Intimacy & Subsequent Pregnancy - When?

Whenever I bring this topic up while speaking to a group, there are always a few red faces and eyes darting to the floor. Frankly, that's what makes it such an important point to discuss. Many of us find it hard to express our sexual needs, desires, fears, and insecurities under the best of circumstances. When you add grief to the mix, it can get really dicey and be a topic we simply want to avoid.

If you are lucky enough to be comfortable talking about this stuff to your partner, you are lucky, and probably will not see what the big deal is. But, if you find this difficult, it can be a real source of problems that can result in adding to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

So -- when is the right time to resume sexual relations? When is the right time to start trying to have another baby? What if one of you wants to try again but the other just isn't sure they want to?

Unfortunately, there are no black and white answers to any of these questions. Like everything, it depends on your situation -- physical condition, emotional state of mind, relationship, and numerous other factors. Often times people will hear that you should wait a minimum of six months to a year before trying again. Depending on the circumstances and timing of your loss, that makes total sense, and any decision about the physical and emotional risks of another pregnancy should first be discussed with your doctor.

Sometimes the tougher question can be when to resume being intimate? Again, physical considerations are part of that decision, but most of the time this decision "simply" requires communication between you and your partner about your feelings.... Come to think of it, maybe THAT'S why I recall avoiding this topic with my wife.

Seriously, while we definitely felt close emotionally in our need to be held and comforted -- especially when trying to sleep through the night -- neither of us mentioned how we were feeling about sex. When it got to the point that I was feeling like I wanted to, I wondered how I would deal with the guilt of having a moment of pleasure? Those feelings were compounded because I then wondered if it would affect my performance, and that REALLY made me insecure! But, once we were able to talk about it and I realized that we each had our own set of emotions surrounding that moment, we were able to relax and things just happened naturally.

As for another pregnancy, after discussing our situation with our doctor, he felt comfortable supporting us in trying again. Because it had taken us over two years to get pregnant the first time, we decided that we should go for it sooner than later since we were in agreement about wanting more children, if possible. Surprisingly, Monica got pregnant right away, and three months after Kathleen's death, we were expecting another baby. We were very happy, of course, but we had not stopped to think what our timing in starting to try could potentially mean. Our next child was actually due on Kathleen's birthday, and the feelings of deja vu were tremendously stressful for me. I found myself working hard to not get excited because the bliss of pregnancy was gone and it simply became a time to survive. Even all these years later, I have some regrets about what I missed out on during that time in terms of being able to feel the anticipation and excitement of expecting a child.

Keep in mind this is only MY experience. I can definitely tell you that Monica did not feel the same way and her version of this story would be very different from what I just shared.

I guess that really is the point. Don't think that any story you hear suddenly means you know how you're going to feel. These decisions are unique to you and very important to your relationship. No desire or fear is wrong and there is no reason to judge harshly either yourself or your partner. While you may not have previously ever had the need to discuss your sex life with your mate because you were on the same page, know that may not be the case right now. It certainly doesn't mean your marriage is in trouble, but you both should realize the importance of being open and understanding of one another.

I hope others of you will share how you dealt with these decisions and offer any insights you have. The beauty of the blog is that if your face gets red, none of us will ever be the wiser.


  1. The getting pregnant decision was taken away from us as we have been told we won't be able to have another baby without IVF which we have rulled out. No rainbow baby for us. This is really hard to take as we would love to have the joy of expecting along with the grief of losing our daughter.

  2. My wife was ready to have another one before me. In fact I didn't really want to go there as much as fearing that the same would happen again as the fact we already had two healthy children and I was happy with just the two. I hadn't wanted any more children in the first place after our first two as it was, but I had been convinced that just one more would be fine - only to lose him. I felt I had to concede to another one for her mental/emotional sake as I thought it might help her cope better with the loss of our boy. She has said since that it has helped her move along with the birth of a healthy daughter 28 months later (now 18 months old). I still struggle from time to time with acceptance issues and don't see how having another one has helped me. Am I being selfish with these thoughts - probably but that is the reality of those thoughts that I can't deny. The issue for me is how I deal with what I often see is a replacement child for our lost boy.

  3. I wanted to tell you how similar our experiences were. My husband an I got pregnant right after losing our daughter last September, and our new baby was due two days from Samantha's birth date. I think it's wonderful for you to have a blog for Dads. I will add your info. to my list of references.

    I have two blogs, one for our memoir of how God changed our lives through miscarriage, and also a new one: a Bible study blog. This Bible study is specifically for miscarriage, still birth, and early infant loss grief study. It has been a wonderful thing for me, but after I took it, my husband joined in this same study for men.

    After going to this study, he changed. He wasn't the same, suddenly he was more confident, more mature, more committed to God than he ever was before I was even pregnant. Anyway, I wanted to say I think it's great what you are doing by keeping this blog for Dad's. My husband said, he often felt ignored in his grief. Everyone reached out to me, and left him constantly hearing, "how's your wife holding up?"

  4. I am a wife who is struggling with my husband since the loss of our daughter Ana. We have both changed but he has been acting very unusual ie not wanting to be intimate, staying up strange hours, and just recently I found pornography on our computer. He has never looked at porn since we have been together these past 8 years. How do I make him want to be with me again? Why wont he communicate with me? Is their anything I can do??? I feel like I'm losing him.



    Before I say anything regarding your post above, I want to once again point out that I am not a counselor or psychologist, so anything I say is based on my own experiences and conversations I've had with other couples over the years.

    In so many ways, what you are going through is not unlike what many couples experience -- even though the details might be different. Your post did not mention how long it's been since your loss, but I'm assuming it is relatively recent. The fact that your husband is possibly experiencing anger or guilt (or both) is especially common in the immediate weeks and months following a loss. From what you said, his behavior is not common for him, so it's very likely a direct result of his grief. The good news in that is that he will likely move beyond this behavior as he heals.

    His lack of interest in intimacy could be the result of many different emotions that he is experiencing. He could fear another pregnancy and the possibility of a loss. He might be angry about what happened and just not feel like being close to anyone. And, he could simply not feel that given all the pain he is in that he has the right to feel good -- that feeling good somehow dishonors Ana's life and death. I can say that all of the things I mentioned above I experienced to some degree at various points after our loss.

    Does he have anyone he opens up to and talks with? A family member, clergy, close friend? If there is someone like that, gently encourage him to reach out and talk about his pain. Know that "nagging" him about it will likely be unproductive, so plant the seed then just let him ponder what you have said.

    If he doesn't have someone like that, it might be helpful to suggest he talk with a professional from the hospital or your church or a private counselor who deals with grief issues. Again, you can only suggest and help him find someone if he's open to that, but the final decision has to be his.

    As far as the porn is concerned, my personal opinion is to try and not read too much into that. While he might not feel he has the right to be intimate at this point, he still has the need for release of those sexual tensions. He also might be feeling like he just doesn't give a damn anymore about not doing those things that he normally wouldn't because living the good life didn't prevent something horrible from happening -- so why should he even try? I'm not justifying that behavior, but I have to say that I can understand it and even recall feeling that way.

    Bottom line is, don't give up on him. While you are each experiencing a "new normal", it is likely that things will level off as time moves on and he hopefully takes the steps he needs to take to heal and grow from this experience. At some point I believe that becomes a choice, and hopefully he will be able to clearly see that shutting off from the world and those who love him most will not change anything or bring Ana back...that the best way to honor her memory is to live again. Neither of you will ever forget her and the love you have for her will never go away -- no matter how happy you eventually are or how many other children come into your life.

  6. Finally -- know that your feelings of hurt and rejection are VERY justifiable and I am extremely sorry that you are going through this in addition to dealing with your own grief. Know that taking care of YOURSELF is the most important thing you can do -- and realistically the ONLY thing you have some control over.

    I hope others will share their perspectives with you and that within all this you will find something helpful. Don't hesitate to write again and let us know how things are going. We have all walked this path and sincerely want to support both you and your husband in whatever way we can.

    There are many resources that MIGHT be helpful and two that I have particular knowledge of. The first is my book, "A Guide For Fathers -- When A Baby Dies," and the other is a book I recently wrote with Sherokee Ilse (author of Empty Arms) entitled, "Couple Communication After A Baby Dies -- Differing Perspectives." While no book has magic answers, it sometimes is just helpful to know that you are not the only two to ever face the challenges you now find yourself dealing with.

    Take care and best of luck. Do stay in touch.