it clearly hasn't always been a picnic. We both fell in love with the same dream and both had our hearts broken when it fell apart. The subsequent months have been made up of rebuilding, making new plans, mourning the loss of old ones, and most importantly keeping pace as best we can with the differing rates of each others long-term recovery processes. I think continuously reminding ourselves to drop our expectations of how bouncing back is "supposed to" look (or how long it's supposed to take) and respecting each others different styles of coping wins "Most Constructive Step" in our process of healing.