"The pain of pregnancy loss lingers and can take a toll on your relationship."
By: Mira Ptacin| April 19, 2020
Photo: Mira Ptacin and her husband, Andrew, wed one month after a pregnancy loss.Credit...via Mira Ptacin
"Five months into my pregnancy and moments after we went in for a sonogram, a deafening silence filled the air. The image on the ultrasound screen revealed the child in my womb had a constellation of birth defects and no chance of survival outside of my body.
Right after doctors gave me the diagnosis — holoprosencephaly — I was given three options: terminate the pregnancy, induce and deliver a doomed fetus or wait for the tragedy to unfold on its own terms. Ten days later, I was no longer pregnant. One month after that, my fiancé, Andrew, and I got married. My breasts were leaking milk, I was wearing a trampoline-sized maxi pad and still bleeding when I said the words “I do.”
Since this loss 12 years ago, I’ve seen my share of therapists and bereavement experts. As Andrew and I waded through the bleary stages of our sorrow, many of these professionals warned us that divorce rates after experiencing child loss are staggeringly high. “Up to 90 percent” was the common refrain — a statistic most likely drawn from one of the earliest books on grief and child loss, Harriet Schiff’s groundbreaking “The Bereaved Parent.”
But this book was published in 1977, and Schiff’s study is hardly conclusive. First of all, she cites little empirical evidence. Also, it’s hard to statistically control for all the variables in a relationship; separating the influence of child loss from other causes of marital problems in bereaved couples is essentially impossible. Still, professional therapists, grief counselors and couples can agree on this: Marriage is difficult, and managing to stay married after the death of your child is incredibly, incredibly difficult.
“You’re the only two people who have shared the loss of your child, and it feels like you can get lost in the pain,” said Anne Belden, M.S., a family planning coach who runs a private practice that focuses on women and couples who are going through infertility, adoption and child loss. “To look in the eyes of your partner and see equally deep despair — it magnifies your pain and can almost be too much to bear.”
Being with your own grief is hard enough, Belden explained, but sometimes, sharing our sorrow with the person who has experienced the loss with us fails to promote healing. Quite often, the opposite occurs."